David Bostock

in Plato’s Theaetetus

Published in print February 1991 | ISBN: 9780198239307
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191679889 | DOI:

Series: Clarendon Paperbacks


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The problem of how it is possible for anyone to believe falsely is introduced at 187d as an old and familiar puzzle: Socrates tells us that it has often bothered him on other occasions. The discussion naturally divides into five sections. The first presents a problem for false belief which is actually not the old familiar puzzle at all, but an entirely new one (187e-188c). The second presents the familiar puzzle, but in a somewhat unexpected way, as if it were a kind of alternative to the first puzzle (188d-189b). The third section, on ‘other-judging’, begins as a solution to the second and familiar puzzle — though only a partial solution, it would seem — but Socrates then argues that it too runs into a difficulty (189c-191a). The fourth section gives the most elaborate attempt at a solution to the new puzzle, introducing the idea that the mind contains a wax tablet as its memory, and this does appear to get somewhere with the problem, but not — it seems — far enough (191b-195c). Finally there is a further attempt at a solution, with the mind viewed now as containing an aviary, but this again proves to be unsuccessful (197b-200c). This chapter firsts run through the five sections in order, noting a few points in passing, but mainly trying to settle difficulties of interpretation. The major task here is to see just what Plato' new problem is. It then discusses why it is a problem for him, and of how this ostensible ‘digression’ on false belief relates to the main topic ‘What is knowledge?’.

Keywords: other-judging; knowledge; Theaetetus; Socrates; puzzle

Chapter.  19347 words. 

Subjects: Ancient Philosophy

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