The Dialogues of Plato — Translation by David Horan

Plato’s Sophist

Persons in the dialogue: Theodorus, Theaetetus, Socrates, stranger from Elea, the younger Socrates (who remains silent)

216A Theodorus: Well, Socrates, as agreed yesterday, we have come in person, and appropriately we are bringing this stranger, one of the people from Elea, an associate of those who follow Parmenides and Zeno; he is a man with a great love of wisdom.

Socrates: In that case, Theodorus, are you unwittingly bringing in some god rather than a stranger, as Homer’s phrase would have it, when he says that the gods 216B in general, and the god of strangers in particular, become the companions of people who partake of true righteousness, to behold the excesses and the good order of humanity? So perhaps this companion of yours may indeed be one of those higher powers who is going to watch over and refute our sorry predicament in these arguments, as he is a god of refutation.

Theod: That is not the manner of this stranger, Socrates, no; he is more moderate than those who take controversies seriously. Indeed, the man does not seem to me to be a god at all, though he is certainly divine. For 216C I refer to all philosophers as divine.

Soc: And rightly so, my friend. In fact, you could say that this kind is just as difficult to discern as that of the god. Because most people don’t recognise them, they go in and out of the cities in all sorts of guises, and the actual philosophers, not the artificial ones, looking down from on high at the life of those below, seem to some quite worthless, and to others, most precious. Sometimes they appear as statesmen, 216D at other times as sophists; and then again, to some people, they give the appearance of being utterly insane.

Now if it is acceptable to our stranger, I would like to find out from him 217A what the people in his country think about these, and what names they use.

Theod: What are you referring to?

Soc: Sophist, statesman, and philosopher.

Theod: What do you want to ask? What exactly is puzzling you about them?

Soc: This; whether they regard all of these as one or two or, as the names imply, three, also distinguishing three kinds and applying a name individually to each?

Theod: Well, I don’t think that he is at all reluctant to give an account of these; but what does our stranger say?

Stranger from Elea: 217B Just that, Theodorus, there is no reluctance at all, nor is there a problem stating that my people believe there are three. But to define what exactly each of them is would not be a simple or easy task.

Theod: Well now, Socrates, by chance you have introduced questions much like those we happened to be asking him before we came here, and he gave the same excuse to us at the time as he gave to you just now. However, he does say that he has heard enough, in detail, and has not forgotten it.

Soc: 217C Then, stranger, do not deny us the first favour we ask, and tell us this much: do you usually prefer to deliver a lengthy oration expressing what you wish to present to someone, in your own way, or do you work through questioning, as Parmenides once did in my presence, as he expounded glorious arguments when I was young, while he was, by then, quite an elderly man indeed?

Str: 217D Well, Socrates, this interactive approach is easier with someone who converses mildly and co-operatively, but otherwise it is better to do the talking oneself.

Soc: Then you may select any member of the company you wish, for they will all respond gently to you, though if you take my advice you will choose one of the young men, Theaetetus here, or any of the others whom you prefer.

Str: Socrates, I feel a certain shame now at our first encounter for not making conversation 217E based on short word-for-word exchanges, instead of expounding a lengthy and prolonged oration all by myself, or with a respondent, as though I were putting on an exhibition. In fact there is more to this than one might imagine from your question, and any account of it must be an extremely lengthy one. Then again, it seems to me discourteous and uncivil 218A not to oblige you, and these people, especially when you express it in this way. As for Theaetetus, well I unreservedly accept him as a partner in discourse, based on my own previous conversation, and your present recommendation.

Theaetetus: Go ahead, dear stranger, and, as Socrates says, you will be doing us all a favour.

Str: There is probably no more to be said on these issues, and from now on the discussion should be with you, Theaetetus. So, if the length of it causes problems do not blame me for that, blame these friends of yours instead.

Theae: 218B Well at the moment I don’t think I shall give up on that account: however, if something like that does happen, we could involve Socrates here, the namesake of “the” Socrates, as he is the same age as I am, we train together, and he is well used to working with me.

Str: Well said, and you can make that decision for yourself as the discussion proceeds. But you and I should now investigate this together, beginning firstly, I believe, with the sophist, searching and 218C clarifying through argument what precisely he is. Indeed, at the moment our only common possession is his name, though perhaps we have the function upon which we both confer that name, privately within ourselves. But we should always come to agreement, on the issue itself, through arguments rather than a mere name in the absence of argument.

We intend to investigate this kind, the sophist, but it is not the easiest thing in the world to comprehend what precisely he is. Now whenever major issues need to be worked out properly, everyone has 218D traditionally agreed that in such circumstances we should practise first with small and simple things, before moving on to the greater. So now, Theaetetus, I am advising us, in view of the difficulty and elusiveness of the sophistic kind, to practise the method first on something simpler, unless you can suggest an easier way.

Theae: No, I cannot.

Str: In that case, do you want us to resort to some ordinary example and attempt to position it as a model for what’s more important?

Theae: 218E Yes.

Str: Well then, what should we choose first as something minor and well known and yet having an account no shorter than the important items? What about an angler since he is readily recognisable to everyone without being of any great significance?

Theae: Just so.

Str: 219A Well, I hope he provides us with a method and an account that is suitable to our purposes.

Theae: That would be good.

Str: Come on, let’s begin as follows: tell me whether we should propose that he is a skilled person, or someone who is unskilled but has some other power.

Theae: He is certainly not unskilled.

Str: Well then, all skills belong, basically, to two forms.

Theae: How so?

Str: Farming and the general care of any mortal creature, also the assembling or moulding of what we call household goods, 219B and the imitative skill, may all be most properly referred to by a single name.

Theae: How? What is it?

Stranger: When a person brings something into being which previously was not, we usually say that he who brings it into being produces it, and whatever is brought into being is produced.

Theae: Correct.

Str: And the power of everything we just mentioned is directed towards production.

Theae: That is indeed their direction.

Str: Then we may refer to these by the general term “productive”.

Theae: We may. 219C

Str: Now besides this, there is the whole form of learning and knowledge acquisition; and finance, sport and hunting. Although none of these actually manufacture anything, some manipulate by speech and action what has come into being or already exists, while others prevent anyone else from manipulating them. On this basis, all these sub-divisions may very properly be said to constitute an acquisitive skill.

Theae: Yes, that would be appropriate.

Str: 219D Then since all skills are either productive or acquisitive, in which of the two should we place angling?

Theae: In the acquisitive, I suppose that is obvious.

Str: But are there not two forms of the acquisitive, one being an exchange between willing participants through gifts, hire or purchase, while the rest includes all manipulation based upon word or deed, and this would be the manipulative skill?

Theae: It appears so, anyway, from what has been said.

Str: But shouldn’t the manipulative skill be divided into two?

Theae: In what way?

Str: 219E By designating all overt manipulation as competitive and all manipulation by stealth as hunting.

Theae: Yes.

Str: However, it would be inconsistent not to divide hunting in two.

Theae: Tell me how.

Str: By categorising it as the hunting of living or lifeless prey.

Theae: Why, yes, if there are, indeed, both.

Str: 220A How could there not be both? Though, it is best to disregard the hunting of the inanimate, as it does not even have a name, except for certain parts of diving and other trifling activities of that sort. However, we should refer to the hunting of living creatures as animal hunting.

Theae: So be it.

Str: Can’t we also say that animal hunting has, properly, a twofold form? One kind involving land animals is divided into numerous forms and designations, while the other includes the swimming creatures and is generally called water animal hunting.

Theae: Yes, certainly.

Str: 220B Now we observe that one class of swimming creatures has wings while the other lives in the water.

Theae: Obviously.

Str: And the hunting of the winged kind is generally referred to as fowling, I suppose.

Theae: Yes, that’s what it’s called.

Str: While the hunting of the water dwellers is, in general, termed fishing.

Theae: Yes.

Str: What about this? Can’t we also divide this hunting again into two broad significant parts?

Theae: Based upon what?

Str: Based on whether they conduct the hunt with traps, or by striking.

Theae: What do you mean, and how do you distinguish between these?

Str: 220C Well, whatever encloses something, and completely surrounds it to imprison it, may properly be called a trap.

Theae: Yes, certainly.

Str: So baskets, nets, snares, nooses and the like must obviously be referred to as traps.

Theae: Indeed.

Str: Then we shall say that this part of hunting is trapping or something of that sort.

Theae: Yes.

Str: But, Theaetetus, hunting effected by impact with hooks or tridents is different 220D from this, and should now be referred to by the single word “striking” unless someone has a better suggestion.

Theae: Let’s not bother about the name, this one will suffice.

Str: Well, I believe that striking which occurs at night by firelight is referred to by the hunters themselves as fire-hunting.

Theae: It is indeed.

Str: While striking conducted in daylight is generally termed barbing as both the tridents and the hooks are barbed at the tip.

Theae: 220E Yes, that’s what it is called.

Str: Now this striking by barbing when performed from above upon prey which is below is called tridentry, I believe, as it is usually done using tridents.

Theae: Well, that’s what some people call it.

Str: However, there is, so to speak, only one form still left.

Theae: What is it?

Str: The kind which delivers the blow which is opposite to the trident 221A and is effected with a hook, but not to any random part of the body of the fish, but always to the head and mouth of the victim, pulling him upwards from below with rods or sticks. By what name shall we say this process should be called, Theaetetus?

Theae: Well, we proposed earlier that we needed to discover something, and I think our search has just been concluded.

Str: So now you and I have come to agreement, not just about the 221B name of angling but we have also acquired a satisfactory account of the function itself. Indeed, from the totality of skills, one half was acquisitive, half of the acquisitive was manipulative and half of manipulative was hunting, half of hunting was animal-hunting and half of animal-hunting was water animal-hunting, the lower division of water animal-hunting was fishing and half of fishing was striking and half of striking was barbing. Now the barbing by a blow which pulls upwards from below 221C has a name which reflects this activity, and this is the angling for which we have been seeking.

Theae: Yes, that has certainly been made abundantly clear.

Str: Come now, let’s try to find out what exactly a sophist is, based upon this model.

Theae: Yes, certainly.

Str: Now the first question we asked was whether we should regard the angler as an ordinary man or as someone with a skill.

Theae: Yes.

Str: 221D And shall we now propose that this other man is an ordinary man or, in truth, utterly wise?

Theae: He is certainly not an ordinary man. However, I understand what you mean, as he falls far short of the wisdom which his name implies.

Str: But it seems we must propose that he has some skill.

Theae: Well, in that case, what precisely would it be?

Str: By the gods, have we ignored the fact that this man is related to the other man?

Theae: Who is related to whom?

Str: The angler to the sophist.

Theae: In what way?

Str: To me they are both quite obviously hunters of some sort.

Theae: 221E What is the hunt of the sophist? We have said what the other man hunts.

Str: We somehow divided all hunting into two parts just now, one of swimming creatures and the other of land creatures.

Theae: Yes.

Str: And we went on to discuss those swimming creatures who live in water, while we left the land animals undivided, though we said there were many forms.

Theae: Certainly. 222A

Str: So, beginning with the acquisitive skill, the sophist and the angler proceed together up to this point.

Theae: So it seems, anyway.

Str: However, they diverge when it comes to animal hunting and one will hunt animals in seas, rivers and lakes.

Theae: Of course.

Str: While the other will hunt by land, and in quite different rivers of wealth and youth which are like abundant meadows, in order to manipulate the creatures in them.

Theae: What do you mean? 222B

Str: There are two broad divisions of land animal hunting.

Theae: What are they?

Str: One is of the tame and the other of the wild.

Theae: Is there any hunting of tame animals?

Str: Yes, if man is indeed a tame animal. But propose whatever you like, either that no animal is tame or that some other animal is tame, while man is wild or that man is actually tame, but, in your opinion, there is no hunting of men whatsoever. Make whatever one of these statements pleases you, and let that be our definition.

Theae: 222C Well, I believe that we are tame creatures and I say that there is hunting of men.

Str: Let’s declare that tame animal hunting also has a twofold division.

Theae: On what basis is that said?

Str: By defining piracy, enslavement, tyranny and everything military under the single heading of violent hunting.

Theae: Good.

Str: And by then referring to skill in winning court cases, speaking to crowds and general conversation, all together, as the single skill of persuasion. 222D

Theae: Correct.

Str: Now we should say that there are two kinds of persuasion.

Theae: What are they?

Str: One operates in private, the other in public.

Theae: Yes, each of these does constitute a form.

Str: Now isn’t the hunting of private persons, for its part, either reward-accepting or gift-bearing?

Theae: I do not understand.

Str: It seems you have not yet paid attention to the hunting carried out by lovers.

Theae: To what aspect?

Str: 222E That besides everything else they bestow gifts on those whom they hunt.

Theae: Very true.

Str: Well, let this form be called the amatory skill.

Theae: Certainly.

Str: But the form which accepts reward, converses for the sake of gratification and lays its bait entirely through pleasure, demanding only its own sustenance as a reward. And I think we would all refer to this as flattery, 223A a skill in making things pleasant.

Theae: Yes, what else could it be?

Str: However, when it professes to carry on its discourse as though for the sake of excellence and exacts a financial reward, doesn’t that kind deserve a different name from the previous one?

Theae: Yes, it must.

Str: What name? Try to say.

Theae: Well, it’s obvious. Indeed, we seem to me to have discovered the sophist. So, having said that, I believe I have come up with the appropriate name.

Str: 223B Then it seems, Theaetetus, based on the present account, that what must be referred to as sophistry is an acquisitive skill of hunting live land-dwelling prey, hunting humans privately for money payment, which seems to be educational and is a hunt for rich and famous young men. That is what our current argument concludes.

Theae: Entirely so.

Str: 223C Let’s take a further look at this, for what we are pursuing belongs to no ordinary skill, but to an extremely variegated one. And indeed in our previous deliberations the appearance is given that it is not what we are now saying it is, but is a different kind.

Theae: In what way?

Str: The acquisitive skill somehow had a twofold form: one part was hunting and the other exchange.

Theae: It had indeed.

Str: Should we now declare that there are two forms of exchange, one based on gifts, the other on purchase?

Theae: Let’s say so.

Str: And we shall actually go on to say that purchasing is divided in two.

Theae: How? 223D

Str: By distinguishing between the sale of one’s own productions, which is “self-selling”, and dealing in the productions of others, which is barter.

Theae: Yes, certainly.

Str: What about this? Don’t we refer to barter within the city, which is roughly half of it, as retailing?

Theae: Yes.

Str: And the barter between one city and another by sale and purchase as trading?

Theae: Of course.

Str: 223E Have we not observed that there is trading which in one case exchanges, for money, whatever sustains and provides for the body, and in another case whatever sustains and provides for the soul?

Theae: What do you mean by that?

Str: Perhaps we don’t recognise this in relation to the soul, though we do, presumably, understand the other instance.

Theae: Yes.

Str: 224A Well, let’s speak about music and skills in general, which are constantly going from city to city, being bought in one place, brought somewhere else and sold. Paintings, entertainments and much else besides are brought in and sold, some for the delight, others for the more serious intent of the soul. Now a buyer or seller of these has as much right to be called a trader as those who sell food and drink.

Theae: What you say is very true.

Str: 224B And shouldn’t a man who buys up items of knowledge and goes from city to city exchanging them for money also be called by the same name?

Theae: Quite emphatically.

Str: Now one part of this trading for the benefit of the soul may properly be called exhibitionism and the other part is just as ridiculous but, nevertheless, since it is the actual sale of knowledge, it must be assigned a name relevant to this activity. Is this not so?

Theae: Yes, certainly.

Str: Therefore, the part of this knowledge-selling which relates to 224C the subjects of the other skills should be called that, while the part which deals with the subject of excellence should be called something else.

Theae: Of course.

Str: Well, in the case of the other subjects, skill-selling would be an appropriate name. Now you must try to give the name of the part which deals with excellence.

Theae: Indeed, it is the very object of our search! What other name could you safely utter? It is the sophistic kind.

Str: None other. Come on, we shall summarise this now by saying that sophistry has made its second appearance as part of the acquisitive skill, which exchanges by purchasing through trading, 224D which is for the benefit of the soul, and traffics in words and knowledge concerning excellence.

Theae: Exactly.

Str: Actually, I think you have a third instance. For if one of them settled down in the city and proposed to make a living by buying some knowledge and also fabricating his own knowledge on the same subjects and making sales, presumably you would call him by the exact same name as you used just now.

Theae: I would have to.

Str: 224E And so, the part of the acquisitive skill which involves exchange by purchasing, whether by retailing or self-selling, in either case, whatever involves selling knowledge in this way, you would, presumably, refer to, always, as sophistic.

Theae: I must, for I need to keep following the argument.

Str: Then, let’s proceed to consider if the kind which we are pursuing actually bears a resemblance to something like this.

Theae: Like what? 225A

Str: We said that the acquisitive skill had a competitive part.

Theae: Yes, we did.

Str: So, quite predictably, we divide it in two.

Theae: Tell me how it is done.

Str: By designating one part as contentious and the other as combative.

Theae: That’s it.

Str: Is it quite reasonable and appropriate, then, to assign a name such as “violent” to the part of the combative which pitches bodies against one another?

Theae: Yes.

Str: And when it is one argument against another, what else can we call it, Theaetetus, except disputatious? 225B

Theae: Nothing.

Str: And we should propose that the part concerned with disputes is twofold.

Theae: How so?

Str: Well, when it is conducted in public with one long speech opposing another and the concern is justice and injustice, then it is a judicial dispute.

Theae: Yes.

Str: However, when it is done in private and has been broken up into questions and answers, is there anything else we usually call it, except contradiction?

Theae: Nothing.

Str: And the sort of contradiction which argues about contracts 225C and proceeds at random and without skill, this should be designated as a particular form, since the discussion recognises it as separate. However, our predecessors never gave it a name, nor would it be worth our while to do so now.

Theae: True, for it has such minute and multifarious sub-divisions.

Str: But when it does involve a skill and disputes comprehensively about justice itself and injustice and about other matters, don’t we usually refer to it as argumentative?

Theae: What else could we call it?

Str: 225D Now there is a form of the argumentative which wastes money, and a form which makes money.

Theae: There certainly is.

Str: Well, let’s try to say what names should be given to each of them.

Theae: Yes, we should do that.

Str: Now I think that when the pleasure of engaging in these leads to neglect of one’s own affairs, and the speech affords no pleasure to the many people who hear it, then, in my opinion, it is nothing other than talkativeness.

Theae: Yes, that’s the sort of thing that is said about it.

Str: 225E Then the opposite of this makes money from private arguments and it is now your turn to try to name it.

Theae: Indeed, what else can one say without falling into error, except that a wondrous creature has turned up again for the fourth time, the object of our pursuit, the sophist.

Str: 226A So our argument has now revealed further, that the sophist is none other than the money-making kind, as it seems, belonging to the argumentative, contradictory, disputatious, combative, competitive skill in acquisition.

Theae: Yes, certainly.

Str: Now do you see how true it is that this is a creature of many aspects who will not be “captured with one hand”, as the saying goes?

Theae: Then we must use both!

Str: 226B Yes, we must, and we should do this to the best of our ability by pursuing a particular mark of his. Tell me then, do we have certain names for common household tasks?

Theae: Indeed, there are many, but what sort of tasks are you asking about?

Str: We refer to tasks such as filtering, sifting, sieving and winnowing.

Theae: Of course.

Str: And, in addition to these, there is dressing wool, spinning, adjusting the web, and we know countless other such terms which are involved in the skills. Is this so?

Theae: 226C What quality of them do you wish to demonstrate when you give these examples and ask about them all?

Str: All of these terms somehow refer to discrimination.

Theae: Yes.

Str: Then, according to my argument, we should assign one name to the single skill which is involved in them all.

Theae: What shall we call it?

Str: Discrimination.

Theae: So be it.

Str: Well, let’s see if there is any way that we can proceed to discern two forms of this.

Theae: You are asking me to think very quickly.

Str: 226D And yet, in the distinctions we described, one separated worse from better, another like from like.

Theae: When you put it like that it appears so anyway.

Str: Now I do not have a name for the second one, but I do have a name for discrimination which leaves the better and discards the worse.

Theae: Say it.

Str: All such discrimination is, as I understand it, referred to by everyone as purification.

Theae: Yes, that’s what it is called.

Str: 226E And couldn’t everyone see that purification has two forms?

Theae: Given time, perhaps. However, it is not obvious to me at the moment.

Str: Well, it is surely appropriate to comprehend the many forms of bodily purification under a single name.

Theae: What are they and what is this name?

Str: There are those which apply to living creatures and effect purification within the body, making proper divisions by means of 227A gymnastics or medicine, and outside the body through the process of bathing; these we regard as commonplace. There are also those affecting inanimate things which are cared for by wool-dressing and adorning in general, and are given numerous trivial and apparently ridiculous names.

Theae: Very much so.

Str: They certainly are, Theaetetus. However, it is of no particular concern to the method based on arguments whether purification by washing or medication benefits us much or little. For it endeavours to discern the inter-relation and non-relation of all the skills, with the aim of acquiring intelligence, 227B and to that end it respects them all equally. Indeed, because of their similarity, this method does not believe that one is more ridiculous than another, and it does not regard a person as more important if he exemplifies his skill in hunting, through general-ship, rather than louse-catching, though it will probably regard him as more pretentious.

Now let’s go back to the question you asked. What name shall we assign to the collective capacities whose function is to purify living 227C and lifeless bodies? And it will make no difference to this method whether the title sounds impressive or not, as long as it separates out whatever purifies the soul and combines whatever purifies anything else. Indeed, if we do, in fact, understand its intention, this method has attempted to separate mental purification from the others.

Theae: But I do understand, and I agree that there are indeed two forms of purification, though one form is concerned with the soul, which is separate from the one concerned with the body.

Str: Really excellent! Now listen to the next aspect, and try, in turn, to cut that form in two. 227D

Theae: I shall try to make this division on whatever basis you suggest.

Str: Do we say that vice in the soul is something different from excellence?

Theae: What else could we say?

Str: And purification was the casting aside of whatever was in any way base, leaving the other part.

Theae: Yes, it was.

Str: So then, to whatever extent we discern any removal of badness from the soul, we may properly refer to that process as purification.

Theae: Very much so.

Str: Now, we should state that there are two forms of badness of the soul.

Theae: What are they?

Str: 228A One is like disease in the body, while the other is like deformity that arises.

Theae: I do not understand.

Str: Perhaps you appreciate that disease and discord are not the same?

Theae: Again, I do not know how to respond to this.

Str: Do you believe that discord is disagreement, born of some corruption, among naturally kindred elements?

Theae: Yes.

Str: And is deformity anything other than the absence of measure, a characteristic which is ugly in every case?

Theae: Nothing else. 228B

Str: What about this? In the souls of base people, don’t we observe that opinions are opposed by desires, spirit by pleasures, and reason by aversions, and that all these are opposed to one another?

Theae: Very much so.

Str: However, all of these are necessarily kindred.

Theae: Yes, they should be.

Str: So we shall be right in referring to vice as discord and disease of the soul.

Theae: Absolutely right.

Str: 228C What about this? If things that partake of motion and have been assigned some target wander off that target with every attempt and miss the mark, would we say that this happens to them through proper measure in relation to one another or, alternatively, through lack of measure?

Theae: Obviously through lack of measure.

Str: Now we do know that any soul which is ignorant of anything, is ignorant unwillingly.

Theae: Very much so.

Str: And indeed, ignorance is nothing but the disordered thinking of a 228D soul, intent upon truth, whose understanding goes astray.

Theae: Yes, certainly.

Str: So we must propose that an ignorant soul is deformed and lacking in measure.

Theae: So it seems.

Str: Now there are, it appears, two kinds of badness in the soul: one, which most people call vice, is clearly a disease of the soul.

Theae: Yes.

Str: The other they call ignorance, but they are unwilling to agree that it is badness arising only in the soul.

Theae: 228E It certainly should be conceded, though I doubted it now when you said that there are two kinds of badness in the soul, and that cowardice, lack of restraint, and injustice should all be regarded as a disease within us, while the many varieties of ignorance should be designated as deformity.

Str: Now in the case of the body, aren’t there two skills relating to the two conditions?

Theae: What are the two?

Str: 229A Gymnastic for deformity and medicine for disease.

Theae: Clearly.

Str: And when it comes to violence, injustice, and cowardice, surely punishment is the skill which is naturally closer to justice than any other?

Theae: Quite likely, at least that’s what people think.

Str: What about the other case? Could anyone prescribe anything more appropriate than teaching to remedy ignorance in its entirety?

Theae: Not at all.

Str: 229B Come now, should we say that there is only one kind of teaching or are there more, two of which are the most significant? Consider this.

Theae: I am considering it.

Str: Well, I think the quickest way for us to find out would be as follows.

Theae: How?

Str: By seeing whether ignorance has somehow got a division in the middle of it. For if it is twofold, it is obvious that teaching must also have two parts, one corresponding to each kind of ignorance.

Theae: Yes, but is the division we are now looking for becoming evident to you?

Str: 229C Well, I think I can discern a distinct form of ignorance which is extensive and problematic, and as weighty as all the other parts put together.

Theae: What is it?

Str: Being of the opinion that you know something when you do not know. It is likely that this is how all mistaken thinking arises in everyone.

Theae: True.

Str: And indeed, it is only this form of ignorance which is given the name of foolishness.

Theae: Yes, certainly.

Str: Now then, what should we call the part of teaching which does away with this foolishness?

Theae: 229D Well, stranger, I believe that the other part of it is called technical instruction, while this part, among ourselves in the city, at any rate, is called education.

Str: Almost all the Greeks do the same, Theaetetus. However, we shall still need to consider whether education is completely indivisible, or has some subdivision worth naming.

Theae: Yes, we should consider that.

Str: It seems to me that there is a way of dividing this further.

Theae: On what basis?

Str: 229E There seems to be a part of teaching in discourse which is a rougher method, and another one which is smoother.

Theae: Can we say what sort of methods they are?

Str: Well, there is the traditional method which fathers use towards their sons, a method still used by many today, whereby they either get angry with them whenever 230A they fall into error or else resort to more gentle exhortation. This method, in general, may be called didactic.

Theae: So it is.

Str: However, some people, having considered this for themselves, seem to conclude that all ignorance is involuntary, that no one who thinks that he is wise will ever wish to learn about matters of which he thinks himself knowledgeable, and that after a lot of trouble, the didactic form of education accomplishes little.

Theae: A correct conclusion.

Str: 230B Accordingly, they set about the eradication of this opinion in another way.

Theae: What way?

Str: They question him on matters about which he believes he is talking sense, when he is talking nonsense. They readily discover that his opinions are quite confused; so, by arguments, they gather the opinions together and place them side by side, and then they show him that these contradict themselves about the same issues, in the same ways, and on the same basis. And those who recognise this become angry with themselves and gentle towards others, 230C and they are liberated by this method from their exalted and fixed views about themselves. Their liberation brings the greatest delight to those who hear it and constancy to those who experience it.

Indeed, the physicians of the body recognise that the body derives no benefit from any food it is offered, until the internal impediments are first removed. So too these purifiers of the soul understand that the soul will obtain no advantage from any learning 230D which it is offered, until someone resorts to refutation and brings the man who is refuted to a condition of humility, where the impediments to learning have been removed, he is rendered pure, and he thinks that he knows only what he does actually know and nothing more.

Theae: And this is surely the best and most soundminded condition to be in.

Str: Now on account of all this, Theaetetus, we must also state that refutation is the greatest and most powerful of purifications, and we must realise that the unrefuted man, even if he happens to be the Great King, 230E is utterly unpurified and is both uneducated and deformed where a man who intends to be truly happy should be most pure and good.

Theae: Entirely so.

Str: Well then, what shall we 231A call those who employ this skill? Indeed, I am afraid to say sophists.

Theae: Why is that?

Str: In case I assign them too much honour.

Theae: But surely the people we are discussing bear some resemblance to sophists.

Str: Yes, and so does a wolf to a dog; the fiercest animal to the tamest. And a cautious man must always be on his guard, especially when dealing with resemblances, as they are hard

things to catch and hold. Anyway, let them be called sophists, for I don’t think that 231B disputes over minor distinctions will arise once people are sufficiently vigilant.

Theae: No, it is quite unlikely.

Str: So let there be a purificatory part of the skill of discrimination, and from purification let us separate out the part which deals with the soul. Let teaching be part of this, and let education be part of teaching, and let us say that the part of education which brings about refutation of a vain presumption to wisdom turns out, in our present argument, to be nothing other than the noble kind of sophistry.

Theae: Well, let’s say so, but on account of the multiplicity of 231C manifestations, I am now perplexed about what exactly I should say that the sophist really is, with any confidence that I am speaking the truth.

Str: Your perplexity is to be expected, but you must also appreciate that the man himself is intensely perplexed by now as to how he will continue to evade this argument. Indeed, the proverb is right in saying that “it is not easy to escape all the grips of the wrestler”. So now is the very best moment and we must set upon him.

Theae: Well said.

Str: Well, now that we have stopped, let’s catch our breath first, and while we are resting, let’s count up for ourselves 231D how many times the sophist has appeared to us. Now I think he was first discovered as the paid hunter of the young and wealthy.

Theae: Yes.

Str: And secondly as a trader in things which are learned by the soul.

Theae: Yes, certainly.

Str: And didn’t he appear for the third time as a retailer of the same things?

Theae: Yes, and for the fourth time selling his own knowledge himself.

Str: Your recollection is correct; now I shall try to remember 231E the fifth. Indeed, he was a contestant in verbal competitiveness, specialising in the argumentative skill.

Theae: He was, indeed.

Str: Well, although the sixth was actually disputed, we agreed, nevertheless, to propose that he is a purifier of souls from opinions that are an impediment to learning.

Theae: Yes, entirely so.

Str: 232A Well, do you appreciate that when someone appears knowledgeable about many subjects but is called by the name of a single skill, this appearance is not sound. Rather, it is obvious that whoever experiences this in relation to any skill, is unable to discern clearly that aspect of the skill that all these understandings look to. Consequently he assigns multiple names, rather than one, to whoever possesses them.

Theae: It’s likely that this happens in exactly the way you describe.

Str: 232B Let’s ensure that it does not happen to us in our search, due to laziness. Rather let us first take one of the statements about the sophist again, as there was one which did seem particularly revealing, to me.

Theae: Which one?

Str: We said at some point that he was a contradictor.

Theae: Yes.

Str: What else? Isn’t he also a teacher of others, in this particular skill?

Theae: Yes, indeed.

Str: Let’s consider this: in what realm do these men claim that they can turn people into contradictors? Our inquiry should begin as follows: 232C do they render people competent in contradicting about the divine realm which is un-manifest to the multitude?

Theae: Well, that is what people say, anyway.

Str: And what about the manifest realm of earth and sky and the subjects associated with them?

Theae: These too.

Str: In fact, whenever something is said in private gatherings concerning the entire field of becoming or being, we are aware that these men are brilliant at arguing against it, and they enable others to do the same.

Theae: 232D Entirely so.

Str: And again, don’t they also promise to enable people to dispute about laws and affairs of state in general?

Theae: Indeed, no one or hardly anyone would converse with them, unless they made that promise.

Str: Indeed, for each and every skill, what is needed, in each case, to argue against the practitioner himself has, presumably, been composed, written down, and published for anyone who wishes to learn.

Theae: You seem to be referring to the writings of Protagoras on wrestling and 232E the other subjects.

Str: And of many others besides, blessed man. However, to sum up, this skill in contradiction seems to be a capacity which extends to disputation on all subjects.

Theae: Well, there is nothing it seems to leave out.

Str: Well, by the gods, my boy, do you think this is possible? For perhaps you young people may view this matter with more insight, while we older men are more dim.

Theae: 233A What matter? What exactly are you referring to? I do not quite understand what you are asking me now.

Str: Whether it is possible for a human being to know all things.

Theae: In that case, stranger, the human race would indeed be blessed.

Str: Then, how could someone who is not knowledgeable himself ever say anything worthwhile when he contradicts a person who knows?

Theae: He simply cannot do so.

Str: Well, what on earth can this wondrous sophistic power be?

Theae: Wondrous in what way?

Str: 233B In the way that they are somehow able to arm young people with the belief that they are wiser than everyone about everything. For it is obvious that if the sophists neither contradicted properly nor gave that appearance to the young, or again, if they did give that appearance but were not regarded as more learned due to this disputatiousness, then, according to you, hardly anyone would want to pay money to become their pupils in these subjects.

Theae: Hardly anyone, indeed.

Str: But nowadays they want to do this.

Theae: Very much so.

Str: 233C Presumably because the sophists are believed to be knowledgeable themselves with regard to the propositions they contradict.

Theae: That must be so.

Str: And we are saying that they may contradict every proposition.

Theae: Yes.

Str: So they will appear to their pupils to be wise about everything.

Theae: They must.

Str: But this is not the case, since this appeared to be impossible.

Theae: Yes, it must be impossible.

Str: So our sophist has turned out to have an opinion-based knowledge about everything, but not truth.

Theae: 233D Yes, certainly, and what we are now saying is probably the most accurate thing we have said about these fellows.

Str: Well, let’s take a clearer example of this.

Theae: What sort of example?

Str: As follows: apply your mind to this and try to answer really well.

Theae: Answer what?

Str: If someone were to maintain that on account of a single skill, he knew, not how to speak and argue, but how to do and make everything there is …

Theae: 233E What do you mean by everything?

Str: You immediately fail to understand the point of what was said. In fact, it seems you do not understand the phrase “everything there is”.

Theae: No, I do not.

Str: Well, I am saying that you and I are included in “everything” as well as all the other animals and plants.

Theae: What do you mean?

Str: If someone said he was going to make you and me, and all the other creatures…..

Theae: 234A What could he mean by “making”? Indeed, you are not actually referring to some sort of farmer, since you are also talking about a maker of animals.

Str: And also of sea and earth, sky and gods, and everything else there is. What’s more he makes them quickly and sells each of them for very little money.

Theae: You are describing some sort of game.

Str: Indeed. Mustn’t you regard it as a game when someone says that he knows everything and would teach this to someone else for a small sum in a short time?

Theae: Entirely so.

Str: 234B And do you know of any form of game more skilled and elegant than that of imitation?

Theae: Not at all. Indeed, you have proposed a very extensive form, all captured in a single word; more diverse than almost anything else.

Str: And so, we appreciate that a man who professes to be able to make everything by means of a single skill will be able to make imitations with the same names as the real objects by means of the skill in painting, and to deceive the less intelligent of the young children, who view the paintings from afar, into believing that he is entirely competent to complete any task he wishes.

Theae: 234C How could he fail?

Str: Now, shouldn’t we presume that there is some other skill, involving words, by which one could beguile the young through their ears, with words, while they are still at a far remove from matters of truth, showing them verbal images of everything, so as to make the statements seem true, and the speaker seem the wisest of all men on every issue?

Theae: 234D Yes, there would be another skill like this, wouldn’t there?

Str: Now, Theaetetus, most of those when they hear this, must, given enough time and advance in years, encounter things that are, and be compelled through their experiences to get a clear apprehension of things that are. This changes the opinions they once held, so that what was significant will appear trivial and what was easy will appear difficult, and all the illusions created by words will be turned 234E completely upside down by the practical situations which they encounter. Is this so?

Theae: Yes, as far as I can judge at my age, anyway. But I believe that I am one of those who are “still at a far remove from matters of truth”.

Str: In that case, all of us here will try, and indeed are trying, to draw you as close as possible to the truth in the absence of these experiences. So, now, tell me something about the sophist: is it clear by now 235A that he is a sort of beguiler who imitates things that are, or are we still hesitating, in case he truly possesses as many items of knowledge, as the number of subjects on which he seems to be able to practise contradiction?

Theae: How could he, dear stranger! No, it is fairly clear by now, from what has been said, that he is one of the huge number of people involved in entertainment.

Str: Well, in that case, we should propose that he is a beguiler and a sort of imitator.

Theae: What else could we propose?

Str: Come now, our task at this stage is to make sure that the creature does not get away. 235B Indeed, we have almost captured him in a sort of web of devices involving our statements about these matters. Consequently, he will never escape the next proposal.

Theae: What is it?

Str: That he is someone who belongs to the wonder-working kind.

Theae: Well, I agree with that statement about him, anyway.

Str: It is accepted then, that we should divide the image-making skill immediately and descend into it, and if the sophist opposes us there, arrest him on the orders 235C of lordly reason, hand him over to that king, and publicise his capture. But if he should somehow dive down into the subdivisions of the skill of imitation, we shall follow along and continually divide the part which contains him until he has been caught. There is no way that this or any other kind will ever boast of escaping the method of those who are thus able to proceed in this way, based upon both the particular and the general.

Theae: Well said! We should do as you say.

Str: Now, based upon the process of division we have been using, it seems to me 235D that I can now discern two forms of imitative skill, but I don’t think that I can yet figure out which of them contains the object of our search.

Theae: Well, anyway, describe the two of them and make the division for us.

Str: Well, I can see one skill within it, the skill in making imitations. This is most in evidence when someone produces the imitation according to the proportions of length, breadth and depth of the original, with the appropriate colours 235E being assigned to each part.

Theae: Yes, but isn’t that what all imitators try to do?

Str: Well, not those who somehow fashion or draw huge works of art. Indeed, if they were to give true proportions to the limbs, you know that the 236A upper parts would appear smaller than they should and the lower parts larger, because one is viewed from a distance and the other from close up.

Theae: Yes, certainly.

Str: So these craftsmen, nowadays, set the truth aside and fashion into their images, not the actual proportions, but those which will seem to be beautiful, do they not?

Theae: Entirely so.

Str: So, in the first case, where it is different but like, is it fair to call it a likeness?

Theae: Yes.

Str: 236B And the part of the skill of imitation which deals with this should be called what we called it before: making likenesses.

Theae: Yes, it should be called that.

Str: But what about something which appears to resemble the beautiful because the viewpoint is unfavourable, but is not like what it is said to be like, once someone is able to get a proper view of such an object? What should we call this? Well, since it appears to be like, though it is unlike, should we call it an appearance?

Theae: Yes, indeed.

Str: And isn’t this aspect 236C very common in painting and in imitation generally?

Theae: It must be.

Str: And wouldn’t it be best if we referred to the skill which produces appearances rather than likenesses as appearance-making?

Theae: Very much so.

Str: Now these are the two forms of image-making I was talking about: one involving likenesses; the other involving appearances.

Theae: Correct.

Str: And yet, even now I am not able to see an obvious solution to the issue that bothered me earlier; in which of these two should the sophist be placed. Yes, 236D the man is really wondrous and extremely hard to catch clear sight of, since even now he has taken refuge very nicely and cleverly in a form which is hard to examine thoroughly.

Theae: So it seems.

Str: Now are you agreeing because you recognise this, or have you been drawn along by the force of the argument to agree quickly out of habit?

Theae: How? What are you referring to?

Str: We really are involved in an extremely difficult investigation, 236E my friend. Indeed, this appearing and seeming without being, and saying things which are not actually true, all these are now full of difficulties, and they always have been. For it is extremely difficult, Theaetetus, to maintain that there really is false speech and false thinking without being involved in contradictions as soon as this is said.

Theae: 237A What contradictions?

Str: This statement has dared to propose that “what is not”, is. For otherwise falsehood would not have come into being. But, my boy, beginning when we were children up until his death, the great Parmenides emphasised this to us, stating in prose what he also says in verse:

“Never shall this be proved”, he says, “that things that are not, are,

but do thou, in thine inquiry, hold back thy thought from this way”.

So, that is the testimony of 237B the great man, but, in fact, the statement itself would reveal most, if it were probed moderately. So first, let’s spend a while looking at this, if it makes no difference to you.

Theae: I accept anything you propose; so just proceed by considering how the argument may best unfold, and lead me also along that path.

Str: Well, that’s what must be done. So tell me, would we dare to use the expression “That which in no way is”?

Theae: Well, why not?

Str: If one of his pupils who had considered this were asked, not for the sake of argument or sport, but seriously, 237C to tell us to what the expression “what is not” should be applied, what do we think he would say? To what sort of thing would he apply the phrase himself? To what would he apply it, and how would he explain this to the questioner?

Theae: You have asked a difficult question, and it is almost completely impossible for someone like me to answer it.

Str: Well, isn’t it obvious, in any case, that the term “what is not” may not be applied to any of the things that are?

Theae: No, how could it?

Str: Then, since it is not actually applicable to “what is”, neither may it be applied to a thing.

Theae: Indeed not.

Str: 237D And presumably it is clear to us that we always use the word “it” in relation to something which is, for it is impossible to use this word on its own, naked and isolated from all of the things that are. Is this so?

Theae: Yes, it’s impossible.

Str: Do you agree because you recognise, that when speaking of “it”, we must be speaking of some one thing?

Theae: That’s right.

Str: Yes, indeed, and you will agree that “it” indicates one and “they” indicates two or many.

Theae: How could I disagree?

Str: 237E Well then, when not speaking of a thing, it must be the case, it seems, that we are speaking of absolutely nothing.

Theae: Yes, that really must be so.

Str: Could we ever agree that such a person is speaking at all, when he is speaking of nothing? No, we should not even say that a man is speaking when he tries to give voice to “what is not”.

Theae: This argument should end our perplexity anyway.

Str: 238A Don’t make extravagant claims yet, my friend, for there are other perplexities; indeed, the greatest and first of them actually relates to the very principle involved here.

Theae: What do you mean? Speak and do not hesitate at all.

Str: If we take something which is, I presume we may add to it something else which is.

Theae: Of course.

Str: But shall we say that it is ever possible to add anything which is, to “what is not”?

Theae: No, how could we?

Str: Now we include number in general among things that are.

Theae: 238B Well, if we propose that anything is, we must surely propose that number is.

Str: Therefore, we should not even attempt to bring number, be it multiple or be it one, to bear upon “what is not”.

Theae: Well, the argument does seem to indicate that it would not be appropriate to attempt this.

Str: How then could anyone either utter through the mouth or comprehend, at all, with the mind, things which are not, or “what is not”, in the absence of number?

Theae: 238C Tell me why not.

Str: Well, whenever we say “things that are not”, aren’t we trying to attribute multiplicity of number to them?

Theae: Yes, indeed.

Str: But whenever we say “what is not” we attribute one in that case, do we not?

Theae: Well, that is very clear, anyway.

Str: And yet we have been saying that it is neither proper nor correct to try to attach being to non-being.

Theae: What you are saying is perfectly true.

Str: Do you appreciate, then, that it is not possible to express correctly or speak of or think of non-being just by itself? It is unthinkable, unspeakable and inexpressible, and there is no account thereof.

Theae: Entirely so.

Str: 238D So, was I mistaken earlier when I said that I was going to state the greatest perplexity involved here, when another, even greater perplexity may be stated?

Theae: What perplexity?

Str: You surprise me! Do you not realise, from what has already been said, that “what is not” reduces even the person who tries to refute it to such perplexity that it forces him to contradict himself on the issue?

Theae: What are you saying? Make this a bit clearer.

Str: Don’t look to me for clarity. 238E Indeed, I proposed that “what is not” must not partake of one or of many, and yet I said, both then and now, that it is one, for I said “what is not”. Do you understand?

Theae: Yes.

Str: And what’s more, I actually said a little earlier that it is inexpressible, unspeakable and there is no account thereof. Do you follow?

Theae: Yes, of course.

Str: So in trying to associate being with this, am I not 239A contradicting what I said before?

Theae: It appears that you are.

Str: Then again, when I applied the word “that” to it, wasn’t I referring to it as “one”?

Theae: Yes.

Str: And indeed, in saying that there is no word for it and it is unspeakable and inexpressible, I used terminology which applies to one entity.

Theae: Of course.

Str: And yet we say, that properly speaking, it should not be defined as one, or many, or be called “it” at all, for even based on that term we would be attributing to it the form one.

Theae: Entirely so.

Str: 239B Well, what is to be said about me? It turns out that the refutation of non-being is, again, defeating me. So, as I said, we should not look to my pronouncements for the correct manner of speaking about “what is not”. Instead, let it be your turn and let’s consider what you say.

Theae: What are you referring to?

Str: As you are young, you should come before us, fair and noble, exert yourself and try your very best to make some correct utterance about this, without attributing being or one or numerical multiplicity to “what is not”.

Theae: 239C It would be strange if I had any great desire to attempt this myself in the light of what has happened to you.

Str: Well, if that’s what you think, then let’s forget about you and me. Until we encounter someone who can do what I asked you to do, we should say that the sophist has very cunningly dived down into a place we cannot enter.

Theae: That is certainly how it seems.

Str: Well, in that case, if we say that he has some skill which involves appearances, 239D he will readily attack us for this usage of words and turn those words against us by asking what precisely we mean at all by “image”, when we refer to him as an image-maker. So, consider this, Theaetetus, how should we respond to this impetuous questioning?

Theae: Obviously, we are talking about images both in water and in mirrors and also paintings, sculptures, and all the other varied productions of this sort.

Str: 239E Apparently, Theaetetus, you have never seen a sophist.

Theae: Why do you say that?

Str: He will have you thinking that his eyes are shut or that he has no eyes.

Theae: How?

Str: If you were to answer him in that way and refer to mirror images or fashioned images, he would laugh at your words for speaking as though he was a man who could see. He would pretend that he recognised 240A neither mirror, nor water, nor had any sight at all, and would just ask you something about your words.

Theae: What would he ask about?

Str: In all these instances, and you say that there are many, you decided to employ a single word, and you used the word “image” as one term applicable to all the instances. So defend this; speak and do not yield any ground to this fellow.

Theae: Well, stranger, what else can we say that an image is except “another sort of object made like the true object”?

Str: Are you speaking of another sort of true object or what do you mean by “sort of object”?

Theae: 240B It is not true at all, but like the true.

Str: Are you saying that the true object actually is?

Theae: Just so.

Str: And is the “not true” opposite to the true?

Theae: Of course.

Str: So, are you saying that the likeness actually is not, if you say that it is not true?

Theae: Yet, somehow or other it is.

Str: Though you are not saying that it truly is.

Theae: Indeed not, however, it is actually an image.

Str: So, while it actually is not, it is actually what we call an image.

Theae: 240C It really seems that something like this combines “what is” with “what is not” and is very strange.

Str: Indeed, how could it be otherwise? And now you may see that our many-headed sophist, by means of this interchanging, has compelled us, against our will, to agree that “what is not” somehow is.

Theae: I see it, indeed.

Str: And now, shall we be able to define this skill of his without contradicting ourselves?

Theae: 240D In what way? What sort of contradictions are you afraid of?

Str: Whenever we say that he is deceiving us about the appearance, and his skill is one of falsification, shall we say that our souls form false opinion at that time, on account of the skill of this man or what precisely shall we say?

Theae: That’s it! What else could we say?

Str: What’s more, false opinion will be thinking the opposite of things that are. Is this so?

Theae: Just so, it will be thinking their opposite.

Str: So, are you saying that false opinion thinks things that are not?

Theae: It must.

Str: 240E Does it think that things that are not, are not, or does it think that things that are not at all, somehow are?

Theae: Things that are not must somehow be, if anyone is ever to speak falsely, even a little.

Str: What about this? Doesn’t false opinion also think that things that entirely are, are not at all?

Theae: Yes.

Str: And this too is false?

Theae: This too.

Str: And so, I presume, on this basis, a statement will be considered 241A false if it says that things that are, are not, or that things that are not, are.

Theae: Yes, how else could such a statement arise?

Str: Hardly at all, but the sophist will deny this. Or is there any way that a right-minded person would accept these formulations in the light of what we agreed before? Do we understand what agreements are meant, Theaetetus?

Theae: Indeed, how could we fail to understand? He will claim that we are saying the opposite of what we said a moment ago, once we dare to state that there is falsity both in opinion 241B and based upon words. For, we are constantly compelled to associate “what is” with “what is not”, despite having agreed just now that this is utterly impossible.

Str: Your recollection is correct, but now we really must consider what to do about the sophist. For you see that we are well supplied with many objections and perplexities, once we propose to track him down in the skill of falsification and beguilement.

Theae: I do, indeed.

Str: And we have elaborated only a small portion of the problems which are almost limitless.

Theae: 241C Well, if that is the case, it would seem to be impossible to capture the sophist.

Str: What next? Shall we become cowards and give up now?

Theae: I say that we should not do that, if we are somehow able to get even the slightest grip on this fellow.

Str: Then you will have to be quite forgiving, and, as you have just said, be satisfied if we can somehow make even minor inroads against such a powerful argument.

Theae: How could I refuse?

Str: 241D In that case I have a further request as follows.

Theae: What is it?

Str: Do not presume that I am becoming some sort of parricide.

Theae: What do you mean?

Str: It will be necessary, in defending ourselves, to probe the statement of Parmenides, our

father, and force the assertion that in some respect “what is not”, is, and again, “what is” in some way is not.

Theae: It is evident that some such contention must feature in these discussions.

Str: Yes, this must be evident even to a blind 241E man, as they say. For if these statements are neither refuted nor accepted, it will hardly be possible for someone to speak about false statements or false opinions being either images, likenesses, imitations or appearances, or to speak of any skills associated with them, without looking ridiculous by being forced to contradict himself.

Theae: Very true.

Str: 242A Well, for these reasons, we must dare to attack the paternal maxim, or if some scruple hinders us from doing this, we should abandon the matter entirely.

Theae: Well this should not hinder us at all.

Str: Then I shall still make a third little request of you.

Theae: Just name it.

Str: When I spoke just now, I indicated that I have always been daunted by the refutation of these, and this is especially so, right now.

Theae: You did say that.

Str: Now I am afraid that because of what I have said, you will think that I am mad for changing my stance back and forth. 242B After all, we are taking on the refutation of the proposition for your sake, if we do actually refute it.

Theae: Well, in my opinion, there is no problem at all if you embark upon this refutation and proof. Have no concern on my account.

Str: Come now, where should one begin this audacious discourse? Indeed, my boy, I think that there is a certain inevitable path for us to follow.

Theae: What is it?

Str: We should first 242C investigate the matters which seem clear to us now, in case we have somehow been confused about them and yet agree with one another as readily as though we had a good understanding.

Theae: Explain your meaning more clearly.

Str: It seems to me that Parmenides has conversed with us quite casually, and so has anyone who has ever set about specifying which and how many are things that are.

Theae: In what way?

Str: Each of them appears to me to be telling us a story, as though we were children. One says that things that are, are threefold, and some of them on occasion conduct some sort of battle with one another 242D and at other times become friends, marry, have children and look after their offspring. Another says there are two factors, wet and dry or hot and cold, and he sets up a household for them and marries them off. While we Eleatic folk, beginning with Xenophanes or even earlier, recount our stories as though what we refer to as “all things” are actually one. But some Ionian and later some Sicilian Muses, consider it safest to combine both stories, 242E and say that “what is”, is both many and one, and is held together by enmity and friendship.

“Though it is separating, it is continually combining”

say the more severe of these Muses. But the milder ones relaxed the requirement that it always be this way, and they say that it alternates, and that the all is sometimes one and is friendly on account of Aphrodite 243A and at other times it is many and at war with itself due to some strife. Now some of these men may have spoken the truth in all this, or they may not, though it is difficult and problematic to attribute such a serious failing to famous men of old. But we can say one thing without reproach.

Theae: What is it?

Str: That they have shown no regard for common folk, and they despise us. For each of them pursues his own line of argument, without considering at all whether we are following what they say or are being left behind. 243B

Theae: What do you mean?

Str: Whenever one of them speaks and says that many or one or two is, or has become, or is becoming, or again, that heat is mixed with cold, or elsewhere, proposes divisions and combinations: by the gods, Theaetetus, can you ever understand what they are saying? Indeed, when I was younger and someone mentioned “what is not”, the phrase that is puzzling us now, I thought I understood perfectly. But you see now just how perplexed we are about this issue.

Theae: 243C I see.

Str: But when it comes to “what is” the soul may well be in the grip of a similar predicament: we profess to be unconcerned about this, and to understand this, and not the other, whenever someone mentions it, yet we may be equally perplexed about both.

Theae: Quite likely.

Str: And, indeed, the same may be said of anything else we discussed previously.

Theae: Yes, indeed.

Str: Well, we shall consider 243D all those other matters later on, if you wish, but we must now investigate the important, fundamental and primary issue.

Theae: Which one do you mean? Or is it obvious that you are saying that we must first examine “what is” and what exactly those who use the phrase think that it signifies?

Str: You have understood precisely, Theaetetus. For I am saying that this is indeed the approach we should adopt; we should resort to close questioning, as though the men were actually present and say: “Come on, all you who say that hot and cold or any pairs like that are all things, what precisely 243E are you attributing to both, when you say that both are and each is? What should we understand by this ‘is’ of yours? Is it a third factor in addition to the other two, and should we propose, on your behalf, that the all is no longer two but three? For, presumably, you do not take one of the pair and call it being and say that both of them equally ‘are’, for in either case they would effectively be one and not two.”

Theae: What you say is true.

Str: “Well then, do you want to call the pair of them ‘being’?”

Theae: Perhaps.

Str: 244A Then, we shall say: “But my friends, even with this formulation you would be stating unambiguously that the two are one.”

Theae: What you have said is absolutely correct.

Str: Now, since we have become perplexed, you must clarify, adequately, to our satisfaction what precisely you wish to indicate whenever you use the word “being”. For you have obviously known this all along, while we thought that we knew at one stage, but have now become perplexed. So explain this point to us first, so that we may not presume to understand your doctrines 244B when the very opposite is the case.

Surely there would be nothing improper in saying these things, and putting them to these men, and to anyone else who maintains that the all is more than one?

Theae: Not in the least.

Str: And what about those who say that the all is one? Shouldn’t we find out, as best we can, what precisely they mean by being?

Theae: How could we do otherwise?

Str: Then let them answer this question: “Do you say that one alone is?” To which they will reply: “We do say so”, won’t they?

Theae: Yes.

Str: “And is there something which you call being?”

Theae: Yes.

Str: 244C “And is it what you call one? Are you using two names for the same thing, or how does this work?”

Theae: What answer will they give next, stranger?

Str: Obviously, Theaetetus, it is not at all easy for someone who has proposed this hypothesis to respond to what we have just asked, or any other question for that matter.

Theae: Why so?

Str: Well, to agree that there are two names when you have proposed that there is nothing except one is presumably ridiculous.

Theae: Yes, it must be.

Str: And it would be altogether ridiculous to accept the assertion that 244D there is a name, when it does not possess an account.

Theae: What is ridiculous about it?

Str: Well, in proposing that the name is different from the object he is presumably referring to two things.

Theae: Yes.

Str: And, indeed, should he propose that the name is the same as the object, he will either be compelled to say that it is the name of nothing or he will say it is the name of something and the name will turn out to be the name of a name and of nothing else.

Theae: Just so.

Str: And the one will be the name of one, as there is only one, and also the one of the name.

Theae: It must be.

Str: What about this? Is the whole different from what is one, or will they say it is the same as this?

Theae: 244E They will have to say it is the same and they do say so.

Str: If it is a whole, and is as Parmenides says,

“Equally balanced in all directions from the centre like the mass of

a well-rounded sphere, for it must not be more in one place and less in another.”

Then, since it is like this, “what is” will have a centre and extremities, and since it has these it certainly must have parts, must it not?

Theae: So it must.

Str: 245A Moreover, there is nothing to prevent whatever has parts from having the characteristic of the one associated with all its parts, and in this way, being all, it could also be one whole.

Theae: Why not, indeed?

Str: But isn’t it impossible for something like this to be just the one itself?

Theae: How is it impossible?

Str: Presumably what is truly one must be described as entirely without parts, according to the correct account.

Theae: Yes, it must be.

Str: 245B But the sort of one which consists of many parts will not accord with this account.

Theae: I understand.

Str: Now will “what is” be both one and whole as it possesses the character of the one, or should we utterly deny that “what is”, is a whole?

Theae: That’s a difficult choice you are offering.

Str: Well, that is certainly true. For “what is”, having been somehow characterised as one, will appear not to be the same as the one, and so all things will be more than one.

Theae: Yes.

Str: 245C However, if “what is” is not a whole on account of being characterised as one, and yet the whole itself is, then “what is” turns out to be missing part of itself.

Theae: Certainly.

Str: And based upon this argument, “what is” will be not-being, as it is deprived of itself.

Theae: Just so.

Str: Furthermore, all things become more than one, as both “what is” and the whole have each acquired a separate, distinct nature.

Theae: Yes.

Str: But if the whole is not at all, then the very same 245D applies to “what is”, and so in addition to its non-being, it could never come into being either.

Theae: Why so?

Str: Whatever has come to be, has come to be as a whole; consequently, we cannot talk about being or becoming as if they are, without including the one or the whole among things that are.

Theae: That certainly seems to be the case.

Str: And indeed, whatever is not a whole cannot be something with any number at all; for if it had number, whatever that number might be, it would have to correspond to that number as a whole.

Theae: Precisely.

Str: And indeed, a myriad of other issues, each 245E involving endless perplexities, will present themselves to anyone who maintains that “what is”, is either some two or only one.

Theae: Yes, the issues that are now arising make this quite evident. One leads on to another, bringing a larger and more problematic lack of direction to whatever has already been said.

Str: Now we have not talked about everyone who gives a precise account of being and not-being, but let this be enough. Next we should consider those who give a more general account, so that we may see, 246A by reviewing them all, that it is no easier to say precisely what “what is” is, than to say what “what is not” is.

Theae: Yes, we should proceed to consider these too.

Str: And indeed, there seems to be a battle of gods and giants among them in their dispute with one another about being.

Theae: How?

Str: Well, some are dragging everything from heaven and the unseen down to earth, literally grabbing trees and rocks in their hands. Indeed, they lay hold of all such objects and strenuously maintain that, that alone is, which gives rise to some contact and touch. 246B They define body and being as the same, and if any of the others say that there is anything without a body, they are utterly contemptuous, and they want to hear no more.

Theae: Yes, you are describing fearsome men, and indeed, I myself have met many of them before.

Str: Yes, that’s why those who oppose them conduct their defence, very cautiously, from above, from the unseen, maintaining forcibly that true being consists of certain bodiless forms which can be known by reason. And they gradually break the bodies of those other men into little pieces in their discussions, and what the others maintain to be true 246C they refer to as a sort of becoming in motion, rather than being. And there is always a huge battle going on between both parties about these issues, Theaetetus.

Theae: True.

Str: Then let’s obtain from both sides, in turn, the account of being that they favour.

Theae: How shall we obtain them?

Str: It will be easier in the case of those who propose that being consists of forms, for they are gentler people. However, it is more difficult, perhaps almost impossible, from those who drag everything by force 246D to the physical. But I think they should be dealt with as follows.

Theae: How?

Str: The best thing would be to make better people of them, if that were possible, but if this is not to be, let’s make up a story, assuming that they would be willing to answer questions more fully than now. For agreement with reformed individuals will be preferable to agreement with worse. However, we are not interested in the people: we are seeking the truth.

Theae: Quite so. 246E

Str: Then call upon these reformed folk to answer you, and you should interpret what is said.

Theae: I shall.

Str: Well, let them say whether they maintain there is such a thing as a mortal living being.

Theae: How could they disagree?

Str: And won’t they agree that this is a body with a soul in it?

Theae: Yes, certainly.

Str: And they include soul among things that are?

Theae: Yes. 247A

Str: What about this? Don’t they agree that a soul can be just or unjust and can be wise or foolish?

Theae: Of course.

Str: But isn’t it from the possession and presence of justice and wisdom that each of these souls becomes like this, while their opposites do the opposite?

Theae: Yes, they agree with all this too.

Str: And they will surely agree that whatever is capable of being present or absent is something.

Theae: They do say so.

Str: 247B So, if they accept that there is justice, wisdom, and excellence, in general, and their opposites, and also soul in which they arise, do they say that any of these is visible and tangible or are they all unseen?

Theae: Hardly any of these is visible.

Str: Well then, surely they do not say that anything of this sort has a body?

Theae: They do not answer the entire question, in the same way. Although they think, that the soul has acquired a body of some sort, when it comes to wisdom and the other qualities you asked about, 247C they are ashamed either to admit that these are not included in things that are, or to maintain emphatically that they are all physical.

Str: Well, Theaetetus, we can see that these men have been reformed, for the original stock, their earth-born ancestors, would not have been ashamed of anything. Instead, they would insist that whatever they are unable to squeeze with their hands is nothing at all.

Theae: Yes, you have expressed their attitude fairly well.

Str: Then let’s question them once more. Indeed, if they are prepared to concede that there is even a 247D small non-physical portion of things that are, that is sufficient. For, they must explain the shared nature that has arisen simultaneously in the non-physical, and also in anything physical, with reference to which, they say that they both are. Perhaps this may leave them perplexed; and if that is what happens to them then consider this; would they be willing to accept a suggestion from us and agree that “what is” is as follows?

Theae: Yes, what is the suggestion? Tell us and we shall know immediately.

Str: Well, I am saying that anything actually is, once it has acquired some sort of power, 247E either to affect anything else at all, or to be affected, even slightly, by something totally trivial, even if only once. Indeed, I propose to give a definition, defining things that are, as nothing else except power.

Theae: Then, since they do not have anything better to suggest right now they accept this.

Str: Very well, though perhaps a different suggestion may occur both to us or them 248A later. For the present, let this stand as it has been agreed by both parties.

Theae: Let it stand.

Str: Now let us move on to the others, the friends of the forms, and you should interpret their doctrines for us too.

Theae: I shall.

Str: “Presumably you make a distinction between becoming and being and you refer to them as separate. Is this so?”

Theae: Yes.

Str: “And you say our communion with becoming is through the body, by means of sense perception, while it is by means of reasoning through the soul that we commune with actual being, which you say is always just the same as it is, while becoming is always changing.”

Theae: 248B “Yes. That is what we say.”

Str: “Now, best of all men, the communing which you ascribe to both, isn’t it what we mentioned a moment ago?”

Theae: What was that? Shall we say what this is?

Str: “An action or an effect arising from some power, from their coming together with one another.” You probably do not hear their response to this so clearly, Theaetetus, but perhaps I can hear it, as I am quite familiar with them.

Theae: What then? What account do they give?

Str: 248C They do not agree with what we said just now to the earth-born men about being.

Theae: What was that?

Str: We somehow proposed an adequate enough definition of things that are: whenever the power to be affected or to affect, even to the slightest extent, is present in something; that something is something that is.

Theae: Yes.

Str: Now to this they reply that; “the power to be affected and to affect is a feature of becoming,” but they say that neither power attaches to being.

Theae: Don’t they have a point?

Str: A point which makes us say that we still need to find out 248D more clearly from them whether they also concede that the soul knows, and that being is known.

Theae: They will surely assent to that.

Str: “What about this? Do you say that the knowing, or being known, is an action, an effect, or both? Or is one an action, and the other an effect? Or do neither of them have anything to do with action and effect?”

Theae: Obviously they would say “neither”, otherwise they would be contradicting what they said before.[1]

Str: I understand. Instead, they would say that; “if knowing is indeed some action, it follows that 248E whatever is known must, for its part, be affected. Indeed, based on this account, since being is known by the act of knowing, insofar as it is known, it is changed to that extent because it is affected, which we insist does not happen to the quiescent.”

Theae: Correct.

Str: But, by Zeus, what are we saying? Are we actually going to be persuaded so easily that change, life, soul and thought are absent from 249A what altogether is, that it neither lives nor thinks, but abides unchanging, solemn and pure, devoid of intelligence?

Theae: No, stranger, that would be an awful proposition were we to accept it.

Str: But would we say that it has intelligence but does not have life?

Theae: How could we?

Str: But, if we say that both of these are within it, shall we then deny that it has them in a soul?

Theae: How else could it have them?

Str: But, if it actually has intelligence, life and soul, does it remain totally unchanging although it has a soul?

Theae: 249B This all sounds unreasonable to me.

Str: And, of course, we must concede that change, and what is changed, both are.

Theae: How could we deny it?

Str: It follows, therefore, Theaetetus, that if there is no change, there is no intelligence in anything or about anything at all.

Theae: Certainly.

Str: And yet, if we concede instead that everything is moving and changing, by this argument too, we shall be removing intelligence from things that are.

Theae: How?

Str: Do you think there 249C could ever be sameness of characteristics, or manner, or relation without rest?

Theae: Not at all.

Str: But, in the absence of these, can you see how there could be intelligence, or how it could ever come into being anywhere?

Theae: Not in the least.

Str: Well then, we must do battle, using every possible argument, against the man who would make strong assertions about anything at all, having done away with knowledge, thought and intelligence.

Theae: Definitely.

Str: Now all these issues are, necessarily, it seems, of the utmost importance to the philosopher, and because of these, he must not accept that the universe is at rest, whether it is said to be one, or to consist of many 249D forms, nor should he listen at all to those who say that “what is” is changing everywhere. He should invoke the childish prayer, “I want everything”, and should say that the all and “what is” are a combination of both the unchanging and the changing.

Theae: Very true.

Str: Well then, is it likely that we have at last come to grips with “what is” by this argument?

Theae: Yes, certainly.

Str: Oh dear, Theaetetus, perhaps not! I think that we are just about to appreciate the perplexity involved in this inquiry.

Theae: 249E How? Why have you said this?

Str: Bless you, do you not realise that we are now in utter ignorance about this, though we seem to ourselves to be talking sense?

Theae: Well, so it seems to me, but I do not quite understand how we got into this condition without noticing it.

Str: Well, in agreeing with 250A what has been said, consider carefully whether we may, justifiably, be open to the very questions which we ourselves put previously to those who say that the universe is heat and cold.[2]

Theae: What questions? Remind me.

Str: Yes, certainly, and I shall try to do this at any rate by questioning you, just as we questioned the others, so that we may also make some progress at the same time.

Theae: Right.

Str: Very well, then. Don’t you say that motion and rest are completely opposite to one another?

Theae: They must be.

Str: And do you also say that, in like manner, they both are, and that each of them is?

Theae: Yes, I do say that. 250B

Str: And when you accept that they are, do you mean that both of them and each of them are moving?

Theae: Not at all.

Str: Then, in saying that both of them are, are you indicating that they are both at rest?

Theae: No, how could they be?

Str: So, are you proposing that being is some third thing in the soul, besides these two, and having understood that both rest and motion are encompassed by this, do you look to their commonality of being and thus make the statement that they both are?

Theae: 250C Yes, it is quite likely that we do, in truth, have an intuition that what is, is some third entity, whenever we say that motion and rest are.

Str: So, what is, is not the two together, motion and rest, but something different from them.[3]

Theae: So it seems.

Str: Then, based upon its own nature, what is, is neither at rest nor in motion.

Theae: Hardly.

Str: Well then, where is there still left for someone’s mind to turn, who wishes to establish anything clear and certain about this, for himself?

Theae: Where indeed?

Str: I do not think there is any easy option left, for if something is not moving, 250D how can it not be at rest? Or if it is not at rest at all, then how can it not be moving? Yet, what is, has just appeared before us, outside of both motion and rest. But is this possible?

Theae: No, it is totally impossible.

Str: However, it would be right to recall something about these.

Theae: What is it?

Str: That we ended up in utter perplexity, when we were asked what precisely the phrase “what is not” should be applied to. Do you remember?[4]

Theae: How could I forget?

Str: 250E And are we now in any less perplexity in relation to what is?

Theae: Well, stranger, it seems to me that we are in even greater perplexity, if that is possible.

Str: Let’s take it, then, that this is where our difficulty lies. However, since what is, and what is not, are equally involved in perplexity, there is now some hope. For as one of them becomes more dimly or clearly evident the other will do the same, 251A and if we prove unable to discern either, we shall scrutinise the description of both at once, as appropriately as we can.

Theae: Very good.

Str: Then, let’s explain how it happens that we refer to the same thing by many names, depending on the occasion.

Theae: What sort of thing do you mean? Give an example.

Str: You know that we speak of a man, calling him lots of different things, attributing colours to him, and also shapes, dimensions, excellence and vice. In all these cases and numerous 251B others, we are saying not only that he is a man, but also that he is good and countless other things, and in other cases, by the same argument, we propose that each is one, and then refer to it as many, and so we describe it, by many names.

Theae: What you say is true.

Str: Well, at any rate, I believe we have provided a feast for the young, and for the old men whose learning came late in their lives. For it is easy for anyone to appreciate quite readily that it is impossible for the many to be one, and also for one to be many, and indeed, they delight in forbidding man 251C from being called good, and they only allow good to be called good, and man to be called man. Indeed, Theaetetus, I imagine you have often met those who take this sort of thing seriously, sometimes older men who are amazed at such marvels, due to the poverty-stricken state of their intellect, actually believe that they have discovered the very repository of wisdom.

Theae: They certainly do.

Str: Then, so that our discussion may be all inclusive, we should direct our questioning, now,

to all those who have 251D ever discoursed on being,[5] in any way at all, and to those with whom we discussed this earlier.

Theae: And the questions are?

Str: “Whether we may neither attach being to motion and rest, nor attach anything at all to anything else, and should we therefore propose, in our own discussions, that these are unmixed, and it is impossible for them to participate in one another? Or should we have grouped them all together as the same, in their capacity for communion with one another? Or can some 251E have this capacity, while others do not?” Well, Theaetetus, can we say which of these options they would choose?

Theae: I cannot answer these questions on their behalf, at all.

Str: Then why don’t you answer them one by one, and see what the consequences are in each case?

Theae: A good suggestion.

Str: First, if you wish, let’s propose that they say that nothing has any power of communion with anything else at all. In that case movement and rest will have no share of being, will they?

Theae: Not in that case. 252A

Str: But will either of them be, if they have no communion with being?

Theae: They will not.

Str: Well, all parties have been instantly overthrown by this concession, it seems, including the “universe is motion” people, those who say it is one and at rest, and anyone who maintains that things that are, consist of forms which are always just the same as they are. Indeed all of these people associate being with something, some by saying that the universe is actually movement, others by saying that it is actually rest.

Theae: Quite so.

Str: 252B And indeed, those who propose to combine all things at one time and to separate them at some other time, either by having unlimited things coming from one and returning to one, or else by dividing all things into finite elements and making combinations of these, regardless of whether they propose that this happens successively or continuously, these people would be talking nonsense in all cases, if in fact there is no commingling.[6]

Theae: Correct.

Str: And what’s more, the people who pursue this question in the most ridiculous manner, are those who allow nothing to be referred to as different because it shares a different characteristic.

Theae: 252C How?

Str: Well, presumably they are compelled to use “to be” in relation to everything. They cannot help employing “apart” and “the others” and “itself” and very many more expressions, and connecting them when they speak, and so they are refuting themselves; the enemy and future opponent is within themselves, as the saying goes, and they walk about carrying his voice inside them like the strange ventriloquist Eurycles.[7]

Theae: 252D The comparison you make is both accurate and true.

Str: Well then, should we concede to all things the capacity for intercommunion with one another?

Theae: Even I would be able to do away with that suggestion.

Str: How?

Theae: Well, movement itself would be totally at rest while rest itself would, in turn, be moving if they were to be applicable to one another.

Str: And presumably it must be utterly impossible that movement be at rest and rest in motion?

Theae: It must be.

Str: Only the third option is left then.

Theae: Yes.

Str: 252E Well it must be some one of the following; either everything will mix together or nothing will, or some will and others will not.

Theae: There are no other options.

Str: And yet, the first two were found to be impossible.

Theae: Yes.

Str: So anyone who wishes to give the right answer will select the last of the three.

Theae: Exactly.

Str: Now since some things will do this and others will not, they would be behaving much like the 253A letters of the alphabet, for some of them will not fit together with one another, while others will fit together.

Theae: Of course.

Str: And the vowels are better at this than the other letters. They are like a bond running through them all, so that it is impossible for one of the others to attach to anything else without at least one of the vowels.

Theae: Certainly.

Str: Does everyone know what letters can combine with what, or is a skill required by someone who is to do this properly?

Theae: There is a skill.

Str: What is it?

Theae: Grammar.

Str: 253B And isn’t it the same where high and low notes are concerned? Does the musical person have the skill to recognise which notes go together and which do not, while the unmusical person does not understand this?

Theae: Yes, it is the same.

Str: And we shall find that similar distinctions between skill and lack of skill apply to other subjects.

Theae: Of course.

Str: Yes, and since we have agreed that the kinds can also mix with one another in this same way, mustn’t a man who is going to show which of the kinds accord with one another, or reject 253C one another, proceed through the arguments with some knowledge? And will he also need some knowledge to show whether there are certain kinds which pervade all the kinds and keep them together so that they can be mixed together, and again, in the case of division, whether the causes of division are entirely different?

Theae: How could he do it without knowledge, perhaps even the supreme knowledge?

Str: Well now, Theaetetus, what are we going to call this knowledge? Or, by Zeus, have we stumbled unwittingly upon the knowledge belonging to free men and is it possible that we have found, first, the philosopher, whilst looking for the sophist?

Theae: What do you mean?

Str: 253D This division on the basis of kinds, without thinking that the same form is different form, or that a different one is the same; should we not say that this belongs to dialectical knowledge?

Theae: Yes, we should.

Str: Therefore, someone who can do this, readily discerns one characteristic extending entirely through many things, each of which is separate and one; and many characteristics which are different from one another, encompassed externally by one characteristic; furthermore, one characteristic connected in one kind through whole multiplicities; and many characteristics which are 253E distinct and completely separate. This is, knowing how to distinguish, kind by kind, which way they commune and which way they do not.

Theae: Entirely so.

Str: And I am sure that you will never grant this dialectical skill to anyone except a man who loves wisdom, purely and righteously.

Theae: Indeed, how could one give it to anyone else?

Str: It is in some such place as this that we shall find the philosopher, both now and hereafter, if we search for him. It is indeed difficult 254A to see this person plainly, but the difficulty of seeing the sophist is of a different sort from this.

Theae: How?

Str: Well, the sophist runs away into the darkness of non-being, attaching himself to this by practice, and he is hard to discern because of the darkness of the place. Is this so?

Theae: So it seems.

Str: However, the philosopher is always devoted, through reasoning, to the characteristic of what is, and he is also not at all easy to see because of the brightness of that region, as it is impossible for the eyes 254B of the common soul to sustain the gaze that looks towards the divine.

Theae: Yes, all this is no less likely to be so than what was said about the sophist.

Str: Well, we shall consider the philosopher in more detail presently, if we so desire; but it is obvious, I presume, that we must not give up on the sophist until we can see him properly.

Theae: Very good.

Str: Indeed, we have actually agreed now that some of the kinds will combine with one another, while others will not, and some will combine with few, others with many, and also that some are all-pervasive and are allowed to 254C combine with everything. So we should proceed to the next issue by considering the following question, not about all the forms, lest we get confused by the multiplicity, but selecting some of those which are said to be the most important; we should first ask what sort each is, and then what their power to commune with one another is. In this way, we shall at least understand something about being and non-being, as far as our current method of enquiry allows, even if we cannot apprehend them with total clarity, and we may 254D somehow be allowed to say that “what is not”, is actually non-being, and avoid reproach.

Theae: Yes, we must do this.

Str: Now the most important kinds are those we have just mentioned: being itself, rest and motion.

Theae: Very much so.

Str: And we also say that two of them do not mix with one another.

Theae: They do not.

Str: And yet, being can mix with both, for presumably both are.

Theae: Of course.

Str: So there are these three.

Theae: Of course.

Str: And each of them is different from the other two, and the same as itself.

Theae: Quite so. 254E

Str: Well now, what precisely are the “same” and the “different” which we have just mentioned? Are they two additional kinds, apart from the first three, two kinds which must necessarily combine with the three, and should we investigate 255A them as though there were five and not three? Or, is this “same” and “different” something belonging to the other three, which we are referring to without noticing it?

Theae: Perhaps.

Str: But, of course, motion and rest is neither something different nor something the same.

Theae: How so?

Str: Whatever we attribute to motion and rest, jointly, cannot, itself, be either of the two.

Theae: Why is that?

Str: Because motion would then be at rest and rest would be moving, for the involvement of either of the two with both of them will compel the other one to change to the opposite of its own nature 255B since it is partaking of its opposite.

Theae: Exactly.

Str: However, both partake of the same and the different.

Theae: Yes.

Str: Therefore, we may not say that either motion or rest is the same or the different.

Theae: No.

Str: Well then, should we think of what is, and the same, as one thing?

Theae: Perhaps.

Str: But if what is, and the same, do not signify anything different, then saying, 255C once more, that motion and rest both are, will amount to referring to them both as the same.

Theae: Yes, but that is impossible.

Str: So it is impossible for the same, and what is, to be one.

Theae: Quite.

Str: Well, should we propose that the same is a fourth form in addition to the other three?

Theae: Yes, certainly.

Str: Yes, but should we say that the different is a fifth, or must we think of the different, and what is, as two names for one kind?

Theae: Perhaps.

Str: But I think you concede that some things that are, are always spoken of just by themselves, while some are always spoken of in relation to others.

Theae: So they are.

Str: 255D And different is always in relation to another. Is this so?

Theae: Just so.

Str: But this would not be the case, if what is, and different were not utterly distinct. But if different, like what is, were to partake of both relations, some of the different things would sometimes be different, but not in relation to another. But now we find, simply, that whatever is different, necessarily turns out to be the very thing it is, namely, different from something else.

Theae: It is exactly as you say.

Str: Then we must say that the nature of the different is a fifth form among these forms we 255E are selecting.

Theae: Yes.

Str: And we shall say that this pervades all the others, for each one is different from the others, not because of its own nature but because of participation in the characteristic of different.

Theae: Yes, precisely.

Str: Now let us say the following about these five, taking them up one by one.

Theae: What?

Str: First, that motion is completely different from rest. Is this so?

Theae: It is so.

Str: So it is not rest.

Theae: Not at all.

Str: 256A And yet, because of participation in being, it is.

Theae: It is.

Str: Then again, motion is different from “the same”.

Theae: I dare say.

Str: So it is not “the same”.

Theae: No, it is not.

Str: And yet, it is the same as itself, because everything partakes of “the same”.[8]

Theae: Yes, indeed.

Str: So we should accept that motion is the same and not the same, without making difficulties. For when we say it is the same and then not the same, we are not speaking in a similar manner. Rather, when we say it is the same, it is because of its participation in “the same” in relation to itself, and when 256B we say it is not the same, it is because of its communion with different, a communion by which it is separated from “the same” and becomes not the same but different, so that it is correct, in turn, to say that it is not the same after all.

Theae: Yes, certainly.

Str: Yes, and if motion itself were somehow to partake of rest, it would not be strange to say that motion was resting.

Theae: And that is perfectly valid, provided we are going to accept that some of the kinds will mix with one another, and some will not.

Str: 256C And, indeed, we arrived at a proof of this earlier than this,[9] by establishing that this is in accordance with nature in this way.

Theae: Of course.

Str: Then let’s say this once more: motion is different from the different, just as it was other than the same and rest.

Theae: Yes, it must be.

Str: So, in a sense, then it is not different and it is different, according to the current argument.

Theae: True.

Str: Then what about the next point? Shall we say that motion is different from three of the kinds but not from the fourth, though we 256D have agreed that there are five items concerning which and among which we propose to conduct our enquiry?

Theae: How could we? For we cannot accept that their number is less than what was shown a moment ago.

Str: So, should we persist fearlessly in maintaining that motion is different from being?

Theae: Yes, with no fear at all.

Str: Well then, it is clear that motion is actually not-being and yet it is, since in fact it partakes of being.

Theae: Yes, that is perfectly clear.

Str: So, of necessity, there is not-being, both in the case of motion, and all of the kinds, for in all cases the 256E nature of different causes each not to be being, and makes it not-being. And indeed, in this way, we are right to say, on the same basis, that all of them are not- being, and again, because they partake of being, that they both are, and have being.

Theae: Very likely.

Str: So, in the case of each of the forms, “what is”, is many, and “what is not”, is unlimited in multiplicity.

Theae: So it seems.

Str: 257A Well then, we must also say that being, itself, is different from the others.

Theae: We must.

Str: And we also found that as many as the others are, is the extent to which being, is not; for, on the one hand, not being the others, it is just one, and, on the other hand, it is not that unlimited number of others.

Theae: Quite so.

Str: Now we should not make difficulties over these either, since the nature of the kinds involves communion with one another. But if anyone does not accept this, he must prevail over our previous arguments[10] and then take on their consequences.

Theae: What you propose is very fair.

Str: 257B Well, let us note the following.

Theae: What?

Str: When we speak of “what is not”, it seems we are not speaking of something opposite to “what is”, but only of something different.

Theae: In what way?

Str: For example, when we say that something is “not large”, are we indicating by this phrase that it is small rather than equal? Is that how it seems to you?

Theae: No, how could we mean that?

Str: So whenever it is said that a negative signifies an opposite, we shall not accept that; we shall only go so far as to say that prefixing “not” or “non” 257C indicates something else apart from the words which follow or, rather, apart from the objects to which the words spoken after the negative may refer.

Theae: Entirely so.

Str: Let’s think this through, as follows, if you agree.

Theae: What?

Str: It seems to me that the nature of different is broken up in the same way that knowledge is.

Theae: How?

Str: Well, presumably knowledge is one, and so is the nature of different, but each portion of knowledge applicable to something in particular has been separated off and given its own 257D particular title. That’s why so many skills and branches of knowledge are referred to.

Theae: Yes, certainly.

Str: And although it is one, the same thing happens to the parts of the nature of different.

Theae: Very likely, but how should we describe it?

Str: Is there some part of different which contrasts with beauty?

Theae: There is.

Str: Now, should we say that this is nameless, or does it have a title of its own?

Theae: It has, for each time we mention “non-beauty” it is different from the nature of beauty and from nothing else.

Str: Come now, tell me this.

Theae: What? 257E

Str: On this basis, has non-beauty turned out to be some distinct part of a single kind, among things that are, and does it in turn stand in contrast to another kind, among things that are?

Theae: It does.

Str: Then, it seems, non-beauty turns out to be a contrast of “what is” with “what is”.[11]

Theae: Quite right.

Str: Well then, based on this account, is beauty more included among things that are, and non-beauty less so?

Theae: It is not.

Str: 258A So should we say, on the same basis, that there is non-largeness, and largeness itself?

Theae: On the same basis.

Str: And should we, therefore, place non-justice in the same relation towards justice, in that one is, no more than the other is?

Theae: Of course.

Str: Well, we shall also describe the others in the same way; since, in fact, the nature of different has been shown to be included among things that are, and since it is, we must necessarily propose that the parts of it are also things that are, no less.[12]

Theae: Yes, we must.

Str: Therefore, it seems, when part of the nature of different, 258B and part of the nature of “what is” are set against one another, the contrast is no less being than what is, itself, if such a statement is legitimate, and this contrast is not indicating the opposite of “what is” but only something different from that.

Theae: Yes, that is very clear.

Str: So, what should we call this?

Theae: Obviously it is “what is not”, the very thing we were seeking because of the sophist.

Str: And does it, as you say, have no less being than anything else, and should we now declare boldly that “what is not” certainly is, and has its own nature? And just as largeness 258C was large, and beauty was beautiful, and the same applied to non-largeness and non-beauty, should we say, on the same basis, that “what is not”, was and is “what is not”, a single form counted among the many things that are? Do we still have any doubt about this, Theaetetus?

Theae: Not at all.

Str: Now do you realise that we have shown little regard for Parmenides’ prohibition?

Theae: In what way?

Str: In our previous enquiry, we have forged ahead in our search, and presented the man with something he forbade us to consider.

Theae: How did we do that?

Str: 258D Well, he says:[13]

“For never shall it be proved that things that are not, are.

But hold back your thought from this way of enquiry.”

Theae: Yes, he does say this.

Str: But we have not only shown that things that are not, are, but we have also revealed the actual form of “what is not”. For we have shown that the nature of different is, and is broken up 258E across all the things that are in relation to one another, and we dared to say that each part of it which is contrasted with “what is”, is itself actually “what is not”.

Theae: And what we said seems perfectly true to me, stranger.

Str: Then, let no one suggest that we are declaring that “what is not” is the opposite of “what is”, when we dare to state that it is. Indeed, some time ago we set aside the consideration of its opposite, 259A and whether there is such a thing or there is not, and whether it can be described, or is completely indescribable.

But we have now stated that “what is not” is, and someone should either persuade us that we are describing it incorrectly by refuting us, or, as long as he is unable to do so, he too should say exactly what we say, that the kinds are mixed with one another, and both what is, and different, pervade them all, and pervade one another. Different partakes of what is, and is, on account of that participation. However, it is not that in which it participates, but other than that, but as it is different from what is, it is completely obvious that there must be 259B non-being.

Being, on the other hand, having partaken of different, would be different from the other kinds, and as it is different from all of them, it is not any one of them, nor all of them together, but is just itself, so that being, for its part, is certainly not myriads upon myriads of things, and indeed, the others individually and collectively are in many ways and are not in many ways.

Theae: True.

Str: Now, if someone does not believe in these oppositions, he should consider the matter, and propose something better than what has just been stated. Or, if he enjoys dragging words, first in one direction, then in another, as though he has 259C understood something difficult, our present arguments indicate that he is busy with matters of no account. Indeed, what he is doing is neither clever, nor difficult to discover, but here is something which is both difficult and beautiful at the same time …

Theae: What is it?

Str: It is what was said earlier:[14] the ability to give up these interminable distinctions, and be able to understand the arguments in every case, and when refuting someone, when they say that what is different is somehow the same, 259D or what is the same is different, to appreciate how and why they say that these have one characteristic or the other. But demonstrating that the same is different, in some manner or fashion, and different is the same, large is small, and like is unlike, and to delight in constantly devising such verbal contradictions, this is no true refutation, but is obviously an immature product of a quite recent acquaintance with things that are.[15]

Theae: Yes, precisely.

Str: Yes, indeed, my dear friend, and the attempt to separate 259E everything from everything else is not just unreasonable: it is also an utterly coarse and un-philosophic activity.

Theae: Why so?

Str: The severance of everything from everything else is the complete destruction of all discourse, for our discourse has arisen from the interweaving of the forms.

Theae: True.

Str: 260A You see how timely it is that we have been battling, just now, against this sort of thing, and pressing the point that one form may mix with a different one.

Theae: To what end?

Str: To establish that discourse is one of our kinds of things that are; for once we have been deprived of this, we are deprived of philosophy, and that is the greatest concern. But we still have to come to full agreement, right now, as to what precisely discourse is, and, if we were deprived of its very being, we shall presumably be unable to speak any more. And we would 260B be deprived, if we were to agree, that there is no admixture of anything with anything else.

Theae: Yes, that’s right, but I do not understand why we must now come to agreement about discourse.

Str: Then you may understand more easily by following this line of argument.

Theae: What is it?

Str: Well, it has become evident to us that non-being is one kind among the others, and is dispersed throughout all of the things that are.[16]

Theae: Just so.

Str: In that case, we should consider whether it mixes with both opinion and discourse.

Theae: Why so?

Str: 260C If it does not mix with them, then everything must be true, whereas if it does mix with them, false opinion and discourse are generated. For opining or speaking “what is not” is presumably what gives rise to falsehood in thought or discourse.

Theae: It does.

Str: And once there is falsehood there is deceit.

Theae: Yes.

Str: And indeed, once there is deceit, everything must then be filled with images, imitations and imagination.

Theae: Yes.

Str: And yet we said that the sophist had taken refuge somewhere in 260D this place. However, he completely denies that there is such a thing as falsehood,[17] as no one either speaks or thinks “what is not”, since what is not does not partake of being in any way at all.

Theae: Yes, we said this.

Str: But it has now shown itself to partake of what is, so, on this basis, perhaps he will not dispute the point any more. However, he could say that some of the forms partake of what is not, while others do not, and that discourse and opinion are among those which do not, and he might argue, once more, that image-making and imagination, in which we say he resides, are not, in any way 260E whatsoever, since opinion and discourse have no communion with what is not, indeed, there is absolutely no falsehood at all unless this communion is established.

For these reasons, we must first consider, carefully, what precisely discourse, opinion, and imagination are, so that by this discovery we may also discern their communion with what is not; 261A and once that has been seen, we may prove that there is falsity; and once that is proved, we may imprison the sophist within it, if he deserves that. Otherwise we should let him go and search for him in another kind.

Theae: Precisely, stranger! What has been said about the sophist at the outset seems true; that he is a difficult kind to track down. For he appears to be laden with obstacles, and when he casts one in our path, we must first fight our way through it before we reach the man himself. Indeed, no sooner have we passed through the obstacle whereby what is not, is not, than a different one has been presented, 261B and we must prove that there is falsehood, both in discourse and in opinion. After that there is probably another, and yet another after that and it seems that no end will ever appear.

Str: You should be encouraged, Theaetetus, if you can make even a little continuous progress. For how will a man with no heart for these matters fare in anything else, if he makes no headway there, or even loses ground once more? As the 261C proverb says: “a man like that would take a long time to capture a city.”

Now, my friend, since we have made this breakthrough you refer to, our greatest barrier may have fallen, and the rest may be easier and less significant.

Theae: You have expressed that beautifully.

Str: Then let’s take discourse and opinion first, which we mentioned a moment ago, so that we may work out, more clearly, whether what is not, attaches to them, or whether both of them are entirely true, and neither is ever false.

Theae: Right.

Str: 261D Come on, let’s give consideration to words, again, in the same way that we discussed forms and letters,[18] for the object of our search is somehow being revealed in this way.

Theae: Well, what aspect of words must I answer questions about?

Str: Whether they all go together with one another, or none do so, or some do so, while some do not.

Theae: That’s obvious, anyway; some do, and some do not.

Str: Perhaps you mean something like this; those which indicate something when spoken in 261E order, do go together, while those which indicate nothing by their sequence, do not go together.

Theae: What do you mean by this?

Str: Something which I thought you accepted when you expressed agreement, for presumably we have two kinds of vocal indicators concerned with being.

Theae: In what sense?

Str: 262A One is called nouns, the other verbs.

Theae: Describe each of them.

Str: The indicator referring to activities we may call a verb.

Theae: Yes.

Str: While the vocal sign referring to the actual performers of the action is called a noun.

Theae: Yes, precisely.

Str: Therefore, nouns spoken in succession, on their own, never produce discourse nor again do verbs when spoken without nouns.

Theae: I do not understand this.

Str: 262B Obviously you had something else in mind when you were giving your assent just now, for the very point I wanted to make was, that when these are spoken successively, as follows, they are not discourse.

Theae: In what way?

Str: For example, “walks, runs, sleeps” and all of the other verbs that indicate action, even if they are all spoken in sequence, they are not discourse.

Theae: No, how could they be?

Str: And again, if we recite “lion, stag, horse” or any nouns which name 262C the performers of the actions, no discourse is constituted by that succession either. For neither in this way, nor in any other way, do the utterances indicate the activity, inactivity, or being of anything that is, or is not, until verbs are mixed with nouns. Once they combine, the initial interweaving also produces discourse though it is very short and basic.

Theae: What do you mean by this?

Str: When someone says “a man understands”, would you agree that this is the simplest, most basic discourse?

Theae: I would indeed. 262D

Str: For, presumably, this would now be indicating something about things that are, or are becoming, or have become, or will become, and it does not merely apply names, but concludes something by weaving verbs together with nouns. Therefore, we said that it “says” rather than just “names”, and indeed, we assign the name “discourse” to this verbal fabric.

Theae: Correct.

Str: Then, just as some things combine while others do not, there are also vocal indicators which do not combine while there are others which combine to constitute discourse. 262E

Theae: Yes, absolutely.

Str: Now just one more little thing.

Theae: What?

Str: Whenever there is discourse, it must be about something and it cannot be about nothing.

Theae: Correct.

Str: And mustn’t it also have some quality?

Theae: Yes, it must.

Str: Now let’s turn our attention to ourselves.

Theae: Perhaps we should.

Str: Then I shall engage in discourse with you, associating a thing with an activity by means of noun and verb, and you will tell me to what the discourse pertains.

Theae: 263A I’ll do the best I can.

Str: “Theaetetus is sitting”, not a long discourse, is it?

Theae: No, it is quite succinct.

Str: Now it is up to you to say to what it pertains and what it is about.

Theae: Obviously, it pertains to me and is about me.

Str: What about the next one …?

Theae: What is it?

Str: “Theaetetus, to whom I am now speaking, is flying.”

Theae: Again, all one can say is that this is about me and pertains to me.

Str: And yet we say that each discourse must have some quality.

Theae: Yes. 263B

Str: Well, what quality should we ascribe to each of these?

Theae: Presumably one is false while the other is true.

Str: And the true discourse says things that are about you, as they are.

Theae: Of course.

Str: Then the false says things that are different from things that are.

Theae: Yes.

Str: So it says things that are not, as if they are.

Theae: Quite so.

Str: They are things that are, and yet they are different from things that are about you. For we said, that pertaining to everything, there are many things that are, and indeed, many that are not.[19]

Theae: Yes, precisely.

Str: 263C Now that last discourse of mine, about you, must, in the first place, be one of the shortest of those which we have defined as constituting discourse.

Theae: Well, we have already come to agreement on this point, at any rate.

Str: Secondly, it must be about something.

Theae: Just so.

Str: And if it is not about you it is not about anything at all.

Theae: No, how could it be?

Str: But, if it is about nothing, it would not be discourse at all, for we declared that it is impossible for discourse to be discourse about nothing.

Theae: Quite right.

Str: 263D Now anything said about you, describing different things as the same, and things that are not, as if they are, such a combination consisting of nouns and verbs, certainly seems, actually and in truth, to constitute false discourse.

Theae: Yes, perfectly true.

Str: Now what about this? Isn’t it obvious by now that thought, opinion, and imagination are three kinds which arise in our souls both as true and as false?

Theae: How?

Str: You will appreciate this more easily, if you first understand what precisely they are, and 263E why each is different, one from the other.

Theae: Just give the explanation.

Str: Well, are not thought and discourse the same, except that the inner discourse of the soul with herself, proceeding without sound, is the very thing that has been given the name of “thinking”?

Theae: Yes, certainly.

Str: Whereas the stream which comes from that and proceeds through the mouth, with sound, has been called discourse.

Theae: True.

Str: And there is something else we recognise in discourse …

Theae: What is it?

Str: Assertion and denial.

Theae: Yes, we recognise these.

Str: 264A Now whenever this arises silently in the soul based upon thought, have you anything else to call it except opinion?

Theae: No, how could I?

Str: But when this occurs in someone through sense perception and not independently, is there anything you can call an experience like this except imagination?[20]

Theae: Nothing.

Str: Well, since we found that there is true and false discourse, and thought turns out to be a dialogue 264B of the soul herself with herself, and opinion to be the result of thought, while imagining is what we call a combination of opinion and perception, it must follow that some of these too are sometimes false, since they are all related to discourse.

Theae: It must be so.

Str: Now do you realise that false opinion and discourse have been discovered sooner than we anticipated a moment ago, when we were afraid that we might have set ourselves an endless task by searching for them?

Theae: Yes, I realise this.

Str: Then we must not lose heart for what remains. Indeed, since we have established this 264C much, let’s remind ourselves of the previous divisions based upon forms.

Theae: Which of them?

Str: We distinguished[21] two forms of image-making, one involving likenesses and the other involving appearances.

Theae: Yes.

Str: And we said we were perplexed as to which one the sophist should be placed in.

Theae: That is what happened.

Str: And in the midst of this perplexity, an even greater swirling darkness poured down upon us, through the arrival of an argument which called everybody into question, by saying that there is absolutely no such thing as a likeness, or image, or appearance at all, 264D because there is never any falsehood anywhere in any way.

Theae: What you say is true.

Str: But since it now turns out that there is discourse, and false opinion, it is of course possible that there be imitations of things that are, and that a skill in deception arises from this state of affairs.

Theae: Yes, it is possible.

Str: And we agreed earlier that the sophist was in one or the other of these divisions.

Theae: Yes.

Str: Well, let’s set to it once more, dividing the proposed kind 264E in two, proceeding always according to the right hand part of the division, holding to whatever the sophist has in common, until everything common about him has been stripped away leaving his individual nature, 265A which we should disclose, in the first place, to ourselves, and secondly, to those with the closest natural affinity with such a method.[22]

Theae: Correct.

Str: Didn’t we begin back then by dividing skill into the productive and the acquisitive?

Theae: Yes.

Str: And the sophist also made an appearance in certain forms of the acquisitive skill such as hunting, competition, trading, and so on.[23]

Theae: He certainly did.

Str: But now that the imitative skill encompasses him, it is obvious that the productive skill itself should 265B first be divided in two, for imitation is presumably a sort of production, however, it is what we call[24] the production of images, but not of the objects themselves, is this so?

Theae: Entirely so.

Str: Then first let there be two parts of the productive skill.

Theae: Which are?

Str: The divine and the human.

Theae: I do not understand yet.

Str: If we recall what was said at the outset,[25] productive skill is any capacity which is responsible for bringing into being things which previously were not.

Theae: I remember.

Str: 265C Now consider all mortal creatures and, of course, all plants that grow on the earth from seeds and roots and any soulless substances formed in the earth whether they dissolve in it or not. Shall we say that these are brought into being, though previously they were not, by anything other than the craftsmanship of god? Or should we resort to the doctrine which most people express?

Theae: What doctrine is that?

Str: That nature generates them from some spontaneous cause, which operates without intelligence. Or, alternatively, you may say that the cause operates with reason and divine knowledge, and proceeds from god.

Theae: 265D Well, I frequently change my opinion from one to the other, but perhaps that is because of my age. But now, looking at you, and realising that you think that they do proceed subject to god, I have also come to believe this.

Str: That is beautifully expressed, Theaetetus, and if I thought you were a person who would somehow form another opinion in the course of time, I would now try to make you agree with the argument by means of persuasion based upon necessity. But since I understand your nature 265E which is inclined towards this conclusion, even without these arguments from me, a conclusion you say you already find attractive, I shall let it go, for it would be a waste of time. Instead I shall propose that whatever is said to be natural is produced by a divine skill, while anything which people fabricate from that, is the product of human skill; and so, based upon this argument, there are two kinds of production, one human and the other divine.

Theae: Correct.

Str: Now that there are two, let’s cut each of these in two once more.

Theae: How?

Str: 266A Just as we made a horizontal division of all production before, let’s make a vertical division now.

Theae: Let the division be made.

Str: So it now consists of four parts in all, two which are human and relate to ourselves and two which are, in turn, divine and relate to the gods.

Theae: Yes.

Str: And once they are further divided in this different way, one part of each of the split-off parts is the making of originals, while the remaining two parts are best referred to as image-making. And now the productive skill has again been divided in two on this basis.

Theae: 266B Explain how each further division is made.

Str: I presume we know that we ourselves and all other creatures, and fire, water, and their kindred elements, which are the source of whatever arises naturally, are all created entities which come forth from god. Is this so?

Theae: It is so.

Str: However, there are images associated with each of these, which are not the things themselves, and which also arise through divine contrivance.

Theae: What sort of things?

Str: Apparitions which arise naturally in dreams, and also during the day when something dark 266C interrupts firelight, producing so-called shadows, or, on the other hand, a reflection produced when the light of the eye and the light of an object converge on a bright, smooth surface, and produce a form which provides a perception opposite to our normal view of the object.

Theae: Yes, there are indeed these two products of divine workmanship, the thing itself, and the image connected to each.

Str: But what about this skill of ours? Won’t we say that it produces a house by the builder’s skill, and yet another one by the painter’s skill, like a human dream, fashioned for those who are awake?

Theae: 266D Yes, certainly.

Str: And our other skills are again twofold in the same way, based on two products of our productive activity, the thing itself which is actually manufactured, and an image produced by the skill of image-making.

Theae: Now I understand better, and I accept that there are two twofold forms of productive skill. According to one division, there is the divine and the human, while based upon the other, there is the production of things themselves, and also of certain likenesses.

Str: Well, let’s remind ourselves that there was to be an imitative, and an appearance-based, form of image-making, if it could be shown that what’s false, 266E being actually false, is also one of the things that are.

Theae: Yes, there was.

Str: And since this has been shown, shall we now proceed without equivocation to reckon that there are two forms of image-making?

Theae: Yes.

Str: 267A Then let’s divide the appearance-based form in two again.

Theae: In what way?

Str: There is one which operates by means of instruments, and another in which the producer of the appearance presents himself as the instrument.

Theae: How do you mean?

Str: I think that when someone uses his own body to produce a semblance of your features or makes his voice sound like yours, this aspect of creating appearances is best called mimicry.

Theae: Yes.

Str: Then let’s designate this as the mimetic, since that is the name we gave it. As for the other part, we should let it all go, indulge ourselves, and leave 267B it for someone else to bring it into unity and assign it some appropriate name.

Theae: Assign them like that, and bid the other farewell.

Str: And it is surely worth considering, Theaetetus, whether mimicry has a further twofold aspect, but you should consider why.

Theae: Tell me.

Str: Some perform mimicry knowing what they are imitating, whereas others do not know. And indeed, what greater distinction could we suggest than between knowledge and ignorance?

Theae: None at all.

Str: Didn’t we just describe[26] an imitation by those who have knowledge, since someone mimicking you would have to know you and your character?

Theae: He would have to. 267C

Str: What about the character of justice and of excellence in general? Don’t many people with no knowledge of excellence, who somehow form opinions about it, try their best to make it appear that they embody whatever they think that it is, mimicking it as best they can in word and in deed.

Theae: Yes, there are very many.

Str: Now, do they all fail in this endeavour to seem just when they are not in any way just, or do they actually succeed?

Theae: They succeed.

Str: 267D Then I think we should say that this mimic is different from the other one; the one without knowledge is different from the one with knowledge.

Theae: Yes.

Str: In that case, where shall we get a suitable name for each of them? Now obviously this is difficult because there was a traditional laxity and carelessness among our predecessors about the division of kinds based upon forms and, consequently, they did not try to make any division, and so there is, necessarily, a serious shortage of names. Nevertheless, though our words are more daring than theirs, for the purposes of distinction 267E let’s call mimicry based on opinion “opinionated mimicry” and that based upon knowledge a sort of “informed mimicry”.

Theae: So be it.

Str: Then we should resort to the other one, for the sophist was not included among people with knowledge, though he does have a place among mimics.

Theae: Very much so.

Str: Well, let’s test the opinionated mimic as if he was a piece of iron, and see whether he rings true or whether there is still a divide in it.

Theae: Let’s test him.

Str: And indeed, there is a major divide, for some of them 268A are simple-minded folk who think that they know whatever they have opinions about. However, the other sort have a strong suspicion and fear, born of constant involvement in discourse, that they are ignorant of matters about which they pretend to others that they are knowledgeable.

Theae: Yes, there certainly are the two kinds which you have described.

Str: Should we designate one mimic as sincere and the other as insincere?

Theae: Well that sounds reasonable.

Str: And again, shall we say that there is one kind of insincere mimicry or two?

Theae: You decide.

Str: 268B Very well, two kinds are becoming evident to me. I discern one who can be insincere in public, making long speeches to crowds, and another who does it privately and uses short exchanges to force his interlocutor to contradict himself.

Theae: Very accurately expressed.

Str: How should we view the more longwinded fellow? Is he either a statesman or a demagogue?

Theae: A demagogue.

Str: What shall we say about the other? Is he wise or is he a sophist?

Theae: I suppose that he cannot be wise, since we have proposed that he is a man who does 268C not know. However, as he is a mimic of the wise he will of course get a name derived from this, and I have started to realise now that he should, in truth, be described as that absolutely genuine sophist.

Str: In that case, shall we fit his name together as we did before, weaving it together from the last to the first.

Theae: Yes, certainly.

Str: It is the generation of contradictions, born of the insincere part of opinionated mimicry which belongs to the appearance-based form of image-making 268D derived from the part of productive activity which is defined as human rather than divine and works wonders in discourse. It seems we may declare, in very truth, that this is the actual blood and lineage[27] of the sophist.

Theae: Yes, certainly.


[1] 248C.

[2] See 243D-244B.

[3] See 249D.

[4] 237C.

[5] See 245E-246A.

[6] See 242C,D,E-243A.

[7] Eurycles was a soothsayer who, like a ventriloquist, had another voice within which urged him to speak of future events.

[8] See 255A.

[9] 251A-252C.

[10] See 244B-245D, 251A-253C.

[11] Contrast of “what is” (beauty) with “what is” (different).

[12] See 257C-E.

[13] 237A.

[14] See 238C.

[15] 234D.

[16] See 257C-258D.

[17] 241A.

[18] See 253A.

[19] See 259A.

[20] The Greek word is fantasia (fantasi/a), a noun which come from two verbs with similar meanings: to become visible, to appear. Fantasia is imagination in that it re-presents appearances or images derived from sense perception.

[21] See 235D.

[22] 253D-254A.

[23] 221C-224E.

[24] 234C.

[25] See 219B.

[26] See 267A.

[27] “blood and lineage”.  The quote is from Homer, Iliad 6.211.