A little bit at a distance from our normal fare, but still within range. The Protagoras is one of Plato’s dialogues, though perhaps not one of the best known. But it is one of my favorites and one that I will introduce into a new course I am teaching this year on “Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Inquiry.” It contains Plato’s views on the relationship between speech and knowledge. And, more broadly, one can read the dialogue as a set of reflections on the nature and function of centers of learning and knowledge (or, as we say in the modern period, universities)–in particular, what the relationship is between knowledge and virtue or human excellence. This new book, Leo Strauss on Plato’s Protagoras (University of Chicago Press, edited and with an introduction by Robert C. Bartlett), is about the well-known 20th century political philosopher’s lectures on Protagoras. It is sure to be full of insight about the Protagoras and its general themes–ones that are pressing and vital today.

This book offers a transcript of Strauss’s seminar on Plato’s Protagoras taught at the University of Chicago in the spring quarter of 1965, edited and introduced by renowned scholar Robert C. Bartlett. These lectures have several important features. Unlike his published writings, they are less dense and more conversational.  Additionally, while Strauss regarded himself as a Platonist and published some work on Plato, he published little on individual dialogues. In these lectures Strauss treats many of the great Platonic and Straussian themes: the difference between the Socratic political science or art and the Sophistic political science or art of Protagoras; the character and teachability of virtue, its relation to knowledge, and the relations among the virtues, courage, justice, moderation, and wisdom; the good and the pleasant; frankness and concealment; the role of myth; and the relation between freedom of thought and freedom of speech.
 
In these lectures, Strauss examines Protagoras and the sophists, providing a detailed discussion of Protagoras as it relates to Plato’s other dialogues and the work of modern thinkers. This book should be of special interest to students both of Plato and of Strauss.

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