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theaetetus   


Soc. Thus, then, the assertion that knowledge and perception are
one, involves a manifest impossibility?
Theaet. Yes.
Soc. Then they must be distinguished?
Theaet. I suppose that they must.
Soc. Once more we shall have to begin, and ask "What is
knowledge?" and yet, Theaetetus, what are we going to do?
Theaet. About what?
Soc. Like a good-for-nothing cock, without having won the victory,
we walk away from the argument and crow.
Theaet. How do you mean?
Soc. After the manner of disputers, we were satisfied with mere
verbal consistency, and were well pleased if in this way we could gain
an advantage. Although professing not to be mere Eristics, but
philosophers, I suspect that we have unconsciously fallen into the
error of that ingenious class of persons.
Theaet. I do not as yet understand you.
Soc. Then I will try to explain myself: just now we asked the
question, whether a man who had learned and remembered could fail to
know, and we showed that a person who had seen might remember when
he had his eyes shut and could not see, and then he would at the
same time remember and not know. But this was an impossibility. And so
the Protagorean fable came to nought, and yours also, who maintained
that knowledge is the same as perception.
Theaet. True.
Soc. And yet, my friend, I rather suspect that the result would have
been different if Protagoras, who was the father of the first of the
two-brats, had been alive; he would have had a great deal to say on
their behalf. But he is dead, and we insult over his orphan child; and
even the guardians whom he left, and of whom our friend Theodorus is
one, are unwilling to give any help, and therefore I suppose that must
take up his cause myself, and see justice done?
Theod. Not I, Socrates, but rather Callias, the son of Hipponicus,
is guardian of his orphans. I was too soon diverted from the
abstractions of dialectic to geometry. Nevertheless, I shall be
grateful to you if you assist him.
Soc. Very good, Theodorus; you shall see how I will come to the
rescue. If a person does not attend to the meaning of terms as they
are commonly used in argument, he may be involved even in greater
paradoxes than these. Shall I explain this matter to you or to
Theaetetus?
Theod. To both of us, and let the younger answer; he will incur less
disgrace if he is discomfited.
Soc. Then now let me ask the awful question, which is this:-Can a
man know and also not know that which he knows?
Theod. How shall we answer, Theaetetus?
Theaet. He cannot, I should say.
Soc. He can, if you maintain that seeing is knowing. When you are
imprisoned in a well, as the saying is, and the self-assured adversary
closes one of your eyes with his hand, and asks whether you can see
his cloak with the eye which he has closed, how will you answer the
inevitable man?
Theaet. I should answer, "Not with that eye but with the other."
Soc. Then you see and do not see the same thing at the same time.
Theaet. Yes, in a certain sense.
Soc. None of that, he will reply; I do not ask or bid you answer
in what sense you know, but only whether you know that which you do
not know. You have been proved to see that which you do not see; and
you have already admitted that seeing is knowing, and that
not-seeing is not-knowing: I leave you to draw the inference.
Theaet. Yes, the inference is the contradictory of my assertion.
Soc. Yes, my marvel, and there might have been yet worse things in
store for you, if an opponent had gone on to ask whether you can
have a sharp and also a dull knowledge, and whether you can know near,

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