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theaetetus   


Theaet. Yes, Socrates, and I am amazed when I think of them; by
the Gods I am! and I want to know what on earth they mean; and there
are times when my head quite swims with the contemplation of them.
Soc. I see, my dear Theaetetus, that Theodorus had a true insight
into your nature when he said that you were a philosopher, for
wonder is the feeling of a philosopher, and philosophy begins in
wonder. He was not a bad genealogist who said that Iris (the messenger
of heaven) is the child of Thaumas (wonder). But do you begin to see
what is the explanation of this perplexity on the hypothesis which
we attribute to Protagoras?
Theaet. Not as yet.
Soc. Then you will be obliged to me if I help you to unearth the
hidden "truth" of a famous man or school.
Theaet. To be sure, I shall be very much obliged.
Soc. Take a look round, then, and see that none of the uninitiated
are listening. Now by the uninitiated I mean: the people who believe
in nothing but what they can grasp in their hands, and who will not
allow that action or generation or anything invisible can have real
existence.
Theaet. Yes, indeed, Socrates, they are very hard and impenetrable
mortals.
Soc. Yes, my boy, outer barbarians. Far more ingenious are the
brethren whose mysteries I am about to reveal to you. Their first
principle is, that all is motion, and upon this all the affections
of which we were just now speaking, are supposed to depend: there is
nothing but motion, which has two forms, one active and the other
passive, both in endless number; and out of the union and friction
of them there is generated a progeny endless in number, having two
forms, sense and the object of sense, which are ever breaking forth
and coming to the birth at the same moment. The senses are variously
named hearing, seeing, smelling; there is the sense of heat, cold,
pleasure, pain, desire, fear, and many more which have names, as
well as innumerable others which are without them; each has its
kindred object each variety of colour has a corresponding variety of
sight, and so with sound and hearing, and with the rest of the
senses and the objects akin to them. Do you see, Theaetetus, the
bearings of this tale on the preceding argument?
Theaet. Indeed I do not.
Soc. Then attend, and I will try to finish the story. The purport is
that all these things are in motion, as I was saying, and that this
motion is of two kinds, a slower and a quicker; and the slower
elements have their motions in the same place and with reference to
things near them, and so they beget; but what is begotten is
swifter, for it is carried to fro, and moves from place to place.
Apply this to sense:-When the eye and the appropriate object meet
together and give birth to whiteness and the sensation connatural with
it, which could not have been given by either of them going elsewhere,
then, while the sight: is flowing from the eye, whiteness proceeds
from the object which combines in producing the colour; and so the eye
is fulfilled with sight, and really sees, and becomes, not sight,
but a seeing eye; and the object which combined to form the colour
is fulfilled with whiteness, and becomes not whiteness but a white
thing, whether wood or stone or whatever the object may be which
happens to be colour,ed white. And this is true of all sensible
objects, hard, warm, and the like, which are similarly to be regarded,
as I was saying before, not as having any absolute existence, but as
being all of them of whatever kind. generated by motion in their
intercourse with one another; for of the agent and patient, as
existing in separation, no trustworthy conception, as they say, can be
formed, for the agent has no existence until united; with the patient,
and the patient has no existence until united with the agent; and that
which by uniting with something becomes an agent, by meeting with some
other thing is converted into a patient. And from all these
considerations, as I said at first, there arises a general reflection,

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