Nature vs. Convention

             There is a very evident and large difference in between the views of the sophists Antiphon, Critias, and Callicles, with those of Socrates on the relationship of nature and convention. While the Sophists are all in agreement that conventions restrain nature, Socrates believed that convention was able to help develop and harmonize your nature. Although both views are completely contradictory, each has an amount of truth to it.
             In a lost passage from Antiphon called On Truth he discuss' his views on nature and convention. Antiphon believed that law was only to be followed when others were watching you; otherwise you may follow your own human nature, and will not be punished for it. But if the law of nature or decrees of nature are broken then it doesn't matter who sees you, for you will still feel repercussions. He believed if we could live only by natural impulses, we would be free. He questioned the benefits to the laws, and said that the laws do not stop the lawbreaker or crime. In conclusion to the passage, Antiphon points out that in the court of law, it does not matter if you are guilty, you can still win your case with good rhetoric. Critias, who was not a sophist but strongly influenced by its ideas, believed convention established the idea of gods. Critias thought that fear of the gods was invented by a wise and clever man to establish convention. That way, any act alone or not, the gods will see you and there will be repercussions. By inventing these gods, people were convinced to be good even when they are alone. Callicles, a false character meant to represent the extreme views of sophists, held the idea that if in nature the strong dominate the weak, then why not in convention as well? He believed conventions were made because the weak needed laws to protect them. The minorities were simply acting in their own interest, and therefore so should the majority. In his opinion, the superior should not care about the ...

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Nature vs. Convention. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 02:14, March 25, 2019, from