Soc. Let us not, therefore, hastily charge him who gave this account
of knowledge with uttering an unmeaning word; for perhaps he only
intended to say, that when a person was asked what was the nature of
anything, he should be able to answer his questioner by giving the
clements of the thing.
Theaet. As for example, Socrates...?
Soc. As, for example, when Hesiod says that a waggon is made up of a
hundred planks. Now, neither you nor I could describe all of them
individually; but if any one asked what is a waggon, we should be
content to answer, that a waggon consists of wheels, axle, body, rims,
Soc. And our opponent will probably laugh at us, just as he would if
we professed to be grammarians and to give a grammatical account of
the name of Theaetetus, and yet could only tell the syllables and
not the letters of your name-that would be true opinion, and not
knowledge; for knowledge, as has been already remarked, is not
attained until, combined with true opinion, there is an enumeration of
the elements out of which is composed.
Soc. In the same general way, we might also have true opinion
about a waggon; but he who can describe its essence by an
enumeration of the hundred planks, adds rational explanation to true
opinion, and instead of opinion has art and knowledge of the nature of
a waggon, in that he attains to the whole through the elements.
Theaet. And do. you not agree in that view, Socrates?
Soc. If you do, my friend; but I want to know first, whether you
admit the resolution of all things into their elements to be a
rational explanation of them, and the consideration of them in
syllables or larger combinations of them to be irrational-is this your
Soc. Well, and do you conceive that a man has knowledge of any
element who at one time affirms and at another time denies that
clement of something, or thinks that. the same thing is composed of
different elements at different times?
Theaet. Assuredly not.
Soc. And do you not remember that in your case and in of others this
often occurred in the process of learning to read?
Theaet. You mean that I mistook the letters and misspelt the
Theaet. To be sure; I perfectly remember, and I am very far from
supposing that they who are in this condition, have knowledge.
Soc. When a person, at the time of learning writes the name of
Theaetetus, and thinks that he ought to write and does write Th and e;
but, again meaning to write the name of Theododorus, thinks that he
ought to write and does write T and e-can we suppose that he knows the
first syllables of your two names?
Theaet. We have already admitted that such a one has not yet
Soc. And in like manner be may enumerate without knowing them the
second and third and fourth syllables of your name?
Theaet. He may.
Soc. And in that case, when he knows the order of the letters and
can write them out correctly, he has right opinion?
Soc. But although we admit that he has right opinion, he will
still be without knowledge?
Soc. And yet he will have explanations, as well as right opinion,
for he knew the order of the letters when he wrote; and this we