In the “Protagoras,” Socrates and Protagoras debate why participation in government is open to all citizens, but technical matters, such as health, works of art, and the construction of buildings require qualified individuals. The argument presupposes that integrity and acumen are the necessary virtues that citizens must lean and apply for a properly functioning democracy.
Democracy is designed to concentrate the power of government in the hands of the people and protect against autocracy and oligarchy. It presupposes societies need a modicum of rule, as they cannot function if there is anarchy. In this way, democracy is a virtue, or a mean between two vices. However, democracy has a sliding scale, the metric of which is the citizens who rule it. Citizens ultimately dictate the laws to be agreed upon, codified and enacted. These laws not only govern behavior and maintain order, but also provide citizens with a mechanism to seek relief through the courts should they be aggrieved.
At the inception of Athenian democracy in the 5th Century, there were no professional prosecutors, or lawyers. Complainants seeking justice brought and argued their case against defendants, who would answer the charges themselves. After the case had been argued, the jury immediately voted and made its decision without the modern equivalent of a deliberation. Thus, the ability to argue, and use rhetoric was an important tool for litigants. Similarly, it was important for jurors to understand rhetorical arguments to effectively decide cases they heard. The application of reason, and the ability to apply logical thought extends beyond the courts and also to the formulation of public policy.
To effectively govern and implement policy, citizens participating in the process
needed to have some type of integrity and acumen, and yet there were no formal schools in Ancient Greece. Those lucky enough to receive some type of intellectual training obtained it first from their parents, and then from other citizens acting in the capacity of mentors. Of these mentors, the Sophists would charge a fee for their services. While the knowledge they possessed was in high demand from eager pupil, Socrates stated one should take caution with whom they purchased knowledge from, as it was more dangerous than buying tangible goods.
He argued that tangible goods could be taken and inspected, and even offered to another individual for a second opinion. However, knowledge, once received, was immediately absorbed and whether positive or negative, its effects would be immediate. (312c) While this argument holds true, Socrates applied it to the teaching of technical knowledge and not to the transference of integrity and acumen from Sophist to pupil.
He pointing out that Pericles failed to impart his great wisdom to his sons, Paralus, and Xanthappus. If the great Pericles was unable to teach his sons, than it held true that no man could teach another.