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When it comes to consideration of how to do well in running the city, which must proceed entirely through justice and soundness of mind, [the Athenians] are right to accept advice from anyone, since it is incumbent on everyone to share in that sort of excellence, or else there can be no city at all.
Socrates is not the only speaker in Protagoras, nor is he the only speaker who expresses important theories. Here (322e-323a), Protagoras summarizes his theory of political relations towards the end of his long fable about the creation of the world. The ability to live in social harmony makes communities possible; therefore, all those who live in a community must have some share in the civic virtues. Protagoras's argument continues on to a more extreme position, however. From this argument that all people have some basic awareness of justice and good sense, he then advocates democracy as the best political system. In a democracy like Athens, living within the community is not just a matter of abiding by the laws, but also of actively participating in making those laws.
Protagoras concludes that all people should play a part in making political decisions, because all people have a god-given notion of fairness and common sense. However, this conclusion does not properly follow from its premise. The ability to make political decisions does not necessarily accompany the ability to live in a community, at least within the principles that Protagoras expounds. Like many of Protagoras's arguments, this apparently persuasive theory relies on some shoddy logic. Nonetheless, this passage does raise important questions about the philosophical basis for democracy.
Ace your assignments with our guide to Protagoras!