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Journal Article

A Model Sophist: Nietzsche on Protagoras and Thucydides

Joel E. Mann and Getty L. Lustila
Journal of Nietzsche Studies
Vol. 42, No. 1, Special Issue Nietzsche's Ancient History (Autumn 2011), pp. 51-72
DOI: 10.5325/jnietstud.42.1.0051
Stable URL:
Page Count: 22
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A Model Sophist:
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While many commentators have remarked on Nietzsche's admiration for the Greek historian Thucydides, most reduce the affinity between the two thinkers to their common commitments to “political realism” or “scientific naturalism.” At the same time, some of these same commentators have sought to minimize or dismiss Nietzsche's enthusiasm for the Greek sophists. We do not deny the importance of realism or naturalism, but we suggest that, for Nietzsche, realism and naturalism are rooted in a rejection of moral absolutism and its leading advocates, Socrates and Plato. Through careful exegesis of crucial sections from Daybreak, we show that, as early as 1880 (if not earlier), Nietzsche regarded the agonistic, anti-absolutist stance of the sophist Protagoras as an indispensable model both for Thucydides's history and for his own philosophy.

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