Part 2 out of 3

opinions of his predecessors or traced the connexion of them in the same
manner. No one has equally raised the human mind above the trivialities of
the common logic and the unmeaningness of 'mere' abstractions, and above
imaginary possibilities, which, as he truly says, have no place in
philosophy. No one has won so much for the kingdom of ideas. Whatever may
be thought of his own system it will hardly be denied that he has
overthrown Locke, Kant, Hume, and the so-called philosophy of common sense.
He shows us that only by the study of metaphysics can we get rid of
metaphysics, and that those who are in theory most opposed to them are in
fact most entirely and hopelessly enslaved by them: 'Die reinen Physiker
sind nur die Thiere.' The disciple of Hegel will hardly become the slave
of any other system-maker. What Bacon seems to promise him he will find
realized in the great German thinker, an emancipation nearly complete from
the influences of the scholastic logic.

3. Many of those who are least disposed to become the votaries of
Hegelianism nevertheless recognize in his system a new logic supplying a
variety of instruments and methods hitherto unemployed. We may not be able
to agree with him in assimilating the natural order of human thought with
the history of philosophy, and still less in identifying both with the
divine idea or nature. But we may acknowledge that the great thinker has
thrown a light on many parts of human knowledge, and has solved many
difficulties. We cannot receive his doctrine of opposites as the last word
of philosophy, but still we may regard it as a very important contribution
to logic. We cannot affirm that words have no meaning when taken out of
their connexion in the history of thought. But we recognize that their
meaning is to a great extent due to association, and to their correlation
with one another. We see the advantage of viewing in the concrete what
mankind regard only in the abstract. There is much to be said for his
faith or conviction, that God is immanent in the world,--within the sphere
of the human mind, and not beyond it. It was natural that he himself, like
a prophet of old, should regard the philosophy which he had invented as the
voice of God in man. But this by no means implies that he conceived
himself as creating God in thought. He was the servant of his own ideas
and not the master of them. The philosophy of history and the history of
philosophy may be almost said to have been discovered by him. He has done
more to explain Greek thought than all other writers put together. Many
ideas of development, evolution, reciprocity, which have become the symbols
of another school of thinkers may be traced to his speculations. In the
theology and philosophy of England as well as of Germany, and also in the
lighter literature of both countries, there are always appearing 'fragments
of the great banquet' of Hegel.




Translated by Benjamin Jowett

Theodorus, Theaetetus, Socrates.
An Eleatic Stranger, whom Theodorus and Theaetetus bring with them.
The younger Socrates, who is a silent auditor.

THEODORUS: Here we are, Socrates, true to our agreement of yesterday; and
we bring with us a stranger from Elea, who is a disciple of Parmenides and
Zeno, and a true philosopher.

SOCRATES: Is he not rather a god, Theodorus, who comes to us in the
disguise of a stranger? For Homer says that all the gods, and especially
the god of strangers, are companions of the meek and just, and visit the
good and evil among men. And may not your companion be one of those higher
powers, a cross-examining deity, who has come to spy out our weakness in
argument, and to cross-examine us?

THEODORUS: Nay, Socrates, he is not one of the disputatious sort--he is
too good for that. And, in my opinion, he is not a god at all; but divine
he certainly is, for this is a title which I should give to all

SOCRATES: Capital, my friend! and I may add that they are almost as hard
to be discerned as the gods. For the true philosophers, and such as are
not merely made up for the occasion, appear in various forms unrecognized
by the ignorance of men, and they 'hover about cities,' as Homer declares,
looking from above upon human life; and some think nothing of them, and
others can never think enough; and sometimes they appear as statesmen, and
sometimes as sophists; and then, again, to many they seem to be no better
than madmen. I should like to ask our Eleatic friend, if he would tell us,
what is thought about them in Italy, and to whom the terms are applied.

THEODORUS: What terms?

SOCRATES: Sophist, statesman, philosopher.

THEODORUS: What is your difficulty about them, and what made you ask?

SOCRATES: I want to know whether by his countrymen they are regarded as
one or two; or do they, as the names are three, distinguish also three
kinds, and assign one to each name?

THEODORUS: I dare say that the Stranger will not object to discuss the
question. What do you say, Stranger?

STRANGER: I am far from objecting, Theodorus, nor have I any difficulty in
replying that by us they are regarded as three. But to define precisely
the nature of each of them is by no means a slight or easy task.

THEODORUS: You have happened to light, Socrates, almost on the very
question which we were asking our friend before we came hither, and he
excused himself to us, as he does now to you; although he admitted that the
matter had been fully discussed, and that he remembered the answer.

SOCRATES: Then do not, Stranger, deny us the first favour which we ask of
you: I am sure that you will not, and therefore I shall only beg of you to
say whether you like and are accustomed to make a long oration on a subject
which you want to explain to another, or to proceed by the method of
question and answer. I remember hearing a very noble discussion in which
Parmenides employed the latter of the two methods, when I was a young man,
and he was far advanced in years. (Compare Parm.)

STRANGER: I prefer to talk with another when he responds pleasantly, and
is light in hand; if not, I would rather have my own say.

SOCRATES: Any one of the present company will respond kindly to you, and
you can choose whom you like of them; I should recommend you to take a
young person--Theaetetus, for example--unless you have a preference for
some one else.

STRANGER: I feel ashamed, Socrates, being a new-comer into your society,
instead of talking a little and hearing others talk, to be spinning out a
long soliloquy or address, as if I wanted to show off. For the true answer
will certainly be a very long one, a great deal longer than might be
expected from such a short and simple question. At the same time, I fear
that I may seem rude and ungracious if I refuse your courteous request,
especially after what you have said. For I certainly cannot object to your
proposal, that Theaetetus should respond, having already conversed with him
myself, and being recommended by you to take him.

THEAETETUS: But are you sure, Stranger, that this will be quite so
acceptable to the rest of the company as Socrates imagines?

STRANGER: You hear them applauding, Theaetetus; after that, there is
nothing more to be said. Well then, I am to argue with you, and if you
tire of the argument, you may complain of your friends and not of me.

THEAETETUS: I do not think that I shall tire, and if I do, I shall get my
friend here, young Socrates, the namesake of the elder Socrates, to help;
he is about my own age, and my partner at the gymnasium, and is constantly
accustomed to work with me.

STRANGER: Very good; you can decide about that for yourself as we proceed.
Meanwhile you and I will begin together and enquire into the nature of the
Sophist, first of the three: I should like you to make out what he is and
bring him to light in a discussion; for at present we are only agreed about
the name, but of the thing to which we both apply the name possibly you
have one notion and I another; whereas we ought always to come to an
understanding about the thing itself in terms of a definition, and not
merely about the name minus the definition. Now the tribe of Sophists
which we are investigating is not easily caught or defined; and the world
has long ago agreed, that if great subjects are to be adequately treated,
they must be studied in the lesser and easier instances of them before we
proceed to the greatest of all. And as I know that the tribe of Sophists
is troublesome and hard to be caught, I should recommend that we practise
beforehand the method which is to be applied to him on some simple and
smaller thing, unless you can suggest a better way.

THEAETETUS: Indeed I cannot.

STRANGER: Then suppose that we work out some lesser example which will be
a pattern of the greater?


STRANGER: What is there which is well known and not great, and is yet as
susceptible of definition as any larger thing? Shall I say an angler? He
is familiar to all of us, and not a very interesting or important person.

THEAETETUS: He is not.

STRANGER: Yet I suspect that he will furnish us with the sort of
definition and line of enquiry which we want.

THEAETETUS: Very good.

STRANGER: Let us begin by asking whether he is a man having art or not
having art, but some other power.

THEAETETUS: He is clearly a man of art.

STRANGER: And of arts there are two kinds?

THEAETETUS: What are they?

STRANGER: There is agriculture, and the tending of mortal creatures, and
the art of constructing or moulding vessels, and there is the art of
imitation--all these may be appropriately called by a single name.

THEAETETUS: What do you mean? And what is the name?

STRANGER: He who brings into existence something that did not exist before
is said to be a producer, and that which is brought into existence is said
to be produced.


STRANGER: And all the arts which were just now mentioned are characterized
by this power of producing?


STRANGER: Then let us sum them up under the name of productive or creative

THEAETETUS: Very good.

STRANGER: Next follows the whole class of learning and cognition; then
comes trade, fighting, hunting. And since none of these produces anything,
but is only engaged in conquering by word or deed, or in preventing others
from conquering, things which exist and have been already produced--in each
and all of these branches there appears to be an art which may be called

THEAETETUS: Yes, that is the proper name.

STRANGER: Seeing, then, that all arts are either acquisitive or creative,
in which class shall we place the art of the angler?

THEAETETUS: Clearly in the acquisitive class.

STRANGER: And the acquisitive may be subdivided into two parts: there is
exchange, which is voluntary and is effected by gifts, hire, purchase; and
the other part of acquisitive, which takes by force of word or deed, may be
termed conquest?

THEAETETUS: That is implied in what has been said.

STRANGER: And may not conquest be again subdivided?


STRANGER: Open force may be called fighting, and secret force may have the
general name of hunting?


STRANGER: And there is no reason why the art of hunting should not be
further divided.

THEAETETUS: How would you make the division?

STRANGER: Into the hunting of living and of lifeless prey.

THEAETETUS: Yes, if both kinds exist.

STRANGER: Of course they exist; but the hunting after lifeless things
having no special name, except some sorts of diving, and other small
matters, may be omitted; the hunting after living things may be called
animal hunting.


STRANGER: And animal hunting may be truly said to have two divisions,
land-animal hunting, which has many kinds and names, and water-animal
hunting, or the hunting after animals who swim?


STRANGER: And of swimming animals, one class lives on the wing and the
other in the water?

THEAETETUS: Certainly.

STRANGER: Fowling is the general term under which the hunting of all birds
is included.


STRANGER: The hunting of animals who live in the water has the general
name of fishing.


STRANGER: And this sort of hunting may be further divided also into two
principal kinds?

THEAETETUS: What are they?

STRANGER: There is one kind which takes them in nets, another which takes
them by a blow.

THEAETETUS: What do you mean, and how do you distinguish them?

STRANGER: As to the first kind--all that surrounds and encloses anything
to prevent egress, may be rightly called an enclosure.

THEAETETUS: Very true.

STRANGER: For which reason twig baskets, casting-nets, nooses, creels, and
the like may all be termed 'enclosures'?


STRANGER: And therefore this first kind of capture may be called by us
capture with enclosures, or something of that sort?


STRANGER: The other kind, which is practised by a blow with hooks and
three-pronged spears, when summed up under one name, may be called
striking, unless you, Theaetetus, can find some better name?

THEAETETUS: Never mind the name--what you suggest will do very well.

STRANGER: There is one mode of striking, which is done at night, and by
the light of a fire, and is by the hunters themselves called firing, or
spearing by firelight.


STRANGER: And the fishing by day is called by the general name of barbing,
because the spears, too, are barbed at the point.

THEAETETUS: Yes, that is the term.

STRANGER: Of this barb-fishing, that which strikes the fish who is below
from above is called spearing, because this is the way in which the three-
pronged spears are mostly used.

THEAETETUS: Yes, it is often called so.

STRANGER: Then now there is only one kind remaining.

THEAETETUS: What is that?

STRANGER: When a hook is used, and the fish is not struck in any chance
part of his body, as he is with the spear, but only about the head and
mouth, and is then drawn out from below upwards with reeds and rods:--What
is the right name of that mode of fishing, Theaetetus?

THEAETETUS: I suspect that we have now discovered the object of our

STRANGER: Then now you and I have come to an understanding not only about
the name of the angler's art, but about the definition of the thing itself.
One half of all art was acquisitive--half of the acquisitive art was
conquest or taking by force, half of this was hunting, and half of hunting
was hunting animals, half of this was hunting water animals--of this again,
the under half was fishing, half of fishing was striking; a part of
striking was fishing with a barb, and one half of this again, being the
kind which strikes with a hook and draws the fish from below upwards, is
the art which we have been seeking, and which from the nature of the
operation is denoted angling or drawing up (aspalieutike, anaspasthai).

THEAETETUS: The result has been quite satisfactorily brought out.

STRANGER: And now, following this pattern, let us endeavour to find out
what a Sophist is.

THEAETETUS: By all means.

STRANGER: The first question about the angler was, whether he was a
skilled artist or unskilled?


STRANGER: And shall we call our new friend unskilled, or a thorough master
of his craft?

THEAETETUS: Certainly not unskilled, for his name, as, indeed, you imply,
must surely express his nature.

STRANGER: Then he must be supposed to have some art.


STRANGER: By heaven, they are cousins! it never occurred to us.

THEAETETUS: Who are cousins?

STRANGER: The angler and the Sophist.

THEAETETUS: In what way are they related?

STRANGER: They both appear to me to be hunters.

THEAETETUS: How the Sophist? Of the other we have spoken.

STRANGER: You remember our division of hunting, into hunting after
swimming animals and land animals?


STRANGER: And you remember that we subdivided the swimming and left the
land animals, saying that there were many kinds of them?

THEAETETUS: Certainly.

STRANGER: Thus far, then, the Sophist and the angler, starting from the
art of acquiring, take the same road?

THEAETETUS: So it would appear.

STRANGER: Their paths diverge when they reach the art of animal hunting;
the one going to the sea-shore, and to the rivers and to the lakes, and
angling for the animals which are in them.

THEAETETUS: Very true.

STRANGER: While the other goes to land and water of another sort--rivers
of wealth and broad meadow-lands of generous youth; and he also is
intending to take the animals which are in them.

THEAETETUS: What do you mean?

STRANGER: Of hunting on land there are two principal divisions.

THEAETETUS: What are they?

STRANGER: One is the hunting of tame, and the other of wild animals.

THEAETETUS: But are tame animals ever hunted?

STRANGER: Yes, if you include man under tame animals. But if you like you
may say that there are no tame animals, or that, if there are, man is not
among them; or you may say that man is a tame animal but is not hunted--you
shall decide which of these alternatives you prefer.

THEAETETUS: I should say, Stranger, that man is a tame animal, and I admit
that he is hunted.

STRANGER: Then let us divide the hunting of tame animals into two parts.

THEAETETUS: How shall we make the division?

STRANGER: Let us define piracy, man-stealing, tyranny, the whole military
art, by one name, as hunting with violence.

THEAETETUS: Very good.

STRANGER: But the art of the lawyer, of the popular orator, and the art of
conversation may be called in one word the art of persuasion.


STRANGER: And of persuasion, there may be said to be two kinds?

THEAETETUS: What are they?

STRANGER: One is private, and the other public.

THEAETETUS: Yes; each of them forms a class.

STRANGER: And of private hunting, one sort receives hire, and the other
brings gifts.

THEAETETUS: I do not understand you.

STRANGER: You seem never to have observed the manner in which lovers hunt.

THEAETETUS: To what do you refer?

STRANGER: I mean that they lavish gifts on those whom they hunt in
addition to other inducements.

THEAETETUS: Most true.

STRANGER: Let us admit this, then, to be the amatory art.

THEAETETUS: Certainly.

STRANGER: But that sort of hireling whose conversation is pleasing and who
baits his hook only with pleasure and exacts nothing but his maintenance in
return, we should all, if I am not mistaken, describe as possessing
flattery or an art of making things pleasant.

THEAETETUS: Certainly.

STRANGER: And that sort, which professes to form acquaintances only for
the sake of virtue, and demands a reward in the shape of money, may be
fairly called by another name?

THEAETETUS: To be sure.

STRANGER: And what is the name? Will you tell me?

THEAETETUS: It is obvious enough; for I believe that we have discovered
the Sophist: which is, as I conceive, the proper name for the class

STRANGER: Then now, Theaetetus, his art may be traced as a branch of the
appropriative, acquisitive family--which hunts animals,--living--land--tame
animals; which hunts man,--privately--for hire,--taking money in exchange--
having the semblance of education; and this is termed Sophistry, and is a
hunt after young men of wealth and rank--such is the conclusion.


STRANGER: Let us take another branch of his genealogy; for he is a
professor of a great and many-sided art; and if we look back at what has
preceded we see that he presents another aspect, besides that of which we
are speaking.

THEAETETUS: In what respect?

STRANGER: There were two sorts of acquisitive art; the one concerned with
hunting, the other with exchange.

THEAETETUS: There were.

STRANGER: And of the art of exchange there are two divisions, the one of
giving, and the other of selling.

THEAETETUS: Let us assume that.

STRANGER: Next, we will suppose the art of selling to be divided into two


STRANGER: There is one part which is distinguished as the sale of a man's
own productions; another, which is the exchange of the works of others.

THEAETETUS: Certainly.

STRANGER: And is not that part of exchange which takes place in the city,
being about half of the whole, termed retailing?


STRANGER: And that which exchanges the goods of one city for those of
another by selling and buying is the exchange of the merchant?

THEAETETUS: To be sure.

STRANGER: And you are aware that this exchange of the merchant is of two
kinds: it is partly concerned with food for the use of the body, and
partly with the food of the soul which is bartered and received in exchange
for money.

THEAETETUS: What do you mean?

STRANGER: You want to know what is the meaning of food for the soul; the
other kind you surely understand.


STRANGER: Take music in general and painting and marionette playing and
many other things, which are purchased in one city, and carried away and
sold in another--wares of the soul which are hawked about either for the
sake of instruction or amusement;--may not he who takes them about and
sells them be quite as truly called a merchant as he who sells meats and

THEAETETUS: To be sure he may.

STRANGER: And would you not call by the same name him who buys up
knowledge and goes about from city to city exchanging his wares for money?

THEAETETUS: Certainly I should.

STRANGER: Of this merchandise of the soul, may not one part be fairly
termed the art of display? And there is another part which is certainly
not less ridiculous, but being a trade in learning must be called by some
name germane to the matter?

THEAETETUS: Certainly.

STRANGER: The latter should have two names,--one descriptive of the sale
of the knowledge of virtue, and the other of the sale of other kinds of

THEAETETUS: Of course.

STRANGER: The name of art-seller corresponds well enough to the latter;
but you must try and tell me the name of the other.

THEAETETUS: He must be the Sophist, whom we are seeking; no other name can
possibly be right.

STRANGER: No other; and so this trader in virtue again turns out to be our
friend the Sophist, whose art may now be traced from the art of acquisition
through exchange, trade, merchandise, to a merchandise of the soul which is
concerned with speech and the knowledge of virtue.

THEAETETUS: Quite true.

STRANGER: And there may be a third reappearance of him;--for he may have
settled down in a city, and may fabricate as well as buy these same wares,
intending to live by selling them, and he would still be called a Sophist?

THEAETETUS: Certainly.

STRANGER: Then that part of the acquisitive art which exchanges, and of
exchange which either sells a man's own productions or retails those of
others, as the case may be, and in either way sells the knowledge of
virtue, you would again term Sophistry?

THEAETETUS: I must, if I am to keep pace with the argument.

STRANGER: Let us consider once more whether there may not be yet another
aspect of sophistry.

THEAETETUS: What is it?

STRANGER: In the acquisitive there was a subdivision of the combative or
fighting art.

THEAETETUS: There was.

STRANGER: Perhaps we had better divide it.

THEAETETUS: What shall be the divisions?

STRANGER: There shall be one division of the competitive, and another of
the pugnacious.

THEAETETUS: Very good.

STRANGER: That part of the pugnacious which is a contest of bodily
strength may be properly called by some such name as violent.


STRANGER: And when the war is one of words, it may be termed controversy?


STRANGER: And controversy may be of two kinds.

THEAETETUS: What are they?

STRANGER: When long speeches are answered by long speeches, and there is
public discussion about the just and unjust, that is forensic controversy.


STRANGER: And there is a private sort of controversy, which is cut up into
questions and answers, and this is commonly called disputation?

THEAETETUS: Yes, that is the name.

STRANGER: And of disputation, that sort which is only a discussion about
contracts, and is carried on at random, and without rules of art, is
recognized by the reasoning faculty to be a distinct class, but has
hitherto had no distinctive name, and does not deserve to receive one from

THEAETETUS: No; for the different sorts of it are too minute and

STRANGER: But that which proceeds by rules of art to dispute about justice
and injustice in their own nature, and about things in general, we have
been accustomed to call argumentation (Eristic)?

THEAETETUS: Certainly.

STRANGER: And of argumentation, one sort wastes money, and the other makes

THEAETETUS: Very true.

STRANGER: Suppose we try and give to each of these two classes a name.

THEAETETUS: Let us do so.

STRANGER: I should say that the habit which leads a man to neglect his own
affairs for the pleasure of conversation, of which the style is far from
being agreeable to the majority of his hearers, may be fairly termed
loquacity: such is my opinion.

THEAETETUS: That is the common name for it.

STRANGER: But now who the other is, who makes money out of private
disputation, it is your turn to say.

THEAETETUS: There is only one true answer: he is the wonderful Sophist,
of whom we are in pursuit, and who reappears again for the fourth time.

STRANGER: Yes, and with a fresh pedigree, for he is the money-making
species of the Eristic, disputatious, controversial, pugnacious, combative,
acquisitive family, as the argument has already proven.

THEAETETUS: Certainly.

STRANGER: How true was the observation that he was a many-sided animal,
and not to be caught with one hand, as they say!

THEAETETUS: Then you must catch him with two.

STRANGER: Yes, we must, if we can. And therefore let us try another track
in our pursuit of him: You are aware that there are certain menial
occupations which have names among servants?

THEAETETUS: Yes, there are many such; which of them do you mean?

STRANGER: I mean such as sifting, straining, winnowing, threshing.

THEAETETUS: Certainly.

STRANGER: And besides these there are a great many more, such as carding,
spinning, adjusting the warp and the woof; and thousands of similar
expressions are used in the arts.

THEAETETUS: Of what are they to be patterns, and what are we going to do
with them all?

STRANGER: I think that in all of these there is implied a notion of


STRANGER: Then if, as I was saying, there is one art which includes all of
them, ought not that art to have one name?

THEAETETUS: And what is the name of the art?

STRANGER: The art of discerning or discriminating.

THEAETETUS: Very good.

STRANGER: Think whether you cannot divide this.

THEAETETUS: I should have to think a long while.

STRANGER: In all the previously named processes either like has been
separated from like or the better from the worse.

THEAETETUS: I see now what you mean.

STRANGER: There is no name for the first kind of separation; of the
second, which throws away the worse and preserves the better, I do know a

THEAETETUS: What is it?

STRANGER: Every discernment or discrimination of that kind, as I have
observed, is called a purification.

THEAETETUS: Yes, that is the usual expression.

STRANGER: And any one may see that purification is of two kinds.

THEAETETUS: Perhaps so, if he were allowed time to think; but I do not see
at this moment.

STRANGER: There are many purifications of bodies which may with propriety
be comprehended under a single name.

THEAETETUS: What are they, and what is their name?

STRANGER: There is the purification of living bodies in their inward and
in their outward parts, of which the former is duly effected by medicine
and gymnastic, the latter by the not very dignified art of the bath-man;
and there is the purification of inanimate substances--to this the arts of
fulling and of furbishing in general attend in a number of minute
particulars, having a variety of names which are thought ridiculous.

THEAETETUS: Very true.

STRANGER: There can be no doubt that they are thought ridiculous,
Theaetetus; but then the dialectical art never considers whether the
benefit to be derived from the purge is greater or less than that to be
derived from the sponge, and has not more interest in the one than in the
other; her endeavour is to know what is and is not kindred in all arts,
with a view to the acquisition of intelligence; and having this in view,
she honours them all alike, and when she makes comparisons, she counts one
of them not a whit more ridiculous than another; nor does she esteem him
who adduces as his example of hunting, the general's art, at all more
decorous than another who cites that of the vermin-destroyer, but only as
the greater pretender of the two. And as to your question concerning the
name which was to comprehend all these arts of purification, whether of
animate or inanimate bodies, the art of dialectic is in no wise particular
about fine words, if she may be only allowed to have a general name for all
other purifications, binding them up together and separating them off from
the purification of the soul or intellect. For this is the purification at
which she wants to arrive, and this we should understand to be her aim.

THEAETETUS: Yes, I understand; and I agree that there are two sorts of
purification, and that one of them is concerned with the soul, and that
there is another which is concerned with the body.

STRANGER: Excellent; and now listen to what I am going to say, and try to
divide further the first of the two.

THEAETETUS: Whatever line of division you suggest, I will endeavour to
assist you.

STRANGER: Do we admit that virtue is distinct from vice in the soul?

THEAETETUS: Certainly.

STRANGER: And purification was to leave the good and to cast out whatever
is bad?


STRANGER: Then any taking away of evil from the soul may be properly
called purification?


STRANGER: And in the soul there are two kinds of evil.

THEAETETUS: What are they?

STRANGER: The one may be compared to disease in the body, the other to

THEAETETUS: I do not understand.

STRANGER: Perhaps you have never reflected that disease and discord are
the same.

THEAETETUS: To this, again, I know not what I should reply.

STRANGER: Do you not conceive discord to be a dissolution of kindred
elements, originating in some disagreement?

THEAETETUS: Just that.

STRANGER: And is deformity anything but the want of measure, which is
always unsightly?


STRANGER: And do we not see that opinion is opposed to desire, pleasure to
anger, reason to pain, and that all these elements are opposed to one
another in the souls of bad men?

THEAETETUS: Certainly.

STRANGER: And yet they must all be akin?

THEAETETUS: Of course.

STRANGER: Then we shall be right in calling vice a discord and disease of
the soul?

THEAETETUS: Most true.

STRANGER: And when things having motion, and aiming at an appointed mark,
continually miss their aim and glance aside, shall we say that this is the
effect of symmetry among them, or of the want of symmetry?

THEAETETUS: Clearly of the want of symmetry.

STRANGER: But surely we know that no soul is voluntarily ignorant of

THEAETETUS: Certainly not.

STRANGER: And what is ignorance but the aberration of a mind which is bent
on truth, and in which the process of understanding is perverted?


STRANGER: Then we are to regard an unintelligent soul as deformed and
devoid of symmetry?

THEAETETUS: Very true.

STRANGER: Then there are these two kinds of evil in the soul--the one
which is generally called vice, and is obviously a disease of the soul...


STRANGER: And there is the other, which they call ignorance, and which,
because existing only in the soul, they will not allow to be vice.

THEAETETUS: I certainly admit what I at first disputed--that there are two
kinds of vice in the soul, and that we ought to consider cowardice,
intemperance, and injustice to be alike forms of disease in the soul, and
ignorance, of which there are all sorts of varieties, to be deformity.

STRANGER: And in the case of the body are there not two arts which have to
do with the two bodily states?

THEAETETUS: What are they?

STRANGER: There is gymnastic, which has to do with deformity, and
medicine, which has to do with disease.


STRANGER: And where there is insolence and injustice and cowardice, is not
chastisement the art which is most required?

THEAETETUS: That certainly appears to be the opinion of mankind.

STRANGER: Again, of the various kinds of ignorance, may not instruction be
rightly said to be the remedy?


STRANGER: And of the art of instruction, shall we say that there is one or
many kinds? At any rate there are two principal ones. Think.


STRANGER: I believe that I can see how we shall soonest arrive at the
answer to this question.


STRANGER: If we can discover a line which divides ignorance into two
halves. For a division of ignorance into two parts will certainly imply
that the art of instruction is also twofold, answering to the two divisions
of ignorance.

THEAETETUS: Well, and do you see what you are looking for?

STRANGER: I do seem to myself to see one very large and bad sort of
ignorance which is quite separate, and may be weighed in the scale against
all other sorts of ignorance put together.

THEAETETUS: What is it?

STRANGER: When a person supposes that he knows, and does not know; this
appears to be the great source of all the errors of the intellect.


STRANGER: And this, if I am not mistaken, is the kind of ignorance which
specially earns the title of stupidity.


STRANGER: What name, then, shall be given to the sort of instruction which
gets rid of this?

THEAETETUS: The instruction which you mean, Stranger, is, I should
imagine, not the teaching of handicraft arts, but what, thanks to us, has
been termed education in this part the world.

STRANGER: Yes, Theaetetus, and by nearly all Hellenes. But we have still
to consider whether education admits of any further division.


STRANGER: I think that there is a point at which such a division is


STRANGER: Of education, one method appears to be rougher, and another

THEAETETUS: How are we to distinguish the two?

STRANGER: There is the time-honoured mode which our fathers commonly
practised towards their sons, and which is still adopted by many--either of
roughly reproving their errors, or of gently advising them; which varieties
may be correctly included under the general term of admonition.


STRANGER: But whereas some appear to have arrived at the conclusion that
all ignorance is involuntary, and that no one who thinks himself wise is
willing to learn any of those things in which he is conscious of his own
cleverness, and that the admonitory sort of instruction gives much trouble
and does little good--

THEAETETUS: There they are quite right.

STRANGER: Accordingly, they set to work to eradicate the spirit of conceit
in another way.

THEAETETUS: In what way?

STRANGER: They cross-examine a man's words, when he thinks that he is
saying something and is really saying nothing, and easily convict him of
inconsistencies in his opinions; these they then collect by the dialectical
process, and placing them side by side, show that they contradict one
another about the same things, in relation to the same things, and in the
same respect. He, seeing this, is angry with himself, and grows gentle
towards others, and thus is entirely delivered from great prejudices and
harsh notions, in a way which is most amusing to the hearer, and produces
the most lasting good effect on the person who is the subject of the
operation. For as the physician considers that the body will receive no
benefit from taking food until the internal obstacles have been removed, so
the purifier of the soul is conscious that his patient will receive no
benefit from the application of knowledge until he is refuted, and from
refutation learns modesty; he must be purged of his prejudices first and
made to think that he knows only what he knows, and no more.

THEAETETUS: That is certainly the best and wisest state of mind.

STRANGER: For all these reasons, Theaetetus, we must admit that refutation
is the greatest and chiefest of purifications, and he who has not been
refuted, though he be the Great King himself, is in an awful state of
impurity; he is uninstructed and deformed in those things in which he who
would be truly blessed ought to be fairest and purest.

THEAETETUS: Very true.

STRANGER: And who are the ministers of this art? I am afraid to say the


STRANGER: Lest we should assign to them too high a prerogative.

THEAETETUS: Yet the Sophist has a certain likeness to our minister of

STRANGER: Yes, the same sort of likeness which a wolf, who is the fiercest
of animals, has to a dog, who is the gentlest. But he who would not be
found tripping, ought to be very careful in this matter of comparisons, for
they are most slippery things. Nevertheless, let us assume that the
Sophists are the men. I say this provisionally, for I think that the line
which divides them will be marked enough if proper care is taken.

THEAETETUS: Likely enough.

STRANGER: Let us grant, then, that from the discerning art comes
purification, and from purification let there be separated off a part which
is concerned with the soul; of this mental purification instruction is a
portion, and of instruction education, and of education, that refutation of
vain conceit which has been discovered in the present argument; and let
this be called by you and me the nobly-descended art of Sophistry.

THEAETETUS: Very well; and yet, considering the number of forms in which
he has presented himself, I begin to doubt how I can with any truth or
confidence describe the real nature of the Sophist.

STRANGER: You naturally feel perplexed; and yet I think that he must be
still more perplexed in his attempt to escape us, for as the proverb says,
when every way is blocked, there is no escape; now, then, is the time of
all others to set upon him.


STRANGER: First let us wait a moment and recover breath, and while we are
resting, we may reckon up in how many forms he has appeared. In the first
place, he was discovered to be a paid hunter after wealth and youth.


STRANGER: In the second place, he was a merchant in the goods of the soul.

THEAETETUS: Certainly.

STRANGER: In the third place, he has turned out to be a retailer of the
same sort of wares.

THEAETETUS: Yes; and in the fourth place, he himself manufactured the
learned wares which he sold.

STRANGER: Quite right; I will try and remember the fifth myself. He
belonged to the fighting class, and was further distinguished as a hero of
debate, who professed the eristic art.


STRANGER: The sixth point was doubtful, and yet we at last agreed that he
was a purger of souls, who cleared away notions obstructive to knowledge.

THEAETETUS: Very true.

STRANGER: Do you not see that when the professor of any art has one name
and many kinds of knowledge, there must be something wrong? The
multiplicity of names which is applied to him shows that the common
principle to which all these branches of knowledge are tending, is not

THEAETETUS: I should imagine this to be the case.

STRANGER: At any rate we will understand him, and no indolence shall
prevent us. Let us begin again, then, and re-examine some of our
statements concerning the Sophist; there was one thing which appeared to me
especially characteristic of him.

THEAETETUS: To what are you referring?

STRANGER: We were saying of him, if I am not mistaken, that he was a


STRANGER: And does he not also teach others the art of disputation?

THEAETETUS: Certainly he does.

STRANGER: And about what does he profess that he teaches men to dispute?
To begin at the beginning--Does he make them able to dispute about divine
things, which are invisible to men in general?

THEAETETUS: At any rate, he is said to do so.

STRANGER: And what do you say of the visible things in heaven and earth,
and the like?

THEAETETUS: Certainly he disputes, and teaches to dispute about them.

STRANGER: Then, again, in private conversation, when any universal
assertion is made about generation and essence, we know that such persons
are tremendous argufiers, and are able to impart their own skill to others.

THEAETETUS: Undoubtedly.

STRANGER: And do they not profess to make men able to dispute about law
and about politics in general?

THEAETETUS: Why, no one would have anything to say to them, if they did
not make these professions.

STRANGER: In all and every art, what the craftsman ought to say in answer
to any question is written down in a popular form, and he who likes may

THEAETETUS: I suppose that you are referring to the precepts of Protagoras
about wrestling and the other arts?

STRANGER: Yes, my friend, and about a good many other things. In a word,
is not the art of disputation a power of disputing about all things?

THEAETETUS: Certainly; there does not seem to be much which is left out.

STRANGER: But oh! my dear youth, do you suppose this possible? for perhaps
your young eyes may see things which to our duller sight do not appear.

THEAETETUS: To what are you alluding? I do not think that I understand
your present question.

STRANGER: I ask whether anybody can understand all things.

THEAETETUS: Happy would mankind be if such a thing were possible!

SOCRATES: But how can any one who is ignorant dispute in a rational manner
against him who knows?

THEAETETUS: He cannot.

STRANGER: Then why has the sophistical art such a mysterious power?

THEAETETUS: To what do you refer?

STRANGER: How do the Sophists make young men believe in their supreme and
universal wisdom? For if they neither disputed nor were thought to dispute
rightly, or being thought to do so were deemed no wiser for their
controversial skill, then, to quote your own observation, no one would give
them money or be willing to learn their art.

THEAETETUS: They certainly would not.

STRANGER: But they are willing.

THEAETETUS: Yes, they are.

STRANGER: Yes, and the reason, as I should imagine, is that they are
supposed to have knowledge of those things about which they dispute?

THEAETETUS: Certainly.

STRANGER: And they dispute about all things?


STRANGER: And therefore, to their disciples, they appear to be all-wise?

THEAETETUS: Certainly.

STRANGER: But they are not; for that was shown to be impossible.

THEAETETUS: Impossible, of course.

STRANGER: Then the Sophist has been shown to have a sort of conjectural or
apparent knowledge only of all things, which is not the truth?

THEAETETUS: Exactly; no better description of him could be given.

STRANGER: Let us now take an illustration, which will still more clearly
explain his nature.

THEAETETUS: What is it?

STRANGER: I will tell you, and you shall answer me, giving your very
closest attention. Suppose that a person were to profess, not that he
could speak or dispute, but that he knew how to make and do all things, by
a single art.

THEAETETUS: All things?

STRANGER: I see that you do not understand the first word that I utter,
for you do not understand the meaning of 'all.'

THEAETETUS: No, I do not.

STRANGER: Under all things, I include you and me, and also animals and

THEAETETUS: What do you mean?

STRANGER: Suppose a person to say that he will make you and me, and all

THEAETETUS: What would he mean by 'making'? He cannot be a husbandman;--
for you said that he is a maker of animals.

STRANGER: Yes; and I say that he is also the maker of the sea, and the
earth, and the heavens, and the gods, and of all other things; and,
further, that he can make them in no time, and sell them for a few pence.

THEAETETUS: That must be a jest.

STRANGER: And when a man says that he knows all things, and can teach them
to another at a small cost, and in a short time, is not that a jest?

THEAETETUS: Certainly.

STRANGER: And is there any more artistic or graceful form of jest than

THEAETETUS: Certainly not; and imitation is a very comprehensive term,
which includes under one class the most diverse sorts of things.

STRANGER: We know, of course, that he who professes by one art to make all
things is really a painter, and by the painter's art makes resemblances of
real things which have the same name with them; and he can deceive the less
intelligent sort of young children, to whom he shows his pictures at a
distance, into the belief that he has the absolute power of making whatever
he likes.

THEAETETUS: Certainly.

STRANGER: And may there not be supposed to be an imitative art of
reasoning? Is it not possible to enchant the hearts of young men by words
poured through their ears, when they are still at a distance from the truth
of facts, by exhibiting to them fictitious arguments, and making them think
that they are true, and that the speaker is the wisest of men in all

THEAETETUS: Yes; why should there not be another such art?

STRANGER: But as time goes on, and their hearers advance in years, and
come into closer contact with realities, and have learnt by sad experience
to see and feel the truth of things, are not the greater part of them
compelled to change many opinions which they formerly entertained, so that
the great appears small to them, and the easy difficult, and all their
dreamy speculations are overturned by the facts of life?

THEAETETUS: That is my view, as far as I can judge, although, at my age, I
may be one of those who see things at a distance only.

STRANGER: And the wish of all of us, who are your friends, is and always
will be to bring you as near to the truth as we can without the sad
reality. And now I should like you to tell me, whether the Sophist is not
visibly a magician and imitator of true being; or are we still disposed to
think that he may have a true knowledge of the various matters about which
he disputes?

THEAETETUS: But how can he, Stranger? Is there any doubt, after what has
been said, that he is to be located in one of the divisions of children's

STRANGER: Then we must place him in the class of magicians and mimics.

THEAETETUS: Certainly we must.

STRANGER: And now our business is not to let the animal out, for we have
got him in a sort of dialectical net, and there is one thing which he
decidedly will not escape.

THEAETETUS: What is that?

STRANGER: The inference that he is a juggler.

THEAETETUS: Precisely my own opinion of him.

STRANGER: Then, clearly, we ought as soon as possible to divide the image-
making art, and go down into the net, and, if the Sophist does not run away
from us, to seize him according to orders and deliver him over to reason,
who is the lord of the hunt, and proclaim the capture of him; and if he
creeps into the recesses of the imitative art, and secretes himself in one
of them, to divide again and follow him up until in some sub-section of
imitation he is caught. For our method of tackling each and all is one
which neither he nor any other creature will ever escape in triumph.

THEAETETUS: Well said; and let us do as you propose.

STRANGER: Well, then, pursuing the same analytic method as before, I think
that I can discern two divisions of the imitative art, but I am not as yet
able to see in which of them the desired form is to be found.

THEAETETUS: Will you tell me first what are the two divisions of which you
are speaking?

STRANGER: One is the art of likeness-making;--generally a likeness of
anything is made by producing a copy which is executed according to the
proportions of the original, similar in length and breadth and depth, each
thing receiving also its appropriate colour.

THEAETETUS: Is not this always the aim of imitation?

STRANGER: Not always; in works either of sculpture or of painting, which
are of any magnitude, there is a certain degree of deception; for artists
were to give the true proportions of their fair works, the upper part,
which is farther off, would appear to be out of proportion in comparison
with the lower, which is nearer; and so they give up the truth in their
images and make only the proportions which appear to be beautiful,
disregarding the real ones.

THEAETETUS: Quite true.

STRANGER: And that which being other is also like, may we not fairly call
a likeness or image?


STRANGER: And may we not, as I did just now, call that part of the
imitative art which is concerned with making such images the art of

THEAETETUS: Let that be the name.

STRANGER: And what shall we call those resemblances of the beautiful,
which appear such owing to the unfavourable position of the spectator,
whereas if a person had the power of getting a correct view of works of
such magnitude, they would appear not even like that to which they profess
to be like? May we not call these 'appearances,' since they appear only
and are not really like?

THEAETETUS: Certainly.

STRANGER: There is a great deal of this kind of thing in painting, and in
all imitation.

THEAETETUS: Of course.

STRANGER: And may we not fairly call the sort of art, which produces an
appearance and not an image, phantastic art?

THEAETETUS: Most fairly.

STRANGER: These then are the two kinds of image-making--the art of making
likenesses, and phantastic or the art of making appearances?


STRANGER: I was doubtful before in which of them I should place the
Sophist, nor am I even now able to see clearly; verily he is a wonderful
and inscrutable creature. And now in the cleverest manner he has got into
an impossible place.

THEAETETUS: Yes, he has.

STRANGER: Do you speak advisedly, or are you carried away at the moment by
the habit of assenting into giving a hasty answer?

THEAETETUS: May I ask to what you are referring?

STRANGER: My dear friend, we are engaged in a very difficult speculation--
there can be no doubt of that; for how a thing can appear and seem, and not
be, or how a man can say a thing which is not true, has always been and
still remains a very perplexing question. Can any one say or think that
falsehood really exists, and avoid being caught in a contradiction?
Indeed, Theaetetus, the task is a difficult one.


STRANGER: He who says that falsehood exists has the audacity to assert the
being of not-being; for this is implied in the possibility of falsehood.
But, my boy, in the days when I was a boy, the great Parmenides protested
against this doctrine, and to the end of his life he continued to inculcate
the same lesson--always repeating both in verse and out of verse:

'Keep your mind from this way of enquiry, for never will you show that not-
being is.'

Such is his testimony, which is confirmed by the very expression when
sifted a little. Would you object to begin with the consideration of the
words themselves?

THEAETETUS: Never mind about me; I am only desirous that you should carry
on the argument in the best way, and that you should take me with you.

STRANGER: Very good; and now say, do we venture to utter the forbidden
word 'not-being'?

THEAETETUS: Certainly we do.

STRANGER: Let us be serious then, and consider the question neither in
strife nor play: suppose that one of the hearers of Parmenides was asked,
'To what is the term "not-being" to be applied?'--do you know what sort of
object he would single out in reply, and what answer he would make to the

THEAETETUS: That is a difficult question, and one not to be answered at
all by a person like myself.

STRANGER: There is at any rate no difficulty in seeing that the predicate
'not-being' is not applicable to any being.

THEAETETUS: None, certainly.

STRANGER: And if not to being, then not to something.

THEAETETUS: Of course not.

STRANGER: It is also plain, that in speaking of something we speak of
being, for to speak of an abstract something naked and isolated from all
being is impossible.

THEAETETUS: Impossible.

STRANGER: You mean by assenting to imply that he who says something must
say some one thing?


STRANGER: Some in the singular (ti) you would say is the sign of one, some
in the dual (tine) of two, some in the plural (tines) of many?


STRANGER: Then he who says 'not something' must say absolutely nothing.

THEAETETUS: Most assuredly.

STRANGER: And as we cannot admit that a man speaks and says nothing, he
who says 'not-being' does not speak at all.

THEAETETUS: The difficulty of the argument can no further go.

STRANGER: Not yet, my friend, is the time for such a word; for there still
remains of all perplexities the first and greatest, touching the very
foundation of the matter.

THEAETETUS: What do you mean? Do not be afraid to speak.

STRANGER: To that which is, may be attributed some other thing which is?

THEAETETUS: Certainly.

STRANGER: But can anything which is, be attributed to that which is not?

THEAETETUS: Impossible.

STRANGER: And all number is to be reckoned among things which are?

THEAETETUS: Yes, surely number, if anything, has a real existence.

STRANGER: Then we must not attempt to attribute to not-being number either
in the singular or plural?

THEAETETUS: The argument implies that we should be wrong in doing so.

STRANGER: But how can a man either express in words or even conceive in
thought things which are not or a thing which is not without number?

THEAETETUS: How indeed?

STRANGER: When we speak of things which are not, are we not attributing
plurality to not-being?

THEAETETUS: Certainly.

STRANGER: But, on the other hand, when we say 'what is not,' do we not
attribute unity?

THEAETETUS: Manifestly.

STRANGER: Nevertheless, we maintain that you may not and ought not to
attribute being to not-being?

THEAETETUS: Most true.

STRANGER: Do you see, then, that not-being in itself can neither be
spoken, uttered, or thought, but that it is unthinkable, unutterable,
unspeakable, indescribable?

THEAETETUS: Quite true.

STRANGER: But, if so, I was wrong in telling you just now that the
difficulty which was coming is the greatest of all.

THEAETETUS: What! is there a greater still behind?

STRANGER: Well, I am surprised, after what has been said already, that you
do not see the difficulty in which he who would refute the notion of not-
being is involved. For he is compelled to contradict himself as soon as he
makes the attempt.

THEAETETUS: What do you mean? Speak more clearly.

STRANGER: Do not expect clearness from me. For I, who maintain that not-
being has no part either in the one or many, just now spoke and am still
speaking of not-being as one; for I say 'not-being.' Do you understand?


STRANGER: And a little while ago I said that not-being is unutterable,
unspeakable, indescribable: do you follow?

THEAETETUS: I do after a fashion.

STRANGER: When I introduced the word 'is,' did I not contradict what I
said before?


STRANGER: And in using the singular verb, did I not speak of not-being as


STRANGER: And when I spoke of not-being as indescribable and unspeakable
and unutterable, in using each of these words in the singular, did I not
refer to not-being as one?

THEAETETUS: Certainly.

STRANGER: And yet we say that, strictly speaking, it should not be defined
as one or many, and should not even be called 'it,' for the use of the word
'it' would imply a form of unity.

THEAETETUS: Quite true.

STRANGER: How, then, can any one put any faith in me? For now, as always,
I am unequal to the refutation of not-being. And therefore, as I was
saying, do not look to me for the right way of speaking about not-being;
but come, let us try the experiment with you.

THEAETETUS: What do you mean?

STRANGER: Make a noble effort, as becomes youth, and endeavour with all
your might to speak of not-being in a right manner, without introducing
into it either existence or unity or plurality.

THEAETETUS: It would be a strange boldness in me which would attempt the
task when I see you thus discomfited.

STRANGER: Say no more of ourselves; but until we find some one or other
who can speak of not-being without number, we must acknowledge that the
Sophist is a clever rogue who will not be got out of his hole.

THEAETETUS: Most true.

STRANGER: And if we say to him that he professes an art of making
appearances, he will grapple with us and retort our argument upon
ourselves; and when we call him an image-maker he will say, 'Pray what do
you mean at all by an image?'--and I should like to know, Theaetetus, how
we can possibly answer the younker's question?

THEAETETUS: We shall doubtless tell him of the images which are reflected
in water or in mirrors; also of sculptures, pictures, and other duplicates.

STRANGER: I see, Theaetetus, that you have never made the acquaintance of
the Sophist.

THEAETETUS: Why do you think so?

STRANGER: He will make believe to have his eyes shut, or to have none.

THEAETETUS: What do you mean?

STRANGER: When you tell him of something existing in a mirror, or in
sculpture, and address him as though he had eyes, he will laugh you to
scorn, and will pretend that he knows nothing of mirrors and streams, or of
sight at all; he will say that he is asking about an idea.

THEAETETUS: What can he mean?

STRANGER: The common notion pervading all these objects, which you speak
of as many, and yet call by the single name of image, as though it were the
unity under which they were all included. How will you maintain your
ground against him?

THEAETETUS: How, Stranger, can I describe an image except as something
fashioned in the likeness of the true?

STRANGER: And do you mean this something to be some other true thing, or
what do you mean?

THEAETETUS: Certainly not another true thing, but only a resemblance.

STRANGER: And you mean by true that which really is?


STRANGER: And the not true is that which is the opposite of the true?


STRANGER: A resemblance, then, is not really real, if, as you say, not

THEAETETUS: Nay, but it is in a certain sense.

STRANGER: You mean to say, not in a true sense?

THEAETETUS: Yes; it is in reality only an image.

STRANGER: Then what we call an image is in reality really unreal.

THEAETETUS: In what a strange complication of being and not-being we are

STRANGER: Strange! I should think so. See how, by his reciprocation of
opposites, the many-headed Sophist has compelled us, quite against our
will, to admit the existence of not-being.

THEAETETUS: Yes, indeed, I see.

STRANGER: The difficulty is how to define his art without falling into a

THEAETETUS: How do you mean? And where does the danger lie?

STRANGER: When we say that he deceives us with an illusion, and that his
art is illusory, do we mean that our soul is led by his art to think
falsely, or what do we mean?

THEAETETUS: There is nothing else to be said.

STRANGER: Again, false opinion is that form of opinion which thinks the
opposite of the truth:--You would assent?

THEAETETUS: Certainly.

STRANGER: You mean to say that false opinion thinks what is not?

THEAETETUS: Of course.

STRANGER: Does false opinion think that things which are not are not, or
that in a certain sense they are?

THEAETETUS: Things that are not must be imagined to exist in a certain
sense, if any degree of falsehood is to be possible.

STRANGER: And does not false opinion also think that things which most
certainly exist do not exist at all?


STRANGER: And here, again, is falsehood?

THEAETETUS: Falsehood--yes.

STRANGER: And in like manner, a false proposition will be deemed to be one
which asserts the non-existence of things which are, and the existence of
things which are not.

THEAETETUS: There is no other way in which a false proposition can arise.

STRANGER: There is not; but the Sophist will deny these statements. And
indeed how can any rational man assent to them, when the very expressions
which we have just used were before acknowledged by us to be unutterable,
unspeakable, indescribable, unthinkable? Do you see his point, Theaetetus?

THEAETETUS: Of course he will say that we are contradicting ourselves when
we hazard the assertion, that falsehood exists in opinion and in words; for
in maintaining this, we are compelled over and over again to assert being
of not-being, which we admitted just now to be an utter impossibility.

STRANGER: How well you remember! And now it is high time to hold a
consultation as to what we ought to do about the Sophist; for if we persist
in looking for him in the class of false workers and magicians, you see
that the handles for objection and the difficulties which will arise are
very numerous and obvious.

THEAETETUS: They are indeed.

STRANGER: We have gone through but a very small portion of them, and they
are really infinite.

THEAETETUS: If that is the case, we cannot possibly catch the Sophist.

STRANGER: Shall we then be so faint-hearted as to give him up?

THEAETETUS: Certainly not, I should say, if we can get the slightest hold
upon him.

STRANGER: Will you then forgive me, and, as your words imply, not be
altogether displeased if I flinch a little from the grasp of such a sturdy

THEAETETUS: To be sure I will.

STRANGER: I have a yet more urgent request to make.

THEAETETUS: Which is--?

STRANGER: That you will promise not to regard me as a parricide.


STRANGER: Because, in self-defence, I must test the philosophy of my
father Parmenides, and try to prove by main force that in a certain sense
not-being is, and that being, on the other hand, is not.

THEAETETUS: Some attempt of the kind is clearly needed.

STRANGER: Yes, a blind man, as they say, might see that, and, unless these
questions are decided in one way or another, no one when he speaks of false
words, or false opinion, or idols, or images, or imitations, or
appearances, or about the arts which are concerned with them; can avoid
falling into ridiculous contradictions.

THEAETETUS: Most true.

STRANGER: And therefore I must venture to lay hands on my father's
argument; for if I am to be over-scrupulous, I shall have to give the
matter up.

THEAETETUS: Nothing in the world should ever induce us to do so.

STRANGER: I have a third little request which I wish to make.

THEAETETUS: What is it?

STRANGER: You heard me say what I have always felt and still feel--that I
have no heart for this argument?


STRANGER: I tremble at the thought of what I have said, and expect that
you will deem me mad, when you hear of my sudden changes and shiftings; let
me therefore observe, that I am examining the question entirely out of
regard for you.

THEAETETUS: There is no reason for you to fear that I shall impute any
impropriety to you, if you attempt this refutation and proof; take heart,
therefore, and proceed.

STRANGER: And where shall I begin the perilous enterprise? I think that
the road which I must take is--

THEAETETUS: Which?--Let me hear.

STRANGER: I think that we had better, first of all, consider the points
which at present are regarded as self-evident, lest we may have fallen into
some confusion, and be too ready to assent to one another, fancying that we
are quite clear about them.

THEAETETUS: Say more distinctly what you mean.

STRANGER: I think that Parmenides, and all ever yet undertook to determine
the number and nature of existences, talked to us in rather a light and
easy strain.


STRANGER: As if we had been children, to whom they repeated each his own
mythus or story;--one said that there were three principles, and that at
one time there was war between certain of them; and then again there was
peace, and they were married and begat children, and brought them up; and
another spoke of two principles,--a moist and a dry, or a hot and a cold,
and made them marry and cohabit. The Eleatics, however, in our part of the
world, say that all things are many in name, but in nature one; this is
their mythus, which goes back to Xenophanes, and is even older. Then there
are Ionian, and in more recent times Sicilian muses, who have arrived at
the conclusion that to unite the two principles is safer, and to say that
being is one and many, and that these are held together by enmity and
friendship, ever parting, ever meeting, as the severer Muses assert, while
the gentler ones do not insist on the perpetual strife and peace, but admit
a relaxation and alternation of them; peace and unity sometimes prevailing
under the sway of Aphrodite, and then again plurality and war, by reason of
a principle of strife. Whether any of them spoke the truth in all this is
hard to determine; besides, antiquity and famous men should have reverence,
and not be liable to accusations so serious. Yet one thing may be said of
them without offence--

THEAETETUS: What thing?

STRANGER: That they went on their several ways disdaining to notice people
like ourselves; they did not care whether they took us with them, or left
us behind them.

THEAETETUS: How do you mean?

STRANGER: I mean to say, that when they talk of one, two, or more
elements, which are or have become or are becoming, or again of heat
mingling with cold, assuming in some other part of their works separations
and mixtures,--tell me, Theaetetus, do you understand what they mean by
these expressions? When I was a younger man, I used to fancy that I
understood quite well what was meant by the term 'not-being,' which is our
present subject of dispute; and now you see in what a fix we are about it.


STRANGER: And very likely we have been getting into the same perplexity
about 'being,' and yet may fancy that when anybody utters the word, we
understand him quite easily, although we do not know about not-being. But
we may be; equally ignorant of both.

THEAETETUS: I dare say.

STRANGER: And the same may be said of all the terms just mentioned.


STRANGER: The consideration of most of them may be deferred; but we had
better now discuss the chief captain and leader of them.

THEAETETUS: Of what are you speaking? You clearly think that we must
first investigate what people mean by the word 'being.'

STRANGER: You follow close at my heels, Theaetetus. For the right method,
I conceive, will be to call into our presence the dualistic philosophers
and to interrogate them. 'Come,' we will say, 'Ye, who affirm that hot and
cold or any other two principles are the universe, what is this term which
you apply to both of them, and what do you mean when you say that both and
each of them "are"? How are we to understand the word "are"? Upon your
view, are we to suppose that there is a third principle over and above the
other two,--three in all, and not two? For clearly you cannot say that one
of the two principles is being, and yet attribute being equally to both of
them; for, if you did, whichever of the two is identified with being, will
comprehend the other; and so they will be one and not two.'

THEAETETUS: Very true.

STRANGER: But perhaps you mean to give the name of 'being' to both of them

THEAETETUS: Quite likely.

STRANGER: 'Then, friends,' we shall reply to them, 'the answer is plainly
that the two will still be resolved into one.'

THEAETETUS: Most true.

STRANGER: 'Since, then, we are in a difficulty, please to tell us what you
mean, when you speak of being; for there can be no doubt that you always
from the first understood your own meaning, whereas we once thought that we
understood you, but now we are in a great strait. Please to begin by
explaining this matter to us, and let us no longer fancy that we understand
you, when we entirely misunderstand you.' There will be no impropriety in
our demanding an answer to this question, either of the dualists or of the

THEAETETUS: Certainly not.

STRANGER: And what about the assertors of the oneness of the all--must we
not endeavour to ascertain from them what they mean by 'being'?

THEAETETUS: By all means.

STRANGER: Then let them answer this question: One, you say, alone is?
'Yes,' they will reply.


STRANGER: And there is something which you call 'being'?


STRANGER: And is being the same as one, and do you apply two names to the
same thing?

THEAETETUS: What will be their answer, Stranger?

STRANGER: It is clear, Theaetetus, that he who asserts the unity of being
will find a difficulty in answering this or any other question.


STRANGER: To admit of two names, and to affirm that there is nothing but
unity, is surely ridiculous?

THEAETETUS: Certainly.

STRANGER: And equally irrational to admit that a name is anything?


STRANGER: To distinguish the name from the thing, implies duality.


STRANGER: And yet he who identifies the name with the thing will be
compelled to say that it is the name of nothing, or if he says that it is
the name of something, even then the name will only be the name of a name,
and of nothing else.


STRANGER: And the one will turn out to be only one of one, and being
absolute unity, will represent a mere name.

THEAETETUS: Certainly.

STRANGER: And would they say that the whole is other than the one that is,
or the same with it?

THEAETETUS: To be sure they would, and they actually say so.

STRANGER: If being is a whole, as Parmenides sings,--

'Every way like unto the fullness of a well-rounded sphere,
Evenly balanced from the centre on every side,
And must needs be neither greater nor less in any way,
Neither on this side nor on that--'

then being has a centre and extremes, and, having these, must also have


STRANGER: Yet that which has parts may have the attribute of unity in all
the parts, and in this way being all and a whole, may be one?

THEAETETUS: Certainly.

STRANGER: But that of which this is the condition cannot be absolute


STRANGER: Because, according to right reason, that which is truly one must
be affirmed to be absolutely indivisible.

THEAETETUS: Certainly.

STRANGER: But this indivisible, if made up of many parts, will contradict

THEAETETUS: I understand.

STRANGER: Shall we say that being is one and a whole, because it has the
attribute of unity? Or shall we say that being is not a whole at all?

THEAETETUS: That is a hard alternative to offer.

STRANGER: Most true; for being, having in a certain sense the attribute of
one, is yet proved not to be the same as one, and the all is therefore more
than one.


STRANGER: And yet if being be not a whole, through having the attribute of
unity, and there be such a thing as an absolute whole, being lacks
something of its own nature?

THEAETETUS: Certainly.

STRANGER: Upon this view, again, being, having a defect of being, will
become not-being?


STRANGER: And, again, the all becomes more than one, for being and the
whole will each have their separate nature.


STRANGER: But if the whole does not exist at all, all the previous
difficulties remain the same, and there will be the further difficulty,
that besides having no being, being can never have come into being.


STRANGER: Because that which comes into being always comes into being as a
whole, so that he who does not give whole a place among beings, cannot
speak either of essence or generation as existing.

THEAETETUS: Yes, that certainly appears to be true.

STRANGER: Again; how can that which is not a whole have any quantity? For
that which is of a certain quantity must necessarily be the whole of that


STRANGER: And there will be innumerable other points, each of them causing
infinite trouble to him who says that being is either one or two.

THEAETETUS: The difficulties which are dawning upon us prove this; for one
objection connects with another, and they are always involving what has
preceded in a greater and worse perplexity.

STRANGER: We are far from having exhausted the more exact thinkers who
treat of being and not-being. But let us be content to leave them, and
proceed to view those who speak less precisely; and we shall find as the
result of all, that the nature of being is quite as difficult to comprehend
as that of not-being.

THEAETETUS: Then now we will go to the others.

STRANGER: There appears to be a sort of war of Giants and Gods going on
amongst them; they are fighting with one another about the nature of

THEAETETUS: How is that?

STRANGER: Some of them are dragging down all things from heaven and from
the unseen to earth, and they literally grasp in their hands rocks and
oaks; of these they lay hold, and obstinately maintain, that the things
only which can be touched or handled have being or essence, because they
define being and body as one, and if any one else says that what is not a
body exists they altogether despise him, and will hear of nothing but body.

THEAETETUS: I have often met with such men, and terrible fellows they are.

STRANGER: And that is the reason why their opponents cautiously defend
themselves from above, out of an unseen world, mightily contending that
true essence consists of certain intelligible and incorporeal ideas; the
bodies of the materialists, which by them are maintained to be the very
truth, they break up into little bits by their arguments, and affirm them
to be, not essence, but generation and motion. Between the two armies,
Theaetetus, there is always an endless conflict raging concerning these



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