The main idea of the second of Protagoras’s fragments, “Teaching requires nature and training. . . . Learning must begin at an early age.” reminded me of the idiom “you can’t teach a dog new tricks”. This idea struck a chord with me and seemed to point out a very important aspect of philosophical thinking in this time period.
Philosophers didn’t believe philosophy was just for any and every one. In order to truly philosophize, one needed to have the mind of a philosopher and that’s nothing that could be taught. Protagoras believed that in order to instill the ideals of true philosophical thinking, one must completely merge themselves into the philosophical mindset. When he writes that his teaching requires “nature and training”, he means that in order to learn his philosophical ideals, one must be completely committed and be surrounded by the teachings. The second part of his fragment refers to the belief the philosophers had where there was a certain point people reached in their life where they became incapable of learning more. Philosophers believed that all of one’s learning/growing occured “at an early age” and once one reached adulthood, one’s learning stopped.
This idea struck a chord with me because of how many people today believe the exact opposite of this. People nowadays preach how lessons can be learned at any point in ones life – no matter their age, their circumstance, or any aspects of their life. As long as one has a dedication to change or to learn something new, then it is possible. I know there are still people who still follow the ideals of the sophists and the other philosophers – mostly because my family contains some of these people – yet, the majority of people of today’s society believe a person’s ability to change is never-ending.
Protagoras’s fragment just pointed out the change which our society has undergone, and seems to epitomize how society’s ideals or beliefs of learning are always changing.