Themes: The search after the sophist, inquiry into the nature/reality of not-being, on the problem of Being, on admixture/communion of natures, on the possibility of falsehood, on the conception of language and opinion, on the definition of disease, vice, ignorance, the nature of essence…
THEODORUS: Nay, Socrates, he is not one of the disputatious sort–he is too good for that. And, in my opinion, he is not a god at all; but divine he certainly is, for this is a title which I should give to all philosophers.
SOCRATES: Capital, my friend! and I may add that they are almost as hard to be discerned as the gods. For the true philosophers, and such as are not merely made up for the occasion, appear in various forms unrecognized by the ignorance of men, and they ‘hover about cities,’ as Homer declares, looking from above upon human life; and some think nothing of them, and others can never think enough; and sometimes they appear as statesmen, and sometimes as sophists; and then, again, to many they seem to be no better than madmen. I should like to ask our Eleatic friend, if he would tell us, what is thought about them in Italy, and to whom the terms are applied.
STRANGER: Very good; you can decide about that for yourself as we proceed. Meanwhile you and I will begin together and enquire into the nature of the Sophist, first of the three: I should like you to make out what he is and bring him to light in a discussion; for at present we are only agreed about the name, but of the thing to which we both apply the name possibly you have one notion and I another; whereas we ought always to come to an understanding about the thing itself in terms of a definition, and not merely about the name minus the definition. Now the tribe of Sophists which we are investigating is not easily caught or defined; and the world has long ago agreed, that if great subjects are to be adequately treated, they must be studied in the lesser and easier instances of them before we proceed to the greatest of all. And as I know that the tribe of Sophists is troublesome and hard to be caught, I should recommend that we practise beforehand the method which is to be applied to him on some simple and smaller thing, unless you can suggest a better way.
What is there which is well known and not great, and is yet as susceptible of definition as any larger thing? Shall I say an angler? He is familiar to all of us, and not a very interesting or important person…. Let us begin by asking whether he is a man having art or not having art, but some other power.
And of arts there are two kinds? … Seeing, then, that all arts are either,
- acquisitive or
- creative, in which class shall we place the art of the angler? …
And the acquisitive may be subdivided into two parts:
- there is exchange, which is voluntary and is effected by gifts, hire, purchase;
- and the other part of acquisitive, which takes by force of word or deed, may be termed conquest?
And may not conquest be again subdivided? …
- Open force may be called fighting, and
- secret force may have the general name of hunting? …
And there is no reason why the art of hunting should not be further divided. …
- Into the hunting of living and
- of lifeless prey. …
And animal hunting may be truly said to have two divisions, land-animal hunting, which has many kinds and names, and water-animal hunting, or the hunting after animals who swim? …
Fowling is the general term under which the hunting of all birds is included. …
The hunting of animals who live in the water has the general name of fishing. … And this sort of hunting may be further divided also into two principal kinds…
- There is one kind which takes them in nets, … captures with enclosures…
- another which takes them by a blow. …. striking. ….. barb-fishing…
There is one mode of striking, which is done at night, and by the light of a fire, and is by the hunters themselves called firing, or spearing by firelight. … And the fishing by day is called by the general name of barbing, because the spears, too, are barbed at the point. … Of this barb-fishing, that which strikes the fish who is below from above is called spearing, because this is the way in which the three- pronged spears are mostly used.
When a hook is used, and the fish is not struck in any chance part of his body, as he is with the spear, but only about the head and mouth, and is then drawn out from below upwards with reeds and rods: –What is the right name of that mode of fishing, Theaetetus? … THEAETETUS: I suspect that we have now discovered the object of our search.
Then now you and I have come to an understanding not only about the name of the angler’s art, but about the definition of the thing itself. One half of all art was acquisitive—half of the acquisitive art was conquest or taking by force, half of this was hunting, and half of hunting was hunting animals, half of this was hunting water animals–of this again, the under half was fishing, half of fishing was striking; a part of striking was fishing with a barb, and one half of this again, being the kind which strikes with a hook and draws the fish from below upwards, is the art which we have been seeking, and which from the nature of the operation is denoted angling or drawing up (aspalieutike, anaspasthai).
|Voluntary Exchange (effected by gifts, hire, purchase, etc.)||Hunting (taking by force)|
|Water-animal hunting||Land-animal hunting|
|Striking||Capture with enclosures (nets)|
|Barb-fishing (done by day)||Spearing by firelight (done at night)|
|Spearing (strikes the fish who is below from above)||Art of the angler (fish is struck about the head and mouth, and then drawn out from below upwards with reeds and rods).|
STRANGER: And now, following this pattern, let us endeavour to find out what a Sophist is.
- First attempt at defining a Sophist….
The angler and the Sophist. THEAETETUS: In what way are they related? … They both appear to me to be hunters. …
Thus far, then, the Sophist and the angler, starting from the art of acquiring, take the same road? … Their paths diverge when they reach the art of animal hunting; the one going to the sea-shore, and to the rivers and to the lakes, and angling for the animals which are in them.
Of hunting on land there are two principal divisions.
- One is the hunting of tame, and
- the other of wild animals.
Then let us divide the hunting of tame animals into two parts….
- Let us define piracy, man-stealing, tyranny, the whole military art, by one name, as hunting with violence….
- But the art of the lawyer, of the popular orator, and the art of conversation may be called in one word the art of persuasion.
- One is private, … And of private hunting, one sort receives hire, and the other brings gifts. … I mean that they lavish gifts on those whom they hunt in addition to other inducements. … Let us admit this, then, to be the amatory art. … But that sort of hireling whose conversation is pleasing and who baits his hook only with pleasure and exacts nothing but his maintenance in return, we should all, if I am not mistaken, describe as possessing flattery or an art of making things pleasant. …
- the other public. … And that sort, which professes to form acquaintances only for the sake of virtue, and demands a reward in the shape of money, may be fairly called by another name? …
|Voluntary Exchange (effected by gifts, hire, purchase, etc.)||Hunting (taking by force)|
|Land-animal hunting||Water-animal hunting|
|Hunting of tame||Hunting of wild animals|
|The art of persuasion||Hunting with violence, piracy, man-stealing, etc.…|
|Private (once receives hire, gifts, etc.… the amatory art, the art of making things pleasant/possessing flattery).||Public (professes to form acquaintances only for the sake of virtue, and demands a reward in the shape of money…. Sophistry – a hunt of young men of wealth and rank.|
Then now, Theaetetus, his art may be traced as a branch of the appropriative, acquisitive family–which hunts animals, –living–land–tame animals; which hunts man, –privately–for hire, –taking money in exchange— having the semblance of education; and this is termed Sophistry, and is a hunt after young men of wealth and rank–such is the conclusion.
- Second attempt at defining a Sophist….
STRANGER: Let us take another branch of his genealogy; for he is a professor of a great and many-sided art; and if we look back at what has preceded we see that he presents another aspect, besides that of which we are speaking.
There were two sorts of acquisitive art;
- the one concerned with hunting,
- the other with exchange.
And of the art of exchange there are two divisions,
- the one of giving, and
- the other of selling.
Next, we will suppose the art of selling to be divided into two parts.
- There is one part which is distinguished as the sale of a man’s own productions;
- another, which is the exchange of the works of others.
And is not that part of exchange which takes place in the city, being about half of the whole, termed retailing? …
And that which exchanges the goods of one city for those of another by selling and buying is the exchange of the merchant? … And you are aware that this exchange of the merchant is of two kinds:
- it is partly concerned with food for the use of the body, and
- partly with the food of the soul which is bartered and received in exchange for money.
STRANGER: You want to know what is the meaning of food for the soul; the other kind you surely understand. … Take music in general and painting and marionette playing and many other things, which are purchased in one city, and carried away and sold in another–wares of the soul which are hawked about either for the sake of instruction or amusement; –may not he who takes them about and sells them be quite as truly called a merchant as he who sells meats and drinks? …
And would you not call by the same name him who buys up knowledge and goes about from city to city exchanging his wares for money? … Of this merchandise of the soul, may not one part be fairly termed the art of display? And there is another part which is certainly not less ridiculous, but being a trade in learning must be called by some name germane to the matter? … The latter should have two names, —one descriptive of the sale of the knowledge of virtue, and the other of the sale of other kinds of knowledge. … The name of art-seller corresponds well enough to the latter; but you must try and tell me the name of the other. … THEAETETUS: He must be the Sophist, whom we are seeking; no other name can possibly be right.
STRANGER: No other; and so this trader in virtue again turns out to be our friend the Sophist, whose art may now be traced from the art of acquisition through exchange, trade, merchandise, to a merchandise of the soul which is concerned with speech and the knowledge of virtue.
|Voluntary Exchange (effected by gifts, hire, purchase, etc.)||Concerned with Hunting (taking by force)|
|The one of giving||The other of selling|
|The exchange of the work of others||The sale of man’s own productions|
|Retailing (takes place in the city)||The exchange of the merchant (exchanges goods of one city for those of another)|
|Concerned with the food of the soul which is bartered and received in exchange for money (Hawked about either for the sake of instruction or amusement)||Concerned with food for the use of the body|
|The art of display (merchandise of the soul whereby one buys up knowledge and goes about from city to city exchanging his wares for money).||A trade in learning|
|Sale of knowledge of virtue (supposedly Sophistry – a merchandise of the soul which is concerned with speech and the knowledge of virtue).||Sale of other kinds of knowledge/art-seller|
- Third attempt at defining a Sophist….
STRANGER: And there may be a third reappearance of him; —for he may have settled down in a city, and may fabricate as well as buy these same wares, intending to live by selling them, and he would still be called a Sophist? … Then that part of the acquisitive art which exchanges, and of exchange which either sells a man’s own productions or retails those of others, as the case may be, and in either way sells the knowledge of virtue, you would again term Sophistry? … Let us consider once more whether there may not be yet another aspect of sophistry. …
In the acquisitive there was a subdivision of the combative or fighting art. … There shall be one division of the competitive, and another of the pugnacious. …
That part of the pugnacious which is a contest of bodily strength may be properly called by some such name as violent….
And when the war is one of words, it may be termed controversy? …
- When long speeches are answered by long speeches, and there is public discussion about the just and unjust, that is forensic controversy. …
- And there is a private sort of controversy, which is cut up into questions and answers, and this is commonly called disputation? …
But that which proceeds by rules of art to dispute about justice and injustice in their own nature, and about things in general, we have been accustomed to call argumentation (Eristic)? And of argumentation, one sort wastes money, and the other makes money.
I should say that the habit which leads a man to neglect his own affairs for the pleasure of conversation, of which the style is far from being agreeable to the majority of his hearers, may be fairly termed loquacity: such is my opinion. … But now who the other is, who makes money out of private disputation, it is your turn to say. THEAETETUS: There is only one true answer: he is the wonderful Sophist, of whom we are in pursuit, and who reappears again for the fourth time.
|Voluntary Exchange (effected by gifts, hire, purchase, etc.)||Concerned with Hunting (taking by force)The Combative – fighting art|
|The pugnacious||The Competitive|
|Controversy (war of words)||Violent (a contest of bodily strength)|
|Forensic controversy (Public discussion about the just and unjust)||Disputation (a private sort of controversy – which is cup up into questions and answers)|
|Eristic/Argumentation (proceeds by rules of art to dispute about justice and injustice in their own nature, and about things in general)||Discussion about contracts without rules of art…|
|One sort wastes money (the habit which leads a man to neglect his own affairs for the pleasure of conversation of which the style is far from being agreeable to the majority of his hearers)||The other makes money (the wonderful sophist)|
STRANGER: Yes, and with a fresh pedigree, for he is the money-making species of the Eristic, disputatious, controversial, pugnacious, combative, acquisitive family, as the argument has already proven. … How true was the observation that he was a many-sided animal, and not to be caught with one hand, as they say!
- Fourth attempt at defining a Sophist….
STRANGER: Yes, we must, if we can. And therefore let us try another track in our pursuit of him: You are aware that there are certain menial occupations which have names among servants? … And besides these there are a great many more, such as carding, spinning, adjusting the warp and the woof; and thousands of similar expressions are used in the arts. … I think that in all of these there is implied a notion of division. …
Then if, as I was saying, there is one art which includes all of them, ought not that art to have one name? … The art of discerning or discriminating.
Every discernment or discrimination of that kind, as I have observed, is called a purification.
And any one may see that purification is of two kinds. …
- There are many purifications of bodies which may with propriety be comprehended under a single name. … There is the purification of living bodies in their inward and in their outward parts, of which the former is duly effected by medicine and gymnastic, the latter by the not very dignified art of the bath-man; and
- there is the purification of inanimate substances–to this the arts of fulling and of furbishing in general attend in a number of minute particulars, having a variety of names which are thought ridiculous. …
There can be no doubt that they are thought ridiculous, Theaetetus; but then the dialectical art never considers whether the benefit to be derived from the purge is greater or less than that to be derived from the sponge, and has not more interest in the one than in the other; her endeavour is to know what is and is not kindred in all arts, with a view to the acquisition of intelligence; and having this in view, she honours them all alike, and when she makes comparisons, she counts one of them not a whit more ridiculous than another; nor does she esteem him who adduces as his example of hunting, the general’s art, at all more decorous than another who cites that of the vermin-destroyer, but only as the greater pretender of the two. And as to your question concerning the name which was to comprehend all these arts of purification, whether of animate or inanimate bodies, the art of dialectic is in no wise particular about fine words, if she may be only allowed to have a general name for all other purifications, binding them up together and separating them off from the purification of the soul or intellect. For this is the purification at which she wants to arrive, and this we should understand to be her aim.
THEAETETUS: Yes, I understand; and I agree that there are two sorts of purification, and that
- one of them is concerned with the soul, and that
- there is another which is concerned with the body.
Do we admit that virtue is distinct from vice in the soul? … And purification was to leave the good and to cast out whatever is bad? … Then any taking away of evil from the soul may be properly called purification? …
And in the soul there are two kinds of evil. …
- The one may be compared to disease in the body,
- the other to deformity. …
Perhaps you have never reflected that disease and discord are the same. … Do you not conceive discord to be a dissolution of kindred elements, originating in some disagreement? … And is deformity anything but the want of measure, which is always unsightly?
And do we not see that opinion is opposed to desire, pleasure to anger, reason to pain, and that all these elements are opposed to one another in the souls of bad men? … Then we shall be right in calling vice a discord and disease of the soul? …
And when things having motion, and aiming at an appointed mark, continually miss their aim and glance aside, shall we say that this is the effect of symmetry among them, or of the want of symmetry? THEAETETUS: Clearly of the want of symmetry.
But surely we know that no soul is voluntarily ignorant of anything? … And what is ignorance but the aberration of a mind which is bent on truth, and in which the process of understanding is perverted? … Then we are to regard an unintelligent soul as deformed and devoid of symmetry? …
Then there are these two kinds of evil in the soul—
- the one which is generally called vice, and is obviously a disease of the soul…
- And there is the other, which they call ignorance, and which, because existing only in the soul, they will not allow to be vice.
THEAETETUS: I certainly admit what I at first disputed–that there are two kinds of vice in the soul, and that we ought to consider cowardice, intemperance, and injustice to be alike forms of disease in the soul, and ignorance, of which there are all sorts of varieties, to be deformity.
And in the case of the body are there not two arts which have to do with the two bodily states?
- There is gymnastic, which has to do with deformity, and
- medicine, which has to do with disease.
And where there is insolence and injustice and cowardice, is not chastisement the art which is most required?
Again, of the various kinds of ignorance, may not instruction be rightly said to be the remedy?
And of the art of instruction, shall we say that there is one or many kinds? At any rate there are two principal ones. Think.
If we can discover a line which divides ignorance into two halves. For a division of ignorance into two parts will certainly imply that the art of instruction is also twofold, answering to the two divisions of ignorance.
I do seem to myself to see one very large and bad sort of ignorance which is quite separate, and may be weighed in the scale against all other sorts of ignorance put together. … When a person supposes that he knows, and does not know; this appears to be the great source of all the errors of the intellect. … And this, if I am not mistaken, is the kind of ignorance which specially earns the title of stupidity.
What name, then, shall be given to the sort of instruction which gets rid of this? … Of education, one method appears to be rougher, and another smoother. … There is the time-honoured mode which our fathers commonly practised towards their sons, and which is still adopted by many–either of roughly reproving their errors, or of gently advising them; which varieties may be correctly included under the general term of admonition. …
But whereas some appear to have arrived at the conclusion that all ignorance is involuntary, and that no one who thinks himself wise is willing to learn any of those things in which he is conscious of his own cleverness, and that the admonitory sort of instruction gives much trouble and does little good– … Accordingly, they set to work to eradicate the spirit of conceit in another way. …. They cross-examine a man’s words, when he thinks that he is saying something and is really saying nothing, and easily convict him of inconsistencies in his opinions; these they then collect by the dialectical process, and placing them side by side, show that they contradict one another about the same things, in relation to the same things, and in the same respect. He, seeing this, is angry with himself, and grows gentle towards others, and thus is entirely delivered from great prejudices and harsh notions, in a way which is most amusing to the hearer, and produces the most lasting good effect on the person who is the subject of the operation. For as the physician considers that the body will receive no benefit from taking food until the internal obstacles have been removed, so the purifier of the soul is conscious that his patient will receive no benefit from the application of knowledge until he is refuted, and from refutation learns modesty; he must be purged of his prejudices first and made to think that he knows only what he knows, and no more.
STRANGER: And who are the ministers of this art? I am afraid to say the Sophists. … Lest we should assign to them too high a prerogative. THEAETETUS: Yet the Sophist has a certain likeness to our minister of purification.STRANGER: Yes, the same sort of likeness which a wolf, who is the fiercest of animals, has to a dog, who is the gentlest. But he who would not be found tripping, ought to be very careful in this matter of comparisons, for they are most slippery things. Nevertheless, let us assume that the Sophists are the men. I say this provisionally, for I think that the line which divides them will be marked enough if proper care is taken.
|The discerning Art/Purification|
|Concerned with the Soul/Mental Purification||Concerned with the Body|
|The Art of Instruction||Teaching of handicraft arts/technical skills.|
|The Art of Chastisement/Admonition (Concerned with the deformity in the soul; injustice, cowardice, injustice, insolence…) The rougher sort of purification…||Education/Refutation of false conceit/the spirit of conceit/stupidity (concerned with disease of the soul, effected through application of refutation, assumedly by “Sophistry”).|
STRANGER: Let us grant, then, that from the discerning art comes purification, and from purification let there be separated off a part which is concerned with the soul; of this mental purification instruction is a portion, and of instruction education, and of education, that refutation of vain conceit which has been discovered in the present argument; and let this be called by you and me the nobly-descended art of Sophistry. THEAETETUS: Very well; and yet, considering the number of forms in which he has presented himself, I begin to doubt how I can with any truth or confidence describe the real nature of the Sophist.
First let us wait a moment and recover breath, and while we are resting, we may reckon up in how many forms he has appeared.
- In the first place, he was discovered to be a paid hunter after wealth and youth.
- In the second place, he was a merchant in the goods of the soul.
- In the third place, he has turned out to be a retailer of the same sort of wares.
- Yes; and in the fourth place, he himself manufactured the learned wares which he sold.
- Quite right; I will try and remember the fifth myself. He belonged to the fighting class, and was further distinguished as a hero of debate, who professed the eristic art.
- The sixth point was doubtful, and yet we at last agreed that he was a purger of souls, who cleared away notions obstructive to knowledge.
STRANGER: Do you not see that when the professor of any art has one name and many kinds of knowledge, there must be something wrong? The multiplicity of names which is applied to him shows that the common principle to which all these branches of knowledge are tending, is not understood.
- Fifth attempt of defining a Sophist….
At any rate we will understand him, and no indolence shall prevent us. Let us begin again, then, and re-examine some of our statements concerning the Sophist; there was one thing which appeared to me especially characteristic of him. … We were saying of him, if I am not mistaken, that he was a disputer?
In all and every art, what the craftsman ought to say in answer to any question is written down in a popular form, and he who likes may learn. … Yes, my friend, and about a good many other things. In a word, is not the art of disputation a power of disputing about all things? … I ask whether anybody can understand all things. … Happy would mankind be if such a thing were possible! … But how can anyone who is ignorant dispute in a rational manner against him who knows?
Then why has the sophistical art such a mysterious power? … How do the Sophists make young men believe in their supreme and universal wisdom? For if they neither disputed nor were thought to dispute rightly, or being thought to do so were deemed no wiser for their controversial skill, then, to quote your own observation, no one would give them money or be willing to learn their art. … Yes, and the reason, as I should imagine, is that they are supposed to have knowledge of those things about which they dispute? … And therefore, to their disciples, they appear to be all-wise? …
Then the Sophist has been shown to have a sort of conjectural or apparent knowledge only of all things, which is not the truth?
Suppose a person to say that he will make you and me, and all creatures. … And when a man says that he knows all things, and can teach them to another at a small cost, and in a short time, is not that a jest? …
And is there any more artistic or graceful form of jest than imitation? … THEAETETUS: Certainly not; and imitation is a very comprehensive term, which includes under one class the most diverse sorts of things.
We know, of course, that he who professes by one art to make all things is really a painter, and by the painter’s art makes resemblances of real things which have the same name with them; and he can deceive the less intelligent sort of young children, to whom he shows his pictures at a distance, into the belief that he has the absolute power of making whatever he likes.
STRANGER: And may there not be supposed to be an imitative art of reasoning? Is it not possible to enchant the hearts of young men by words poured through their ears, when they are still at a distance from the truth of facts, by exhibiting to them fictitious arguments, and making them think that they are true, and that the speaker is the wisest of men in all things?
But as time goes on, and their hearers advance in years, and come into closer contact with realities, and have learnt by sad experience to see and feel the truth of things, are not the greater part of them compelled to change many opinions which they formerly entertained, so that the great appears small to them, and the easy difficult, and all their dreamy speculations are overturned by the facts of life?
STRANGER: And the wish of all of us, who are your friends, is and always will be to bring you as near to the truth as we can without the sad reality. And now I should like you to tell me, whether the Sophist is not visibly a magician and imitator of true being; or are we still disposed to think that he may have a true knowledge of the various matters about which he disputes?
THEAETETUS: But how can he, Stranger? Is there any doubt, after what has been said, that he is to be located in one of the divisions of children’s play? STRANGER: Then we must place him in the class of magicians and mimics. … And now our business is not to let the animal out, for we have got him in a sort of dialectical net, and there is one thing which he decidedly will not escape. … The inference that he is a juggler.
STRANGER: Then, clearly, we ought as soon as possible to divide the image- making art, and go down into the net, and, if the Sophist does not run away from us, to seize him according to orders and deliver him over to reason, who is the lord of the hunt, and proclaim the capture of him; and if he creeps into the recesses of the imitative art, and secretes himself in one of them, to divide again and follow him up until in some sub-section of imitation he is caught. For our method of tackling each and all is one which neither he nor any other creature will ever escape in triumph.
Well, then, pursuing the same analytic method as before, I think that I can discern two divisions of the imitative art, but I am not as yet able to see in which of them the desired form is to be found.
- One is the art of likeness-making; –generally a likeness of anything is made by producing a copy which is executed according to the proportions of the original, similar in length and breadth and depth, each thing receiving also its appropriate colour.
- …. in works either of sculpture or of painting, which are of any magnitude, there is a certain degree of deception; for artists were to give the true proportions of their fair works, the upper part, which is farther off, would appear to be out of proportion in comparison with the lower, which is nearer; and so they give up the truth in their images and make only the proportions which appear to be beautiful, disregarding the real ones. … And what shall we call those resemblances of the beautiful, which appear such owing to the unfavorable position of the spectator, whereas if a person had the power of getting a correct view of works of such magnitude, they would appear not even like that to which they profess to be like? May we not call these ‘appearances,’ since they appear only and are not really like? … And may we not fairly call the sort of art, which produces an appearance and not an image, phantastic art?
STRANGER: My dear friend, we are engaged in a very difficult speculation– there can be no doubt of that; for how a thing can appear and seem, and not be, or how a man can say a thing which is not true, has always been and still remains a very perplexing question. Can anyone say or think that falsehood really exists, and avoid being caught in a contradiction? Indeed, Theaetetus, the task is a difficult one.
He who says that falsehood exists has the audacity to assert the being of not-being; for this is implied in the possibility of falsehood. But, my boy, in the days when I was a boy, the great Parmenides protested against this doctrine, and to the end of his life he continued to inculcate the same lesson–always repeating both in verse and out of verse: ‘Keep your mind from this way of enquiry, for never will you show that not- being is.’ Such is his testimony, which is confirmed by the very expression when sifted a little. Would you object to begin with the consideration of the words themselves?
Let us be serious then, and consider the question neither in strife nor play: suppose that one of the hearers of Parmenides was asked, ‘To what is the term “not-being” to be applied?‘–do you know what sort of object he would single out in reply, and what answer he would make to the enquirer? … It is also plain, that in speaking of something we speak of being, for to speak of an abstract something naked and isolated from all being is impossible. …
You mean by assenting to imply that he who says something must say some one thing? … Then he who says ‘not something’ must say absolutely nothing. …: And as we cannot admit that a man speaks and says nothing, he who says ‘not-being’ does not speak at all. …
To that which is, may be attributed some other thing which is? … And all number is to be reckoned among things which are? … Then we must not attempt to attribute to not-being number either in the singular or plural?
When we speak of things which are not, are we not attributing plurality to not-being? … But, on the other hand, when we say ‘what is not,’ do we not attribute unity? … Nevertheless, we maintain that you may not and ought not to attribute being to not-being? … Do you see, then, that not-being in itself can neither be spoken, uttered, or thought, but that it is unthinkable, unutterable, unspeakable, indescribable?
Do not expect clearness from me. For I, who maintain that not- being has no part either in the one or many, just now spoke and am still speaking of not-being as one; for I say ‘not-being.’ Do you understand?
And when I spoke of not-being as indescribable and unspeakable and unutterable, in using each of these words in the singular, did I not refer to not-being as one? … And yet we say that, strictly speaking, it should not be defined as one or many, and should not even be called ‘it,’ for the use of the word ‘it’ would imply a form of unity.
How, then, can anyone put any faith in me? For now, as always, I am unequal to the refutation of not-being. And therefore, as I was saying, do not look to me for the right way of speaking about not-being; but come, let us try the experiment with you. …
Say no more of ourselves; but until we find someone or other who can speak of not-being without number, we must acknowledge that the Sophist is a clever rogue who will not be got out of his hole. … And if we say to him that he professes an art of making appearances, he will grapple with us and retort our argument upon ourselves; and when we call him an image-maker he will say, ‘Pray what do you mean at all by an image?’–and I should like to know, Theaetetus, how we can possibly answer the younker’s question? … When you tell him of something existing in a mirror, or in sculpture, and address him as though he had eyes, he will laugh you to scorn, and will pretend that he knows nothing of mirrors and streams, or of sight at all; he will say that he is asking about an idea. … The common notion pervading all these objects, which you speak of as many, and yet call by the single name of image, as though it were the unity under which they were all included. How will you maintain your ground against him?
THEAETETUS: How, Stranger, can I describe an image except as something fashioned in the likeness of the true?STRANGER: And do you mean this something to be some other true thing, or what do you mean? THEAETETUS: Certainly not another true thing, but only a resemblance. … And the not true is that which is the opposite of the true? … A resemblance, then, is not really real, if, as you say, not true? … Then what we call an image is in reality really unreal. …
STRANGER: Strange! I should think so. See how, by his reciprocation of opposites, the many-headed Sophist has compelled us, quite against our will, to admit the existence of not-being. … The difficulty is how to define his art without falling into a contradiction.
When we say that he deceives us with an illusion, and that his art is illusory, do we mean that our soul is led by his art to think falsely, or what do we mean? …
Again, false opinion is that form of opinion which thinks the opposite of the truth: –You would assent?… You mean to say that false opinion thinks what is not? …
Does false opinion think that things which are not are not, or that in a certain sense they are? THEAETETUS: Things that are not must be imagined to exist in a certain sense, if any degree of falsehood is to be possible. … And does not false opinion also think that things which most certainly exist do not exist at all? … And in like manner, a false proposition will be deemed to be one which asserts the non-existence of things which are, and the existence of things which are not.
THEAETETUS: Of course, he will say that we are contradicting ourselves when we hazard the assertion, that falsehood exists in opinion and in words; for in maintaining this, we are compelled over and over again to assert being of not-being, which we admitted just now to be an utter impossibility.
STRANGER: I have a yet more urgent request to make. THEAETETUS: Which is–? … STRANGER: That you will promise not to regard me as a parricide. THEAETETUS: And why? STRANGER: Because, in self-defense, I must test the philosophy of my father Parmenides, and try to prove by main force that in a certain sense not-being is, and that being, on the other hand, is not. …
I think that we had better, first of all, consider the points which at present are regarded as self-evident, lest we may have fallen into some confusion, and be too ready to assent to one another, fancying that we are quite clear about them.
As if we had been children, to whom they repeated each his own mythus or story;–one said that there were three principles, and that at one time there was war between certain of them; and then again there was peace, and they were married and begat children, and brought them up; and another spoke of two principles,–a moist and a dry, or a hot and a cold, and made them marry and cohabit. The Eleatics, however, in our part of the world, say that all things are many in name, but in nature one; this is their mythus, which goes back to Xenophanes, and is even older. Then there are Ionian, and in more recent times Sicilian muses, who have arrived at the conclusion that to unite the two principles is safer, and to say that being is one and many, and that these are held together by enmity and friendship, ever parting, ever meeting, as the severer Muses assert, while the gentler ones do not insist on the perpetual strife and peace, but admit a relaxation and alternation of them; peace and unity sometimes prevailing under the sway of Aphrodite, and then again plurality and war, by reason of a principle of strife. Whether any of them spoke the truth in all this is hard to determine; besides, antiquity and famous men should have reverence, and not be liable to accusations so serious. Yet one thing may be said of them without offence– That they went on their several ways disdaining to notice people like ourselves; they did not care whether they took us with them, or left us behind them. … I mean to say, that when they talk of one, two, or more elements, which are or have become or are becoming, or again of heat mingling with cold, assuming in some other part of their works separations and mixtures, –tell me, Theaetetus, do you understand what they mean by these expressions? When I was a younger man, I used to fancy that I understood quite well what was meant by the term ‘not-being,’ which is our present subject of dispute; and now you see in what a fix we are about it.
And very likely we have been getting into the same perplexity about ‘being,’ and yet may fancy that when anybody utters the word, we understand him quite easily, although we do not know about not-being. But we may be; equally ignorant of both.
THEAETETUS: Of what are you speaking? You clearly think that we must first investigate what people mean by the word ‘being.’ STRANGER: You follow close at my heels, Theaetetus. For the right method, I conceive, will be to call into our presence the dualistic philosophers and to interrogate them. ‘Come,’ we will say, ‘Ye, who affirm that hot and cold or any other two principles are the universe, what is this term which you apply to both of them, and what do you mean when you say that both and each of them “are”? How are we to understand the word “are”? Upon your view, are we to suppose that there is a third principle over and above the other two, –three in all, and not two? For clearly you cannot say that one of the two principles is being, and yet attribute being equally to both of them; for, if you did, whichever of the two is identified with being, will comprehend the other; and so they will be one and not two.’ … But perhaps you mean to give the name of ‘being’ to both of them together? … ‘Then, friends,’ we shall reply to them, ‘the answer is plainly that the two will still be resolved into one.’
And what about the assertors of the oneness of the all–must we not endeavour to ascertain from them what they mean by ‘being’? … question: One, you say, alone is?… And there is something which you call ‘being’? … And is being the same as one, and do you apply two names to the same thing? … To admit of two names, and to affirm that there is nothing but unity, is surely ridiculous? … And equally irrational to admit that a name is anything? … To distinguish the name from the thing, implies duality. …
And would they say that the whole is other than the one that is, or the same with it? … STRANGER: If being is a whole, as Parmenides sings, — ‘Every way like unto the fullness of a well-rounded sphere, Evenly balanced from the centre on every side, And must needs be neither greater nor less in any way, Neither on this side nor on that–‘ then being has a centre and extremes, and, having these, must also have parts. … Yet that which has parts may have the attribute of unity in all the parts, and in this way being all and a whole, may be one? … But that of which this is the condition cannot be absolute unity? … Because, according to right reason, that which is truly one must be affirmed to be absolutely indivisible. … STRANGER: But this indivisible, if made up of many parts, will contradict reason.
Shall we say that being is one and a whole, because it has the attribute of unity? Or shall we say that being is not a whole at all? … Most true; for being, having in a certain sense the attribute of one, is yet proved not to be the same as one, and the all is therefore more than one. … And yet if being be not a whole, through having the attribute of unity, and there be such a thing as an absolute whole, being lacks something of its own nature? … Upon this view, again, being, having a defect of being, will become not-being?
And, again, the all becomes more than one, for being and the whole will each have their separate nature. … But if the whole does not exist at all, all the previous difficulties remain the same, and there will be the further difficulty, that besides having no being, being can never have come into being.
Because that which comes into being always comes into being as a whole, so that he who does not give whole a place among beings, cannot speak either of essence or generation as existing.
Again; how can that which is not a whole have any quantity? For that which is of a certain quantity must necessarily be the whole of that quantity. …
We are far from having exhausted the more exact thinkers who treat of being and not-being. But let us be content to leave them, and proceed to view those who speak less precisely; and we shall find as the result of all, that the nature of being is quite as difficult to comprehend as that of not-being.
STRANGER: There appears to be a sort of war of Giants and Gods going on amongst them; they are fighting with one another about the nature of essence.
Some of them are dragging down all things from heaven and from the unseen to earth, and they literally grasp in their hands rocks and oaks; of these they lay hold, and obstinately maintain, that the things only which can be touched or handled have being or essence, because they define being and body as one, and if anyone else says that what is not a body exists they altogether despise him, and will hear of nothing but body.
And that is the reason why their opponents cautiously defend themselves from above, out of an unseen world, mightily contending that true essence consists of certain intelligible and incorporeal ideas; the bodies of the materialists, which by them are maintained to be the very truth, they break up into little bits by their arguments, and affirm them to be, not essence, but generation and motion. Between the two armies, Theaetetus, there is always an endless conflict raging concerning these matters. … Let us ask each party in turn, to give an account of that which they call essence.
With those who make being to consist in ideas, there will be less difficulty, for they are civil people enough; but there will be very great difficulty, or rather an absolute impossibility, in getting an opinion out of those who drag everything down to matter. Shall I tell you what we must do? … Let us, if we can, really improve them; but if this is not possible, let us imagine them to be better than they are, and more willing to answer in accordance with the rules of argument, and then their opinion will be more worth having; for that which better men acknowledge has more weight than that which is acknowledged by inferior men. Moreover we are no respecters of persons, but seekers after truth. … Let us push the question; for if they will admit that any, even the smallest particle of being, is incorporeal, it is enough; they must then say what that nature is which is common to both the corporeal and incorporeal, and which they have in their mind’s eye when they say of both of them that they ‘are.’ Perhaps they may be in a difficulty; and if this is the case, there is a possibility that they may accept a notion of ours respecting the nature of being, having nothing of their own to offer. … STRANGER: My notion would be, that anything which possesses any sort of power to affect another, or to be affected by another, if only for a single moment, however trifling the cause and however slight the effect, has real existence; and I hold that the definition of being is simply power.
Let us now go to the friends of ideas; of their opinions, too, you shall be the interpreter. … To them we say–You would distinguish essence from generation? … And you would allow that we participate in generation with the body, and through perception, but we participate with the soul through thought in true essence; and essence you would affirm to be always the same and immutable, whereas generation or becoming varies? …
We said that being was an active or passive energy, arising out of a certain power which proceeds from elements meeting with one another. Perhaps your ears, Theaetetus, may fail to catch their answer, which I recognize because I have been accustomed to hear it. … They deny the truth of what we were just now saying to the aborigines about existence. … Any power of doing or suffering in a degree however slight was held by us to be a sufficient definition of being? … They deny this, and say that the power of doing or suffering is confined to becoming, and that neither power is applicable to being. …but our reply will be, that we want to ascertain from them more distinctly, whether they further admit that the soul knows, and that being or essence is known. … And is knowing and being known doing or suffering, or both, or is the one doing and the other suffering, or has neither any share in either?… but they will allow that if to know is active, then, of course, to be known is passive. And on this view being, in so far as it is known, is acted upon by knowledge, and is therefore in motion; for that which is in a state of rest cannot be acted upon, as we affirm.
And, O heavens, can we ever be made to believe that motion and life and soul and mind are not present with perfect being? Can we imagine that being is devoid of life and mind, and exists in awful unmeaningness an everlasting fixture? … Or shall we say that both inhere in perfect being, but that it has no soul which contains them? … Or that being has mind and life and soul, but although endowed with soul remains absolutely unmoved? … All three suppositions appear to me to be irrational. STRANGER: Under being, then, we must include motion, and that which is moved.
Then, Theaetetus, our inference is, that if there is no motion, neither is there any mind anywhere, or about anything or belonging to anyone. … And yet this equally follows, if we grant that all things are in motion–upon this view too mind has no existence. … Do you think that sameness of condition and mode and subject could ever exist without a principle of rest? …
STRANGER: Then the philosopher, who has the truest reverence for these qualities, cannot possibly accept the notion of those who say that the whole is at rest, either as unity or in many forms: and he will be utterly deaf to those who assert universal motion. As children say entreatingly ‘Give us both,’ so he will include both the moveable and immoveable in his definition of being and all.
STRANGER: O my friend, do you not see that nothing can exceed our ignorance, and yet we fancy that we are saying something good?
Would you not say that rest and motion are in the most entire opposition to one another? … And yet you would say that both and either of them equally are? … And when you admit that both or either of them are, do you mean to say that both or either of them are in motion? Or do you wish to imply that they are both at rest, when you say that they are? …
Then you conceive of being as some third and distinct nature, under which rest and motion are alike included; and, observing that they both participate in being, you declare that they are. THEAETETUS: Truly we seem to have an intimation that being is some third thing, when we say that rest and motion are. STRANGER: Then being is not the combination of rest and motion, but something different from them. … Being, then, according to its own nature, is neither in motion nor at rest.
I scarcely think that he can look anywhere; for that which is not in motion must be at rest, and again, that which is not at rest must be in motion; but being is placed outside of both these classes. Is this possible? THEAETETUS: Utterly impossible.
When we were asked to what we were to assign the appellation of not-being, we were in the greatest difficulty: –do you remember? … Then let us acknowledge the difficulty; and as being and not- being are involved in the same perplexity, there is hope that when the one appears more or less distinctly, the other will equally appear; and if we are able to see neither, there may still be a chance of steering our way in between them, without any great discredit.
Let us enquire, then, how we come to predicate many names of the same thing. …. I mean that we speak of man, for example, under many names–that we attribute to him colours and forms and magnitudes and virtues and vices, in all of which instances and in ten thousand others we not only speak of him as a man, but also as good, and having numberless other attributes, and in the same way anything else which we originally supposed to be one is described by us as many, and under many names. … And thus we provide a rich feast for tyros, whether young or old; for there is nothing easier than to argue that the one cannot be many, or the many one; and great is their delight in denying that a man is good; for man, they insist, is man and good is good. I dare say that you have met with persons who take an interest in such matters–they are often elderly men, whose meagre sense is thrown into amazement by these discoveries of theirs, which they believe to be the height of wisdom.
Shall we refuse to attribute being to motion and rest, or anything to anything, and assume that they do not mingle, and are incapable of participating in one another? Or shall we gather all into one class of things communicable with one another? Or are some things communicable and others not? –Which of these alternatives, Theaetetus, will they prefer?
Very good, and first let us assume them to say that nothing is capable of participating in anything else in any respect; in that case rest and motion cannot participate in being at all. … But would either of them be if not participating in being? THEAETETUS: No. … Then by this admission everything is instantly overturned, as well the doctrine of universal motion as of universal rest, and also the doctrine of those who distribute being into immutable and everlasting kinds; for all these add on a notion of being, some affirming that things ‘are’ truly in motion, and others that they ‘are’ truly at rest. … Again, those who would at one time compound, and at another resolve all things, whether making them into one and out of one creating infinity, or dividing them into finite elements, and forming compounds out of these; whether they suppose the processes of creation to be successive or continuous, would be talking nonsense in all this if there were no admixture.
And now, if we suppose that all things have the power of communion with one another–what will follow? … Why, because motion itself would be at rest, and rest again in motion, if they could be attributed to one another.
For, surely, either all things have communion with all; or nothing with any other thing; or some things communicate with some things and others not. … Every one then, who desires to answer truly, will adopt the third and remaining hypothesis of the communion of some with some.
This communion of some with some may be illustrated by the case of letters; for some letters do not fit each other, while others do. … And the vowels, especially, are a sort of bond which pervades all the other letters, so that without a vowel one consonant cannot be joined to another.
But does everyone know what letters will unite with what? Or is art required in order to do so? … The art of grammar. … And is not this also true of sounds high and low? –Is not he who has the art to know what sounds mingle, a musician, and he who is ignorant, not a musician?
And as classes are admitted by us in like manner to be some of them capable and others incapable of intermixture, must not he who would rightly show what kinds will unite and what will not, proceed by the help of science in the path of argument? And will he not ask if the connecting links are universal, and so capable of intermixture with all things; and again, in divisions, whether there are not other universal classes, which make them possible? … THEAETETUS: To be sure he will require science, and, if I am not mistaken, the very greatest of all sciences.
STRANGER: How are we to call it? By Zeus, have we not lighted unwittingly upon our free and noble science, and in looking for the Sophist have we not entertained the philosopher unawares? … Should we not say that the division according to classes, which neither makes the same other, nor makes other the same, is the business of the dialectical science? … Then, surely, he who can divide rightly is able to see clearly one form pervading a scattered multitude, and many different forms contained under one higher form; and again, one form knit together into a single whole and pervading many such wholes, and many forms, existing only in separation and isolation. This is the knowledge of classes which determines where they can have communion with one another and where not….
And the art of dialectic would be attributed by you only to the philosopher pure and true? … In this region we shall always discover the philosopher, if we look for him; like the Sophist, he is not easily discovered, but for a different reason. … Because the Sophist runs away into the darkness of not-being, in which he has learned by habit to feel about, and cannot be discovered because of the darkness of the place. Is not that true? … And the philosopher, always holding converse through reason with the idea of being, is also dark from excess of light; for the souls of the many have no eye which can endure the vision of the divine.
Since, then, we are agreed that some classes have a communion with one another, and others not, and some have communion with a few and others with many, and that there is no reason why some should not have universal communion with all, let us now pursue the enquiry, as the argument suggests, not in relation to all ideas, lest the multitude of them should confuse us, but let us select a few of those which are reckoned to be the principal ones, and consider their several natures and their capacity of communion with one another, in order that if we are not able to apprehend with perfect clearness the notions of being and not-being, we may at least not fall short in the consideration of them, so far as they come within the scope of the present enquiry, if peradventure we may be allowed to assert the reality of not-being, and yet escape unscathed.
The most important of all the genera are those which we were just now mentioning–being and rest and motion.
And two of these are, as we affirm, incapable of communion with one another.
Whereas being surely has communion with both of them, for both of them are? … And each of them is other than the remaining two, but the same with itself.
But then, what is the meaning of these two words, ‘same’ and ‘other’? Are they two new kinds other than the three, and yet always of necessity intermingling with them, and are we to have five kinds instead of three; or when we speak of the same and other, are we unconsciously speaking of one of the three first kinds?
But, surely, motion and rest are neither the other nor the same. … Whatever we attribute to motion and rest in common, cannot be either of them. … Because motion would be at rest and rest in motion, for either of them, being predicated of both, will compel the other to change into the opposite of its own nature, because partaking of its opposite. … Then we must not assert that motion, any more than rest, is either the same or the other. … But are we to conceive that being and the same are identical?… Then being and the same cannot be one. … Then we may suppose the same to be a fourth class, which is now to be added to the three others. … And shall we call the other a fifth class? Or should we consider being and other to be two names of the same class? … But you would agree, if I am not mistaken, that existences are relative as well as absolute? … And the other is always relative to other? … And now we find that what is other must of necessity be what it is in relation to some other.
Then we must admit the other as the fifth of our selected classes. … And the fifth class pervades all classes, for they all differ from one another, not by reason of their own nature, but because they partake of the idea of the other.
Then let us now put the case with reference to each of the five.
- First there is motion, which we affirm to be absolutely ‘other’ than rest:
- (addition) “Not-being” – which is a category resulting from the opposition of a part of Other and a part of Being, part of the Other which is contrasted with Being, partakes of being, and by reason of this participation is, and yet is not that of which it partakes, but other, and being other than being, it is clearly a necessity that not-being should be; not to be misconstrued as the opposition of Being…
STRANGER: Then we must admit, and not object to say, that motion is the same and is not the same, for we do not apply the terms ‘same’ and ‘not the same,’ in the same sense; but we call it the ‘same,’ in relation to itself, because partaking of the same; and not the same, because having communion with the other, it is thereby severed from the same, and has become not that but other, and is therefore rightly spoken of as ‘not the same.’
Let us proceed, then. May we not say that motion is other than the other, having been also proved by us to be other than the same and other than rest? … Then, according to this view, motion is other and also not other? … Then we may without fear contend that motion is other than being? … The plain result is that motion, since it partakes of being, really is and also is not? …
Then not-being necessarily exists in the case of motion and of every class; for the nature of the other entering into them all, makes each of them other than being, and so non-existent; and therefore of all of them, in like manner, we may truly say that they are not; and again, inasmuch as they partake of being, that they are and are existent.
Every class, then, has plurality of being and infinity of not- being. … And being itself may be said to be other than the other kinds. … Then we may infer that being is not, in respect of as many other things as there are; for not-being these it is itself one, and is not the other things, which are infinite in number.
When we speak of not-being, we speak, I suppose, not of something opposed to being, but only different. … The negative particles, ou and me, when prefixed to words, do not imply opposition, but only difference from the words, or more correctly from the things represented by the words, which follow them.
The nature of the other appears to me to be divided into fractions like knowledge. … Knowledge, like the other, is one; and yet the various parts of knowledge have each of them their own particular name, and hence there are many arts and kinds of knowledge.
There is some part of the other which is opposed to the beautiful?… It has; for whatever we call not-beautiful is other than the beautiful, not than something else…. Is the not-beautiful anything but this–an existence parted off from a certain kind of existence, and again from another point of view opposed to an existing something? …
Then the not-beautiful turns out to be the opposition of being to being? … But upon this view, is the beautiful a more real and the not- beautiful a less real existence?
Then, as would appear, the opposition of a part of the other, and of a part of being, to one another, is, if I may venture to say so, as truly essence as being itself, and implies not the opposite of being, but only what is other than being. …And has not this, as you were saying, as real an existence as any other class? May I not say with confidence that not-being has an assured existence, and a nature of its own? Just as the great was found to be great and the beautiful beautiful, and the not-great not-great, and the not-beautiful not-beautiful, in the same manner not-being has been found to be and is not-being, and is to be reckoned one among the many classes of being. Do you, Theaetetus, still feel any doubt of this?
Whereas, we have not only proved that things which are not are, but we have shown what form of being not-being is; for we have shown that the nature of the other is, and is distributed over all things in their relations to one another, and whatever part of the other is contrasted with being, this is precisely what we have ventured to call not-being. … Let not any one say, then, that while affirming the opposition of not-being to being, we still assert the being of not-being; for as to whether there is an opposite of being, to that enquiry we have long said good-bye–it may or may not be, and may or may not be capable of definition. But as touching our present account of not-being, let a man either convince us of error, or, so long as he cannot, he too must say, as we are saying, that there is a communion of classes, and that being, and difference or other, traverse all things and mutually interpenetrate, so that the other partakes of being, and by reason of this participation is, and yet is not that of which it partakes, but other, and being other than being, it is clearly a necessity that not-being should be. And again, being, through partaking of the other, becomes a class other than the remaining classes, and being other than all of them, is not each one of them, and is not all the rest, so that undoubtedly there are thousands upon thousands of cases in which being is not, and all other things, whether regarded individually or collectively, in many respects are, and in many respects are not.
And he who is skeptical of this contradiction, must think how he can find something better to say; or if he sees a puzzle, and his pleasure is to drag words this way and that, the argument will prove to him, that he is not making a worthy use of his faculties; for there is no charm in such puzzles, and there is no difficulty in detecting them; but we can tell him of something else the pursuit of which is noble and also difficult. … A thing of which I have already spoken; –letting alone these puzzles as involving no difficulty, he should be able to follow and criticize in detail every argument, and when a man says that the same is in a manner other, or that other is the same, to understand and refute him from his own point of view, and in the same respect in which he asserts either of these affections. But to show that somehow and in some sense the same is other, or the other same, or the great small, or the like unlike; and to delight in always bringing forward such contradictions, is no real refutation, but is clearly the new-born babe of someone who is only beginning to approach the problem of being. … For certainly, my friend, the attempt to separate all existences from one another is a barbarism and utterly unworthy of an educated or philosophical mind. … The attempt at universal separation is the final annihilation of all reasoning; for only by the union of conceptions with one another do we attain to discourse of reason.
Why, that we might be able to assert discourse to be a kind of being; for if we could not, the worst of all consequences would follow; we should have no philosophy. Moreover, the necessity for determining the nature of discourse presses upon us at this moment; if utterly deprived of it, we could no more hold discourse; and deprived of it we should be if we admitted that there was no admixture of natures at all.
Not-being has been acknowledged by us to be one among many classes diffused over all being. … And thence arises the question, whether not-being mingles with opinion and language. If not-being has no part in the proposition, then all things must be true; but if not-being has a part, then false opinion and false speech are possible, for to think or to say what is not–is falsehood, which thus arises in the region of thought and in speech.
And where there is falsehood surely there must be deceit. … And if there is deceit, then all things must be full of idols and images and fancies. … Into that region the Sophist, as we said, made his escape, and, when he had got there, denied the very possibility of falsehood; no one, he argued, either conceived or uttered falsehood, inasmuch as not-being did not in any way partake of being.
And now, not-being has been shown to partake of being, and therefore he will not continue fighting in this direction, but he will probably say that some ideas partake of not-being, and some not, and that language and opinion are of the non-partaking class; and he will still fight to the death against the existence of the image-making and phantastic art, in which we have placed him, because, as he will say, opinion and language do not partake of not-being, and unless this participation exists, there can be no such thing as falsehood. And, with the view of meeting this evasion, we must begin by enquiring into the nature of language, opinion, and imagination, in order that when we find them we may find also that they have communion with not-being, and, having made out the connexion of them, may thus prove that falsehood exists; and therein we will imprison the Sophist, if he deserves it, or, if not, we will let him go again and look for him in another class.
THEAETETUS: Certainly, Stranger, there appears to be truth in what was said about the Sophist at first, that he was of a class not easily caught, for he seems to have abundance of defences, which he throws up, and which must every one of them be stormed before we can reach the man himself. And even now, we have with difficulty got through his first defence, which is the not-being of not-being, and lo! here is another; for we have still to show that falsehood exists in the sphere of language and opinion, and there will be another and another line of defence without end.
Then, as I was saying, let us first of all obtain a conception of language and opinion, in order that we may have clearer grounds for determining, whether not-being has any concern with them, or whether they are both always true, and neither of them ever false.
Then, now, let us speak of names, as before we were speaking of ideas and letters; for that is the direction in which the answer may be expected. … The question at issue is whether all names may be connected with one another, or none, or only some of them. … Clearly the last is true. … I understand you to say that words which have a meaning when in sequence may be connected, but that words which have no meaning when in sequence cannot be connected?
What I thought that you intended when you gave your assent; for there are two sorts of intimation of being which are given by the voice.
- One of them is called nouns,
- and the other verbs.
A succession of nouns only is not a sentence, any more than of verbs without nouns. … I see that when you gave your assent you had something else in your mind. But what I intended to say was, that a mere succession of nouns or of verbs is not discourse. … Or, again, when you say ‘lion,’ ‘stag,’ ‘horse,’ or any other words which denote agents–neither in this way of stringing words together do you attain to discourse; for there is no expression of action or inaction, or of the existence of existence or non-existence indicated by the sounds, until verbs are mingled with nouns; then the words fit, and the smallest combination of them forms language, and is the simplest and least form of discourse. … And as there are some things which fit one another, and other things which do not fit, so there are some vocal signs which do, and others which do not, combine and form discourse. …
A sentence must and cannot help having a subject. … And must be of a certain quality. …
‘Theaetetus sits’–not a very long sentence. … ‘Theaetetus, with whom I am now speaking, is flying.’ … And what is the quality of each of these two sentences? THEAETETUS: The one, as I imagine, is false, and the other true. STRANGER: The true says what is true about you? … And the false says what is other than true? THEAETETUS: Yes. STRANGER: And therefore speaks of things which are not as if they were? … And say that things are real of you which are not; for, as we were saying, in regard to each thing or person, there is much that is and much that is not. … And it would be no sentence at all if there were no subject, for, as we proved, a sentence which has no subject is impossible. …
When other, then, is asserted of you as the same, and not-being as being, such a combination of nouns and verbs is really and truly false discourse. … And therefore thought, opinion, and imagination are now proved to exist in our minds both as true and false. …
Are not thought and speech the same, with this exception, that what is called thought is the unuttered conversation of the soul with herself?… But the stream of thought which flows through the lips and is audible is called speech?… And we know that there exists in speech… Affirmation. … When the affirmation or denial takes Place in silence and in the mind only, have you any other name by which to call it but opinion? … And when opinion is presented, not simply, but in some form of sense, would you not call it imagination? …
And seeing that language is true and false, and that thought is the conversation of the soul with herself, and opinion is the end of thinking, and imagination or phantasy is the union of sense and opinion, the inference is that some of them, since they are akin to language, should have an element of falsehood as well as of truth?
And now, since there has been shown to be false speech and false opinion, there may be imitations of real existences, and out of this condition of the mind an art of deception may arise.
Let us, then, renew the attempt, and in dividing any class, always take the part to the right, holding fast to that which holds the Sophist, until we have stripped him of all his common properties, and reached his difference or peculiar. Then we may exhibit him in his true nature, first to ourselves and then to kindred dialectical spirits.
You may remember that all art was originally divided by us into creative and acquisitive… And the Sophist was flitting before us in the acquisitive class, in the subdivisions of hunting, contests, merchandize, and the like. … But now that the imitative art has enclosed him, it is clear that we must begin by dividing the art of creation; for imitation is a kind of creation–of images, however, as we affirm, and not of real things.
In the first place, there are two kinds of creation.
- One of them is human and
- the other divine.
Every power, as you may remember our saying originally, which causes things to exist, not previously existing, was defined by us as creative.
Looking, now, at the world and all the animals and plants, at things which grow upon the earth from seeds and roots, as well as at inanimate substances which are formed within the earth, fusile or non- fusile, shall we say that they come into existence–not having existed previously–by the creation of God, or shall we agree with vulgar opinion about them?… The opinion that nature brings them into being from some spontaneous and unintelligent cause. Or shall we say that they are created by a divine reason and a knowledge which comes from God?
… Let me suppose, then, that things which are said to be made by nature are the work of divine art, and that things which are made by man out of these are works of human art. And so there are two kinds of making and production, the one human and the other divine. I mean to say that you should make a vertical division of production or invention, as you have already made a lateral one. … Then, now, there are in all four parts or segments–two of them have reference to us and are human, and two of them have reference to the gods and are divine. … And, again, in the division which was supposed to be made in the other way, one part in each subdivision is the making of the things themselves, but the two remaining parts may be called the making of likenesses; and so the productive art is again divided into two parts. …
And what shall we say of human art? Do we not make one house by the art of building, and another by the art of drawing, which is a sort of dream created by man for those who are awake? … And other products of human creation are also twofold and go in pairs; there is the thing, with which the art of making the thing is concerned, and the image, with which imitation is concerned. THEAETETUS: Now I begin to understand, and am ready to acknowledge that there are two kinds of production, and each of them twofold; in the lateral division there is both a divine and a human production; in the vertical there are realities and a creation of a kind of similitudes. … And let us not forget that of the imitative class the one part was to have been likeness-making, and the other phantastic, if it could be shown that falsehood is a reality and belongs to the class of real being.
Then, now, let us again divide the phantastic art. …There is one kind which is produced by an instrument, and another in which the creator of the appearance is himself the instrument. … When any one makes himself appear like another in his figure or his voice, imitation is the name for this part of the phantastic art. … Let this, then, be named the art of mimicry, and this the province assigned to it; as for the other division, we are weary and will give that up, leaving to someone else the duty of making the class and giving it a suitable name.
There are some who imitate, knowing what they imitate, and some who do not know. And what line of distinction can there possibly be greater than that which divides ignorance from knowledge?
Was not the sort of imitation of which we spoke just now the imitation of those who know? For he who would imitate you would surely know you and your figure? … And what would you say of the figure or form of justice or of virtue in general? Are we not well aware that many, having no knowledge of either, but only a sort of opinion, do their best to show that this opinion is really entertained by them, by expressing it, as far as they can, in word and deed? … And do they always fail in their attempt to be thought just, when they are not? Or is not the very opposite true? … The very opposite. STRANGER: Such a one, then, should be described as an imitator–to be distinguished from the other, as he who is ignorant is distinguished from him who knows? ….
Can we find a suitable name for each of them? This is clearly not an easy task; for among the ancients there was some confusion of ideas, which prevented them from attempting to divide genera into species; wherefore there is no great abundance of names. Yet, for the sake of distinctness, I will make bold to call the imitation which coexists with opinion, the imitation of appearance–that which coexists with science, a scientific or learned imitation.
The former is our present concern, for the Sophist was classed with imitators indeed, but not among those who have knowledge. … Let us, then, examine our imitator of appearance, and see whether he is sound, like a piece of iron, or whether there is still some crack in him.
Indeed there is a very considerable crack; for if you look, you find that one of the two classes of imitators is a simple creature, who thinks that he knows that which he only fancies; the other sort has knocked about among arguments, until he suspects and fears that he is ignorant of that which to the many he pretends to know. … Shall we regard one as the simple imitator–the other as the dissembling or ironical imitator?… And shall we further speak of this latter class as having one or two divisions? … Upon consideration, then, there appear to me to be two; there is the dissembler, who harangues a multitude in public in a long speech, and the dissembler, who in private and in short speeches compels the person who is conversing with him to contradict himself. … And who is the maker of the longer speeches? Is he the statesman or the popular orator? … And what shall we call the other? Is he the philosopher or the Sophist? …
|Divine (Appearances, reflections, shadows…)||Human|
|Learned/Scientific imitation (produced by an instrument, imitation which coexists with science) The simple imitator (thinks that he knows what he only fancies…||Art of mimicry, Imitator of appearance (imitation which coexists with opinion), Ironical imitator (juggling off words)|
|Public dissembler (harangues a multitude in public in a long speech), The real Sophist…||Private dissembler (who in private and in short speeches compels the person who is conversing with him to contradict himself) The Philosopher…|
The philosopher he cannot be, for upon our view he is ignorant; but since he is an imitator of the wise he will have a name which is formed by an adaptation of the word sophos. What shall we name him? I am pretty sure that I cannot be mistaken in terming him the true and very Sophist. ….
Shall we bind up his name as we did before, making a chain from one end of his genealogy to the other? …: He, then, who traces the pedigree of his art as follows–who, belonging to the conscious or dissembling section of the art of causing self-contradiction, is an imitator of appearance, and is separated from the class of phantastic which is a branch of image-making into that further division of creation, the juggling of words, a creation human, and not divine–anyone who affirms the real Sophist to be of this blood and lineage will say the very truth.