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theaetetus   


what you say.
Soc. If a man has both of them in his thoughts, he cannot think that
the one of them is the other?
Theat. True.
Soc. Neither, if he has one of them only in his mind and not the
other, can he think that one is the other?
Theaet. True; for we should have to suppose that he apprehends
that which is not in his thoughts at all.
Soc. Then no one who has either both or only one of the two
objects in his mind can think that the one is the other. And
therefore, he who maintains that false opinion is heterodoxy is
talking nonsense; for neither in this, any more than in the previous
way, can false opinion exist in us.
Theaet. No.
Soc. But if, Theaetetus, this is not admitted, we shall be driven
into many absurdities.
Theaet. What are they?
Soc. I will not tell you until I have endeavoured to consider the
matter from every point of view. For I should be ashamed of us if we
were driven in our perplexity to admit the absurd consequences of
which I speak. But if we find the solution, and get away from them, we
may regard them only as the difficulties of others, and the ridicule
will not attach to us. On the other hand, if we utterly fail, I
suppose that we must be humble, and allow the argument to trample us
under foot, as the sea-sick passenger is trampled upon by the
sailor, and to do anything to us. Listen, then, while I tell you how I
hope to find a way out of our difficulty.
Theaet. Let me hear.
Soc. I think that we were wrong in denying that a man could think
what he knew to be what he did not know; and that there is a way in
which such a deception is possible.
Theaet. You mean to say, as I suspected at the time, that I may know
Socrates, and at a distance see some one who is unknown to me, and
whom I mistake for him-them the deception will occur?
Soc. But has not that position been relinquished by us, because
involving the absurdity that we should know and not know the things
which we know?
Theaet. True.
Soc. Let us make the assertion in another form, which may or may not
have a favourable issue; but as we are in a great strait, every
argument should be turned over and tested. Tell me, then, whether I am
right in saying that you may learn a thing which at one time you did
not know?
Theaet. Certainly you may.
Soc. And another and another?
Theaet. Yes.
Soc. I would have you imagine, then, that there exists in the mind
of man a block of wax, which is of different sizes in different men;
harder, moister, and having more or less of purity in one than
another, and in some of an intermediate quality.
Theaet. I see.
Soc. Let us say that this tablet is a gift of Memory, the mother
of the Muses; and that when we wish to remember anything which we have
seen, or heard, or thought in our own minds, we hold the wax to the
perceptions and thoughts, and in that material receive the
impression of them as from the seal of a ring; and that we remember
and know what is imprinted as long as the image lasts; but when the
image is effaced, or cannot be taken, then we forget and do not know.
Theaet. Very good.
Soc. Now, when a person has this knowledge, and is considering
something which he sees or hears, may not false opinion arise in the
following manner?
Theaet. In what manner?
Soc. When he thinks what he knows, sometimes to be what he knows,

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