Home | Texts by category | | Quick Search:   
Works by Plato
Pages of theaetetus

Previous | Next


proper places on the block. And such men are called wise. Do you
Theaet. Entirely.
Soc. But when the heart of any one is shaggy-a quality which the
all-wise poet commends, or muddy and of impure wax, or very soft, or
very hard, then there is a corresponding defect in the mind -the
soft are good at learning, but apt to forget; and the hard are the
reverse; the shaggy and rugged and gritty, or those who have an
admixture of earth or dung in their composition, have the
impressions indistinct, as also the hard, for there is no depth in
them; and the soft too are indistinct, for their impressions are
easily confused and effaced. Yet greater is the indistinctness when
they are all jostled together in a little soul, which has no room.
These are the natures which have false opinion; for when they see or
hear or think of anything, they are slow in assigning the right
objects to the right impressions-in their stupidity they confuse them,
and are apt to see and hear and think amiss-and such men are said to
be deceived in their knowledge of objects, and ignorant.
Theaet. No man, Socrates, can say anything truer than that.
Soc. Then now we may admit the existence of false opinion in us?
Theaet. Certainly.
Soc. And of true opinion also?
Theaet. Yes.
Soc. We have at length satisfactorily proven beyond a doubt there
are these two sorts of opinion?
Theaet. Undoubtedly.
Soc. Alas, Theaetetus, what a tiresome creature is a man who is fond
of talking!
Theaet. What makes you say so?
Soc. Because I am disheartened at my own stupidity and tiresome
garrulity; for what other term will describe the habit of a man who is
always arguing on all sides of a question; whose dulness cannot be
convinced, and who will never leave off?
Theaet. But what puts you out of heart?
Soc. I am not only out of heart, but in positive despair; for I do
not know what to answer if any one were to ask me:-O Socrates, have
you indeed discovered that false opinion arises neither in the
comparison of perceptions with one another nor yet in thought, but
in union of thought and perception? Yes, I shall say, with the
complacence of one who thinks that he has made a noble discovery.
Theaet. I see no reason why we should be ashamed of our
demonstration, Socrates.
Soc. He will say: You mean to argue that the man whom we only
think of and do not see, cannot be confused with the horse which we do
not see or touch, but only think of and do not perceive? That I
believe to be my meaning, I shall reply.
Theaet. Quite right.
Soc. Well, then, he will say, according to that argument, the number
eleven, which is only thought, never be mistaken for twelve, which
is only thought: How would you answer him?
Theaet. I should say that a mistake may very likely arise between
the eleven or twelve which are seen or handled, but that no similar
mistake can arise between the eleven and twelve which are in the mind.
Soc. Well, but do you think that no one ever put before his own mind
five and seven, -I do not mean five or seven men or horses, but five
or seven in the abstract, which, as we say, are recorded on the
waxen block, and in which false opinion is held to be impossible;
did no man ever ask himself how many these numbers make when added
together, and answer that they are eleven, while another thinks that
they are twelve, or would all agree in thinking and saying that they
are twelve?
Theaet. Certainly not; many would think that they are eleven, and in
the higher numbers the chance of error is greater still; for I
assume you to be speaking of numbers in general.

Previous | Next
Site Search