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The Subjectivism of Protagoras

Equally controversial was Protagoras' view that there was no absolute standard of truth, that there were two sides to every question. For example, if one person feeling a breeze thinks it warm, while a different person judges the same wind to be cool, there is no decision to be made concerning which judgment is correct; the wind simply is warm to one and cool to the other. Protagoras summed up his subjectivism (the belief that there is no absolute reality behind and independent of appearances) in the much-quoted opening of his work1 entitled Truth 2 (most of which is now lost): “Man is the measure of all things, of the things that are that they are, and of the things that are not that they are not.” “Man” in this passage (anthropos in Greek, hence our word anthropology) seems to refer to the individual human being (whether male or female), whom Protagoras makes the sole judge of his or her own impressions.3

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