David Sedley

in The Midwife of Platonism

Published in print May 2004 | ISBN: 9780199267033
Published online January 2005 | e-ISBN: 9780191601828 | DOI:

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Here I examine the arguments that finally dispose of Theaetetus’ definition ‘Knowledge is perception’. I argue that Socrates’ objection against the extreme flux covertly implied by this definition is not exactly, as usually understood, that it eliminates language (Heracliteans can continue to speak in their own peculiar way), but that it makes dialectic impossible. In proceeding to the final phase of this argument, I draw particular attention to Socrates’ surprisingly forthright distinction between predicates to which we gain access through the senses and those to which the mind itself has unmediated access – roughly, the empirical and the a priori, respectively. In placing ‘being’ in the latter class, Socrates is speaking of ordinary being, as featured explicitly or implicitly in everyday predications, and using its a priori character to demolish the idea that perception could ever grasp (ordinary everyday) truths. But there is also, I argue, a Platonic subtext, where the ‘being’ in question is that associated with Plato’s transcendent Forms.

Keywords: a priori; being; dialectic; dialectic; flux; Heracliteanism; knowledge; perception; truth

Chapter.  12682 words. 

Subjects: Ancient Philosophy

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