Socrates’ final argument proving Protagoras wrong because others perceive him to be wrong is far from the original example of the wind. As suggested earlier Protagoras did not mean that the wind really was both chilly and not chilly. He was referring to the relativity of perceptual or empirical observations. But taking Protagoras in this way still presents issues because it would not be enough for Protagoras that every perceptual judgment is true for the one making it, for Protagoras’ own proposal purports to be a universal truth though it is Protagoras’ own perceptual judgment.
Thus, when Protagoras is faced with two people both with contradicting perceptions of the state of the wind, Protagoras would come to know how the wind feels by his own observation or perception at the time. But what would be the true state of the wind? Would he say they are each correct? If so, how could the teacher (Protagoras) ever employ such contradiction by saying that it is as it is for each, therefore concluding that it has many characteristics and discounting that the flux isn’t in the object but rather in the perceiver.
Both Socrates and Protagoras are missing the mark by taking such narrow views: they are both correct, yet both wrong. Protagoras is correct in saying that things appear differently to each of us based on our perception of it. What he misses is the fact that our perception is effected by outside forces and can change based on the forces acting on us at the time of a perceiving. Socrates made this point with his sick/well example. Socrates on the other hand takes the absolute view that nothing can ever change it’s state from how it is originally is thus supporting the objectivist’s view that everything exists outside of our minds.
He does take into consideration that some objects can change through the “process of becoming” such as a seed grows into a full grown tree and thus is perceived differently at various stages of development. Protagoras’ theory would simply say of the tree that it is, as it is, at whatever state for which we perceive it and doesn’t account for physical change. Thus, this is what I see as the issue with Protagorian theory. If perception itself brings knowledge, not just any person, but any creature with sense capacities, qualifies as an infallible knower of reality and the owners of their own personal world.
However, putting animals on the same epistemological plane as human beings is not theoretically possible. The reality is, our perception of things change as we change. Like Socrates’ example of the wine tasting bitter when he is sick and sweet when he is not. I’m sure we have all had a similar experience. A child perceives a room to be large because he/she is small and when they are grown and revisit the same room it is no longer how they recall it to be from their childhood, it seems to have shrunk but only because they are now bigger – the room hasn’t changed dimensions. Perceptions are deceiving.
David Copperfield is a master of illusion. If you have ever been to one of his shows you doubt everything. I’ve been fortunate enough to be at one of his performances seated within three rows of the stage and I saw him fly! I saw him change the head of chicken to the head of a duck. I saw him cut in half and I saw him vanish only to reapper seconds latter in another part of the room. I know it wasn’t real but it sure looked real! This leads me to the conclusion that we must take other factors into consideration when determining reality other than just perceptions. Therefore, perception is not knowledge.
Knowledge implies learning; learning implies change or the building on of ideas to come to an absolute state. Perceptions are not absolute but do add to the learning experience because it is through the compilation and exploration of perceptions that knowledge occurs. Humans learn because we can reason. We reason because we often doubt what we perceive and it is through the exploration of this doubt that learning and knowledge occur. Knowledge is not stagnent, it is in flux, we build upon what we have learned to advance our knowledge is all areas of reality. Therefore, perception alone is not knowledge.