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theaetetus   


they are full of perplexity and travail which is even worse than
that of the women. So much for them. And there are -others,
Theaetetus, who come to me apparently having nothing in them; and as I
know that they have no need of my art, I coax them into marrying
some one, and by the grace of God I can generally tell who is likely
to do them good. Many of them I have given away to Prodicus, and
many to other inspired sages. I tell you this long story, friend
Theaetetus, because I suspect, as indeed you seem to think yourself,
that you are in labour-great with some conception. Come then to me,
who am a midwife's son and myself a midwife, and do your best to
answer the questions which I will ask you. And if I abstract and
expose your first-born, because I discover upon inspection that the
conception which you have formed is a vain shadow, do not quarrel with
me on that account, as the manner of women is when their first
children are taken from them. For I have actually known some who
were ready to bite me when I deprived them of a darling folly; they
did not perceive that I acted from good will, not knowing that no
god is the enemy of man-that was not within the range of their
ideas; neither am I their enemy in all this, but it would be wrong for
me to admit falsehood, or to stifle the truth. Once more, then,
Theaetetus, I repeat my old question, "What is knowledge?"-and do
not say that you cannot tell; but quit yourself like a man, and by the
help of God you will be able to tell.
Theaet. At any rate, Socrates, after such an exhortation I should be
ashamed of not trying to do my best. Now he who knows perceives what
he knows, and, as far as I can see at present, knowledge is
perception.
Soc. Bravely said, boy; that is the way in which you should
express your opinion. And now, let us examine together this conception
of yours, and see whether it is a true birth or a mere,
wind-egg:-You say that knowledge is perception?
Theaet. Yes.
Soc. Well, you have delivered yourself of a very important
doctrine about knowledge; it is indeed the opinion of Protagoras,
who has another way of expressing it, Man, he says, is the measure
of all things, of the existence of things that are, and of the
non-existence of things that are not:-You have read him?
Theaet. O yes, again and again.
Soc. Does he not say that things are to you such as they appear to
you, and to me such as they appear to me, and that you and I are men?
Theaet. Yes, he says so.
Soc. A wise man is not likely to talk nonsense. Let us try to
understand him: the same wind is blowing, and yet one of us may be
cold and the other not, or one may be slightly and the other very
cold?
Theaet. Quite true.
Soc. Now is the wind, regarded not in relation to us but absolutely,
cold or not; or are we to say, with Protagoras, that the wind is
cold to him who is cold, and not to him who is not?
Theaet. I suppose the last.
Soc. Then it must appear so to each of them?
Theaet. Yes.
Soc. And "appears to him" means the same as "he perceives."
Theaet. True.
Soc. Then appearing and perceiving coincide in the case of hot and
cold, and in similar instances; for things appear, or may be
supposed to be, to each one such as he perceives them?
Theaet. Yes.
Soc. Then perception is always of existence, and being the same as
knowledge is unerring?
Theaet. Clearly.
Soc. In the name of the Graces, what an almighty wise man Protagoras
must have been! He spoke these things in a parable to the common herd,
like you and me, but told the truth, his Truth, in secret to his own

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