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theaetetus   


that there is no one self-existent thing, but everything is becoming
and in relation; and being must be altogether abolished, although from
habit and ignorance we are compelled even in this discussion to retain
the use of the term. But great philosophers tell us that we are not to
allow either the word "something," or "belonging to something," or "to
me," or "this," or "that," or any other detaining name to be used,
in the language of nature all things are being created and
destroyed, coming into being and passing into new forms; nor can any
name fix or detain them; he who attempts to fix them is easily
refuted. And this should be the way of speaking, not only of
particulars but of aggregates such aggregates as are expressed in
the word "man," or "stone," or any name of animal or of a class. O
Theaetetus, are not these speculations sweet as honey? And do you
not like the taste of them in the mouth?
Theaet. I do not know what to say, Socrates, for, indeed, I cannot
make out whether you are giving your own opinion or only wanting to
draw me out.
Soc. You forget, my friend, that I neither know, nor profess to
know, anything of! these matters; you are the person who is in labour,
I am the barren midwife; and this is why I soothe you, and offer you
one good thing after another, that you may taste them. And I hope that
I may at last help to bring your own opinion into the light of day:
when this has been accomplished, then we will determine whether what
you have brought forth is only a wind-egg or a real and genuine birth.
Therefore, keep up your spirits, and answer like a man what you think.
Theaet. Ask me.
Soc. Then once more: Is it your opinion that nothing is but what
becomes? the good and the noble, as well; as all the other things
which we were just now mentioning?
Theaet. When I hear you discoursing in this style, I think that
there is a great deal in what you say, and I am very ready to
assent. Soc. Let us not leave the argument unfinished, then; for there
still remains to be considered an objection which may be raised
about dreams and diseases, in particular about madness, and the
various illusions of hearing and sight, or of other senses. For you
know that in all these cases the esse-percipi theory appears to be
unmistakably refuted, since in dreams and illusions we certainly
have false perceptions; and far from saying that everything is which
appears, we should rather say that nothing is which appears.
Theaet. Very true, Socrates.
Soc. But then, my boy, how can any one contend that knowledge is
perception, or that to every man what appears is?
Theaet. I am afraid to say, Socrates, that I have nothing to answer,
because you rebuked me just now for making this excuse; but I
certainly cannot undertake to argue that madmen or dreamers think
truly, when they imagine, some of them that they are gods, and
others that they can fly, and are flying in their sleep.
Soc. Do you see another question which can be raised about these
phenomena, notably about dreaming and waking?
Theaet. What question?
Soc. A question which I think that you must often have heard persons
ask:-How can you determine whether at this moment we are sleeping, and
all our thoughts are a dream; or whether we are awake, and talking
to one another in the waking state?
Theaet. Indeed, Socrates, I do not know how to prove the one any
more than the other, for in both cases the facts precisely
correspond;-and there is no difficulty in supposing that during all
this discussion we have been talking to one another in a dream; and
when in a dream we seem to be narrating dreams, the resemblance of the
two states is quite astonishing.
Soc. You see, then, that a doubt about the reality of sense is
easily raised, since there may even be a doubt whether we are awake or
in a dream. And as our time is equally divided between sleeping and
waking, in either sphere of existence the soul contends that the

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