For Aristotle, Plato was a realist and Protagoras was a relativist. Essentially, he regards both theories as equally defective. J.D.G Evans attempts to analyze why Aristotle deems these theories inadequate and what position is left for Aristotle to take if both of the alternatives are defective. Repeatedly, Aristotle begins his accounts by criticizing the “answers of his predecessors” and, while there appears to be legitimate reasons to discredit them, he fails to provide an adequate alternate.
The following passage from Eudemian Ethics (1235b 13-18) allows us to better comprehend Aristotle’s impression of philosophy, which in turn leads to a better understanding of how he reviews and resolves the aforementioned problem:
We must adopt a line of argument which will both best explain to us the views held about these matters and will resolve the difficulties and contradictions; and we shall achieve this if we show that the conflicting views are held with good reason. For such an argument will most closely accord with the agreed facts; and it will allow the conflicting views to be retained if analysis can show that each is partly true and partly false.
Ultimately, Aristotle tries to “preserve obvious truths of common sense” while attempting to justify what we see in philosophers paradoxes. To discredit them, he separates the discreditable conclusions from the authentic notions they were built upon, thus disarming the effectiveness of the arguments.
The first and most obvious place to look for Aristotle’s view on relativism is Metaphysics I’. Here, Aristotle is mostly concerned with the law of non-contradiction and those who deny it. He includes Protagoras with such thinkers based on his relativistic notions that x and not-x can both be true for different people. A consequence of the law of non-contradiction (Met I’3) is that, if x is contrary to not-x, then someone who believed both would be in two obstinate states. Aristotle believes that this law is...