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The protagorean renaissance

In his Lives of the Philosophers, Diogenes Laertius attributes to Protagoras the saying that on every matter there are two arguments, or two speeches, opposed to each other, which Ambrogio Traversari rendered in his early fifteenth-century Latin translation as “duas omnium rerum esse rationes invicem contrarias.” Diogenes also identified Protagoras as the author of two books of Antilogiai or opposing arguments. In his dialogue The Sophist, Plato characterizes the sophist as antilogikos and singles out Protagoras as the paradigmatic figure of antilogic or the art of opposing speeches. This art enjoyed a tremendous vogue among Renaissance humanists, many of whose most characteristic literary genres and techniques can be placed under the auspices of Protagoras and the two logoi. The Renaissance enthusiasm for dialogue, declamation, paradox, and ultimately skepticism, with its own antilogic or isologic, testifies to the enduring appeal of the power of speech to neutralize itself and to undermine all dogmatic convictions. This panel proposes to examine just a few of the numerous and disparate strands of the antilogical tradition that flourished in the Protagorean Renaissance.