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Sophist by Plato

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STRANGER: Let us ask each party in turn, to give an account of that which
they call essence.

THEAETETUS: How shall we get it out of them?

STRANGER: With those who make being to consist in ideas, there will be
less difficulty, for they are civil people enough; but there will be very
great difficulty, or rather an absolute impossibility, in getting an
opinion out of those who drag everything down to matter. Shall I tell you
what we must do?


STRANGER: Let us, if we can, really improve them; but if this is not
possible, let us imagine them to be better than they are, and more willing
to answer in accordance with the rules of argument, and then their opinion
will be more worth having; for that which better men acknowledge has more
weight than that which is acknowledged by inferior men. Moreover we are no
respecters of persons, but seekers after truth.

THEAETETUS: Very good.

STRANGER: Then now, on the supposition that they are improved, let us ask
them to state their views, and do you interpret them.


STRANGER: Let them say whether they would admit that there is such a thing
as a mortal animal.

THEAETETUS: Of course they would.

STRANGER: And do they not acknowledge this to be a body having a soul?

THEAETETUS: Certainly they do.

STRANGER: Meaning to say that the soul is something which exists?


STRANGER: And do they not say that one soul is just, and another unjust,
and that one soul is wise, and another foolish?

THEAETETUS: Certainly.

STRANGER: And that the just and wise soul becomes just and wise by the
possession of justice and wisdom, and the opposite under opposite

THEAETETUS: Yes, they do.

STRANGER: But surely that which may be present or may be absent will be
admitted by them to exist?

THEAETETUS: Certainly.

STRANGER: And, allowing that justice, wisdom, the other virtues, and their
opposites exist, as well as a soul in which they inhere, do they affirm any
of them to be visible and tangible, or are they all invisible?

THEAETETUS: They would say that hardly any of them are visible.

STRANGER: And would they say that they are corporeal?

THEAETETUS: They would distinguish: the soul would be said by them to
have a body; but as to the other qualities of justice, wisdom, and the
like, about which you asked, they would not venture either to deny their
existence, or to maintain that they were all corporeal.

STRANGER: Verily, Theaetetus, I perceive a great improvement in them; the
real aborigines, children of the dragon's teeth, would have been deterred
by no shame at all, but would have obstinately asserted that nothing is
which they are not able to squeeze in their hands.

THEAETETUS: That is pretty much their notion.

STRANGER: Let us push the question; for if they will admit that any, even
the smallest particle of being, is incorporeal, it is enough; they must
then say what that nature is which is common to both the corporeal and
incorporeal, and which they have in their mind's eye when they say of both
of them that they 'are.' Perhaps they may be in a difficulty; and if this
is the case, there is a possibility that they may accept a notion of ours
respecting the nature of being, having nothing of their own to offer.

THEAETETUS: What is the notion? Tell me, and we shall soon see.

STRANGER: My notion would be, that anything which possesses any sort of
power to affect another, or to be affected by another, if only for a single
moment, however trifling the cause and however slight the effect, has real
existence; and I hold that the definition of being is simply power.

THEAETETUS: They accept your suggestion, having nothing better of their
own to offer.

STRANGER: Very good; perhaps we, as well as they, may one day change our
minds; but, for the present, this may be regarded as the understanding
which is established with them.


STRANGER: Let us now go to the friends of ideas; of their opinions, too,
you shall be the interpreter.


STRANGER: To them we say--You would distinguish essence from generation?

THEAETETUS: 'Yes,' they reply.

STRANGER: And you would allow that we participate in generation with the
body, and through perception, but we participate with the soul through
thought in true essence; and essence you would affirm to be always the same
and immutable, whereas generation or becoming varies?

THEAETETUS: Yes; that is what we should affirm.

STRANGER: Well, fair sirs, we say to them, what is this participation,
which you assert of both? Do you agree with our recent definition?

THEAETETUS: What definition?

STRANGER: We said that being was an active or passive energy, arising out
of a certain power which proceeds from elements meeting with one another.
Perhaps your ears, Theaetetus, may fail to catch their answer, which I
recognize because I have been accustomed to hear it.

THEAETETUS: And what is their answer?

STRANGER: They deny the truth of what we were just now saying to the
aborigines about existence.

THEAETETUS: What was that?

STRANGER: Any power of doing or suffering in a degree however slight was
held by us to be a sufficient definition of being?


STRANGER: They deny this, and say that the power of doing or suffering is
confined to becoming, and that neither power is applicable to being.

THEAETETUS: And is there not some truth in what they say?

STRANGER: Yes; but our reply will be, that we want to ascertain from them
more distinctly, whether they further admit that the soul knows, and that
being or essence is known.

THEAETETUS: There can be no doubt that they say so.

STRANGER: And is knowing and being known doing or suffering, or both, or
is the one doing and the other suffering, or has neither any share in

THEAETETUS: Clearly, neither has any share in either; for if they say
anything else, they will contradict themselves.

STRANGER: I understand; but they will allow that if to know is active,
then, of course, to be known is passive. And on this view being, in so far
as it is known, is acted upon by knowledge, and is therefore in motion; for
that which is in a state of rest cannot be acted upon, as we affirm.


STRANGER: And, O heavens, can we ever be made to believe that motion and
life and soul and mind are not present with perfect being? Can we imagine
that being is devoid of life and mind, and exists in awful unmeaningness an
everlasting fixture?

THEAETETUS: That would be a dreadful thing to admit, Stranger.

STRANGER: But shall we say that has mind and not life?

THEAETETUS: How is that possible?

STRANGER: Or shall we say that both inhere in perfect being, but that it
has no soul which contains them?

THEAETETUS: And in what other way can it contain them?

STRANGER: Or that being has mind and life and soul, but although endowed
with soul remains absolutely unmoved?

THEAETETUS: All three suppositions appear to me to be irrational.

STRANGER: Under being, then, we must include motion, and that which is

THEAETETUS: Certainly.

STRANGER: Then, Theaetetus, our inference is, that if there is no motion,
neither is there any mind anywhere, or about anything or belonging to any

THEAETETUS: Quite true.

STRANGER: And yet this equally follows, if we grant that all things are in
motion--upon this view too mind has no existence.


STRANGER: Do you think that sameness of condition and mode and subject
could ever exist without a principle of rest?

THEAETETUS: Certainly not.

STRANGER: Can you see how without them mind could exist, or come into
existence anywhere?


STRANGER: And surely contend we must in every possible way against him who
would annihilate knowledge and reason and mind, and yet ventures to speak
confidently about anything.

THEAETETUS: Yes, with all our might.

STRANGER: Then the philosopher, who has the truest reverence for these
qualities, cannot possibly accept the notion of those who say that the
whole is at rest, either as unity or in many forms: and he will be utterly
deaf to those who assert universal motion. As children say entreatingly
'Give us both,' so he will include both the moveable and immoveable in his
definition of being and all.

THEAETETUS: Most true.

STRANGER: And now, do we seem to have gained a fair notion of being?

THEAETETUS: Yes truly.

STRANGER: Alas, Theaetetus, methinks that we are now only beginning to see
the real difficulty of the enquiry into the nature of it.

THEAETETUS: What do you mean?

STRANGER: O my friend, do you not see that nothing can exceed our
ignorance, and yet we fancy that we are saying something good?

THEAETETUS: I certainly thought that we were; and I do not at all
understand how we never found out our desperate case.

STRANGER: Reflect: after having made these admissions, may we not be
justly asked the same questions which we ourselves were asking of those who
said that all was hot and cold?

THEAETETUS: What were they? Will you recall them to my mind?

STRANGER: To be sure I will, and I will remind you of them, by putting the
same questions to you which I did to them, and then we shall get on.


STRANGER: Would you not say that rest and motion are in the most entire
opposition to one another?

THEAETETUS: Of course.

STRANGER: And yet you would say that both and either of them equally are?


STRANGER: And when you admit that both or either of them are, do you mean
to say that both or either of them are in motion?

THEAETETUS: Certainly not.

STRANGER: Or do you wish to imply that they are both at rest, when you say
that they are?

THEAETETUS: Of course not.

STRANGER: Then you conceive of being as some third and distinct nature,
under which rest and motion are alike included; and, observing that they
both participate in being, you declare that they are.

THEAETETUS: Truly we seem to have an intimation that being is some third
thing, when we say that rest and motion are.

STRANGER: Then being is not the combination of rest and motion, but
something different from them.

THEAETETUS: So it would appear.

STRANGER: Being, then, according to its own nature, is neither in motion
nor at rest.

THEAETETUS: That is very much the truth.

STRANGER: Where, then, is a man to look for help who would have any clear
or fixed notion of being in his mind?

THEAETETUS: Where, indeed?

STRANGER: I scarcely think that he can look anywhere; for that which is
not in motion must be at rest, and again, that which is not at rest must be
in motion; but being is placed outside of both these classes. Is this

THEAETETUS: Utterly impossible.

STRANGER: Here, then, is another thing which we ought to bear in mind.


STRANGER: When we were asked to what we were to assign the appellation of
not-being, we were in the greatest difficulty:--do you remember?

THEAETETUS: To be sure.

STRANGER: And are we not now in as great a difficulty about being?

THEAETETUS: I should say, Stranger, that we are in one which is, if
possible, even greater.

STRANGER: Then let us acknowledge the difficulty; and as being and not-
being are involved in the same perplexity, there is hope that when the one
appears more or less distinctly, the other will equally appear; and if we
are able to see neither, there may still be a chance of steering our way in
between them, without any great discredit.

THEAETETUS: Very good.

STRANGER: Let us enquire, then, how we come to predicate many names of the
same thing.

THEAETETUS: Give an example.

STRANGER: I mean that we speak of man, for example, under many names--that
we attribute to him colours and forms and magnitudes and virtues and vices,
in all of which instances and in ten thousand others we not only speak of
him as a man, but also as good, and having numberless other attributes, and
in the same way anything else which we originally supposed to be one is
described by us as many, and under many names.

THEAETETUS: That is true.

STRANGER: And thus we provide a rich feast for tyros, whether young or
old; for there is nothing easier than to argue that the one cannot be many,
or the many one; and great is their delight in denying that a man is good;
for man, they insist, is man and good is good. I dare say that you have
met with persons who take an interest in such matters--they are often
elderly men, whose meagre sense is thrown into amazement by these
discoveries of theirs, which they believe to be the height of wisdom.

THEAETETUS: Certainly, I have.

STRANGER: Then, not to exclude any one who has ever speculated at all upon
the nature of being, let us put our questions to them as well as to our
former friends.

THEAETETUS: What questions?

STRANGER: Shall we refuse to attribute being to motion and rest, or
anything to anything, and assume that they do not mingle, and are incapable
of participating in one another? Or shall we gather all into one class of
things communicable with one another? Or are some things communicable and
others not?--Which of these alternatives, Theaetetus, will they prefer?

THEAETETUS: I have nothing to answer on their behalf. Suppose that you
take all these hypotheses in turn, and see what are the consequences which
follow from each of them.

STRANGER: Very good, and first let us assume them to say that nothing is
capable of participating in anything else in any respect; in that case rest
and motion cannot participate in being at all.

THEAETETUS: They cannot.

STRANGER: But would either of them be if not participating in being?


STRANGER: Then by this admission everything is instantly overturned, as
well the doctrine of universal motion as of universal rest, and also the
doctrine of those who distribute being into immutable and everlasting
kinds; for all these add on a notion of being, some affirming that things
'are' truly in motion, and others that they 'are' truly at rest.


STRANGER: Again, those who would at one time compound, and at another
resolve all things, whether making them into one and out of one creating
infinity, or dividing them into finite elements, and forming compounds out
of these; whether they suppose the processes of creation to be successive
or continuous, would be talking nonsense in all this if there were no


STRANGER: Most ridiculous of all will the men themselves be who want to
carry out the argument and yet forbid us to call anything, because
participating in some affection from another, by the name of that other.


STRANGER: Why, because they are compelled to use the words 'to be,'
'apart,' 'from others,' 'in itself,' and ten thousand more, which they
cannot give up, but must make the connecting links of discourse; and
therefore they do not require to be refuted by others, but their enemy, as
the saying is, inhabits the same house with them; they are always carrying
about with them an adversary, like the wonderful ventriloquist, Eurycles,
who out of their own bellies audibly contradicts them.

THEAETETUS: Precisely so; a very true and exact illustration.

STRANGER: And now, if we suppose that all things have the power of
communion with one another--what will follow?

THEAETETUS: Even I can solve that riddle.


THEAETETUS: Why, because motion itself would be at rest, and rest again in
motion, if they could be attributed to one another.

STRANGER: But this is utterly impossible.

THEAETETUS: Of course.

STRANGER: Then only the third hypothesis remains.


STRANGER: For, surely, either all things have communion with all; or
nothing with any other thing; or some things communicate with some things
and others not.

THEAETETUS: Certainly.

STRANGER: And two out of these three suppositions have been found to be


STRANGER: Every one then, who desires to answer truly, will adopt the
third and remaining hypothesis of the communion of some with some.

THEAETETUS: Quite true.

STRANGER: This communion of some with some may be illustrated by the case
of letters; for some letters do not fit each other, while others do.

THEAETETUS: Of course.

STRANGER: And the vowels, especially, are a sort of bond which pervades
all the other letters, so that without a vowel one consonant cannot be
joined to another.


STRANGER: But does every one know what letters will unite with what? Or
is art required in order to do so?

THEAETETUS: Art is required.

STRANGER: What art?

THEAETETUS: The art of grammar.

STRANGER: And is not this also true of sounds high and low?--Is not he who
has the art to know what sounds mingle, a musician, and he who is ignorant,
not a musician?


STRANGER: And we shall find this to be generally true of art or the
absence of art.

THEAETETUS: Of course.

STRANGER: And as classes are admitted by us in like manner to be some of
them capable and others incapable of intermixture, must not he who would
rightly show what kinds will unite and what will not, proceed by the help
of science in the path of argument? And will he not ask if the connecting
links are universal, and so capable of intermixture with all things; and
again, in divisions, whether there are not other universal classes, which
make them possible?

THEAETETUS: To be sure he will require science, and, if I am not mistaken,
the very greatest of all sciences.

STRANGER: How are we to call it? By Zeus, have we not lighted unwittingly
upon our free and noble science, and in looking for the Sophist have we not
entertained the philosopher unawares?

THEAETETUS: What do you mean?

STRANGER: Should we not say that the division according to classes, which
neither makes the same other, nor makes other the same, is the business of
the dialectical science?

THEAETETUS: That is what we should say.

STRANGER: Then, surely, he who can divide rightly is able to see clearly
one form pervading a scattered multitude, and many different forms
contained under one higher form; and again, one form knit together into a
single whole and pervading many such wholes, and many forms, existing only
in separation and isolation. This is the knowledge of classes which
determines where they can have communion with one another and where not.

THEAETETUS: Quite true.

STRANGER: And the art of dialectic would be attributed by you only to the
philosopher pure and true?

THEAETETUS: Who but he can be worthy?

STRANGER: In this region we shall always discover the philosopher, if we
look for him; like the Sophist, he is not easily discovered, but for a
different reason.

THEAETETUS: For what reason?

STRANGER: Because the Sophist runs away into the darkness of not-being, in
which he has learned by habit to feel about, and cannot be discovered
because of the darkness of the place. Is not that true?

THEAETETUS: It seems to be so.

STRANGER: And the philosopher, always holding converse through reason with
the idea of being, is also dark from excess of light; for the souls of the
many have no eye which can endure the vision of the divine.

THEAETETUS: Yes; that seems to be quite as true as the other.

STRANGER: Well, the philosopher may hereafter be more fully considered by
us, if we are disposed; but the Sophist must clearly not be allowed to
escape until we have had a good look at him.

THEAETETUS: Very good.

STRANGER: Since, then, we are agreed that some classes have a communion
with one another, and others not, and some have communion with a few and
others with many, and that there is no reason why some should not have
universal communion with all, let us now pursue the enquiry, as the
argument suggests, not in relation to all ideas, lest the multitude of them
should confuse us, but let us select a few of those which are reckoned to
be the principal ones, and consider their several natures and their
capacity of communion with one another, in order that if we are not able to
apprehend with perfect clearness the notions of being and not-being, we may
at least not fall short in the consideration of them, so far as they come
within the scope of the present enquiry, if peradventure we may be allowed
to assert the reality of not-being, and yet escape unscathed.

THEAETETUS: We must do so.

STRANGER: The most important of all the genera are those which we were
just now mentioning--being and rest and motion.

THEAETETUS: Yes, by far.

STRANGER: And two of these are, as we affirm, incapable of communion with
one another.

THEAETETUS: Quite incapable.

STRANGER: Whereas being surely has communion with both of them, for both
of them are?

THEAETETUS: Of course.

STRANGER: That makes up three of them.

THEAETETUS: To be sure.

STRANGER: And each of them is other than the remaining two, but the same
with itself.


STRANGER: But then, what is the meaning of these two words, 'same' and
'other'? Are they two new kinds other than the three, and yet always of
necessity intermingling with them, and are we to have five kinds instead of
three; or when we speak of the same and other, are we unconsciously
speaking of one of the three first kinds?

THEAETETUS: Very likely we are.

STRANGER: But, surely, motion and rest are neither the other nor the same.

THEAETETUS: How is that?

STRANGER: Whatever we attribute to motion and rest in common, cannot be
either of them.


STRANGER: Because motion would be at rest and rest in motion, for either
of them, being predicated of both, will compel the other to change into the
opposite of its own nature, because partaking of its opposite.

THEAETETUS: Quite true.

STRANGER: Yet they surely both partake of the same and of the other?


STRANGER: Then we must not assert that motion, any more than rest, is
either the same or the other.

THEAETETUS: No; we must not.

STRANGER: But are we to conceive that being and the same are identical?


STRANGER: But if they are identical, then again in saying that motion and
rest have being, we should also be saying that they are the same.

THEAETETUS: Which surely cannot be.

STRANGER: Then being and the same cannot be one.


STRANGER: Then we may suppose the same to be a fourth class, which is now
to be added to the three others.

THEAETETUS: Quite true.

STRANGER: And shall we call the other a fifth class? Or should we
consider being and other to be two names of the same class?

THEAETETUS: Very likely.

STRANGER: But you would agree, if I am not mistaken, that existences are
relative as well as absolute?

THEAETETUS: Certainly.

STRANGER: And the other is always relative to other?


STRANGER: But this would not be the case unless being and the other
entirely differed; for, if the other, like being, were absolute as well as
relative, then there would have been a kind of other which was not other
than other. And now we find that what is other must of necessity be what
it is in relation to some other.

THEAETETUS: That is the true state of the case.

STRANGER: Then we must admit the other as the fifth of our selected


STRANGER: And the fifth class pervades all classes, for they all differ
from one another, not by reason of their own nature, but because they
partake of the idea of the other.

THEAETETUS: Quite true.

STRANGER: Then let us now put the case with reference to each of the five.


STRANGER: First there is motion, which we affirm to be absolutely 'other'
than rest: what else can we say?


STRANGER: And therefore is not rest.

THEAETETUS: Certainly not.

STRANGER: And yet is, because partaking of being.


STRANGER: Again, motion is other than the same?


STRANGER: And is therefore not the same.

THEAETETUS: It is not.

STRANGER: Yet, surely, motion is the same, because all things partake of
the same.

THEAETETUS: Very true.

STRANGER: Then we must admit, and not object to say, that motion is the
same and is not the same, for we do not apply the terms 'same' and 'not the
same,' in the same sense; but we call it the 'same,' in relation to itself,
because partaking of the same; and not the same, because having communion
with the other, it is thereby severed from the same, and has become not
that but other, and is therefore rightly spoken of as 'not the same.'

THEAETETUS: To be sure.

STRANGER: And if absolute motion in any point of view partook of rest,
there would be no absurdity in calling motion stationary.

THEAETETUS: Quite right,--that is, on the supposition that some classes
mingle with one another, and others not.

STRANGER: That such a communion of kinds is according to nature, we had
already proved before we arrived at this part of our discussion.

THEAETETUS: Certainly.

STRANGER: Let us proceed, then. May we not say that motion is other than
the other, having been also proved by us to be other than the same and
other than rest?

THEAETETUS: That is certain.

STRANGER: Then, according to this view, motion is other and also not


STRANGER: What is the next step? Shall we say that motion is other than
the three and not other than the fourth,--for we agreed that there are five
classes about and in the sphere of which we proposed to make enquiry?

THEAETETUS: Surely we cannot admit that the number is less than it
appeared to be just now.

STRANGER: Then we may without fear contend that motion is other than

THEAETETUS: Without the least fear.

STRANGER: The plain result is that motion, since it partakes of being,
really is and also is not?

THEAETETUS: Nothing can be plainer.

STRANGER: Then not-being necessarily exists in the case of motion and of
every class; for the nature of the other entering into them all, makes each
of them other than being, and so non-existent; and therefore of all of
them, in like manner, we may truly say that they are not; and again,
inasmuch as they partake of being, that they are and are existent.

THEAETETUS: So we may assume.

STRANGER: Every class, then, has plurality of being and infinity of not-

THEAETETUS: So we must infer.

STRANGER: And being itself may be said to be other than the other kinds.

THEAETETUS: Certainly.

STRANGER: Then we may infer that being is not, in respect of as many other
things as there are; for not-being these it is itself one, and is not the
other things, which are infinite in number.

THEAETETUS: That is not far from the truth.

STRANGER: And we must not quarrel with this result, since it is of the
nature of classes to have communion with one another; and if any one denies
our present statement [viz., that being is not, etc.], let him first argue
with our former conclusion [i.e., respecting the communion of ideas], and
then he may proceed to argue with what follows.

THEAETETUS: Nothing can be fairer.

STRANGER: Let me ask you to consider a further question.

THEAETETUS: What question?

STRANGER: When we speak of not-being, we speak, I suppose, not of
something opposed to being, but only different.

THEAETETUS: What do you mean?

STRANGER: When we speak of something as not great, does the expression
seem to you to imply what is little any more than what is equal?

THEAETETUS: Certainly not.

STRANGER: The negative particles, ou and me, when prefixed to words, do
not imply opposition, but only difference from the words, or more correctly
from the things represented by the words, which follow them.

THEAETETUS: Quite true.

STRANGER: There is another point to be considered, if you do not object.

THEAETETUS: What is it?

STRANGER: The nature of the other appears to me to be divided into
fractions like knowledge.


STRANGER: Knowledge, like the other, is one; and yet the various parts of
knowledge have each of them their own particular name, and hence there are
many arts and kinds of knowledge.

THEAETETUS: Quite true.

STRANGER: And is not the case the same with the parts of the other, which
is also one?

THEAETETUS: Very likely; but will you tell me how?

STRANGER: There is some part of the other which is opposed to the


STRANGER: Shall we say that this has or has not a name?

THEAETETUS: It has; for whatever we call not-beautiful is other than the
beautiful, not than something else.

STRANGER: And now tell me another thing.


STRANGER: Is the not-beautiful anything but this--an existence parted off
from a certain kind of existence, and again from another point of view
opposed to an existing something?


STRANGER: Then the not-beautiful turns out to be the opposition of being
to being?

THEAETETUS: Very true.

STRANGER: But upon this view, is the beautiful a more real and the not-
beautiful a less real existence?

THEAETETUS: Not at all.

STRANGER: And the not-great may be said to exist, equally with the great?


STRANGER: And, in the same way, the just must be placed in the same
category with the not-just--the one cannot be said to have any more
existence than the other.


STRANGER: The same may be said of other things; seeing that the nature of
the other has a real existence, the parts of this nature must equally be
supposed to exist.

THEAETETUS: Of course.

STRANGER: Then, as would appear, the opposition of a part of the other,
and of a part of being, to one another, is, if I may venture to say so, as
truly essence as being itself, and implies not the opposite of being, but
only what is other than being.

THEAETETUS: Beyond question.

STRANGER: What then shall we call it?

THEAETETUS: Clearly, not-being; and this is the very nature for which the
Sophist compelled us to search.

STRANGER: And has not this, as you were saying, as real an existence as
any other class? May I not say with confidence that not-being has an
assured existence, and a nature of its own? Just as the great was found to
be great and the beautiful beautiful, and the not-great not-great, and the
not-beautiful not-beautiful, in the same manner not-being has been found to
be and is not-being, and is to be reckoned one among the many classes of
being. Do you, Theaetetus, still feel any doubt of this?

THEAETETUS: None whatever.

STRANGER: Do you observe that our scepticism has carried us beyond the
range of Parmenides' prohibition?


STRANGER: We have advanced to a further point, and shown him more than he
forbad us to investigate.

THEAETETUS: How is that?

STRANGER: Why, because he says--

'Not-being never is, and do thou keep thy thoughts from this way of

THEAETETUS: Yes, he says so.

STRANGER: Whereas, we have not only proved that things which are not are,
but we have shown what form of being not-being is; for we have shown that
the nature of the other is, and is distributed over all things in their
relations to one another, and whatever part of the other is contrasted with
being, this is precisely what we have ventured to call not-being.

THEAETETUS: And surely, Stranger, we were quite right.

STRANGER: Let not any one say, then, that while affirming the opposition
of not-being to being, we still assert the being of not-being; for as to
whether there is an opposite of being, to that enquiry we have long said
good-bye--it may or may not be, and may or may not be capable of
definition. But as touching our present account of not-being, let a man
either convince us of error, or, so long as he cannot, he too must say, as
we are saying, that there is a communion of classes, and that being, and
difference or other, traverse all things and mutually interpenetrate, so
that the other partakes of being, and by reason of this participation is,
and yet is not that of which it partakes, but other, and being other than
being, it is clearly a necessity that not-being should be. And again,
being, through partaking of the other, becomes a class other than the
remaining classes, and being other than all of them, is not each one of
them, and is not all the rest, so that undoubtedly there are thousands upon
thousands of cases in which being is not, and all other things, whether
regarded individually or collectively, in many respects are, and in many
respects are not.


STRANGER: And he who is sceptical of this contradiction, must think how he
can find something better to say; or if he sees a puzzle, and his pleasure
is to drag words this way and that, the argument will prove to him, that he
is not making a worthy use of his faculties; for there is no charm in such
puzzles, and there is no difficulty in detecting them; but we can tell him
of something else the pursuit of which is noble and also difficult.

THEAETETUS: What is it?

STRANGER: A thing of which I have already spoken;--letting alone these
puzzles as involving no difficulty, he should be able to follow and
criticize in detail every argument, and when a man says that the same is in
a manner other, or that other is the same, to understand and refute him
from his own point of view, and in the same respect in which he asserts
either of these affections. But to show that somehow and in some sense the
same is other, or the other same, or the great small, or the like unlike;
and to delight in always bringing forward such contradictions, is no real
refutation, but is clearly the new-born babe of some one who is only
beginning to approach the problem of being.

THEAETETUS: To be sure.

STRANGER: For certainly, my friend, the attempt to separate all existences
from one another is a barbarism and utterly unworthy of an educated or
philosophical mind.


STRANGER: The attempt at universal separation is the final annihilation of
all reasoning; for only by the union of conceptions with one another do we
attain to discourse of reason.


STRANGER: And, observe that we were only just in time in making a
resistance to such separatists, and compelling them to admit that one thing
mingles with another.


STRANGER: Why, that we might be able to assert discourse to be a kind of
being; for if we could not, the worst of all consequences would follow; we
should have no philosophy. Moreover, the necessity for determining the
nature of discourse presses upon us at this moment; if utterly deprived of
it, we could no more hold discourse; and deprived of it we should be if we
admitted that there was no admixture of natures at all.

THEAETETUS: Very true. But I do not understand why at this moment we must
determine the nature of discourse.

STRANGER: Perhaps you will see more clearly by the help of the following

THEAETETUS: What explanation?

STRANGER: Not-being has been acknowledged by us to be one among many
classes diffused over all being.


STRANGER: And thence arises the question, whether not-being mingles with
opinion and language.


STRANGER: If not-being has no part in the proposition, then all things
must be true; but if not-being has a part, then false opinion and false
speech are possible, for to think or to say what is not--is falsehood,
which thus arises in the region of thought and in speech.

THEAETETUS: That is quite true.

STRANGER: And where there is falsehood surely there must be deceit.


STRANGER: And if there is deceit, then all things must be full of idols
and images and fancies.

THEAETETUS: To be sure.

STRANGER: Into that region the Sophist, as we said, made his escape, and,
when he had got there, denied the very possibility of falsehood; no one, he
argued, either conceived or uttered falsehood, inasmuch as not-being did
not in any way partake of being.


STRANGER: And now, not-being has been shown to partake of being, and
therefore he will not continue fighting in this direction, but he will
probably say that some ideas partake of not-being, and some not, and that
language and opinion are of the non-partaking class; and he will still
fight to the death against the existence of the image-making and phantastic
art, in which we have placed him, because, as he will say, opinion and
language do not partake of not-being, and unless this participation exists,
there can be no such thing as falsehood. And, with the view of meeting
this evasion, we must begin by enquiring into the nature of language,
opinion, and imagination, in order that when we find them we may find also
that they have communion with not-being, and, having made out the connexion
of them, may thus prove that falsehood exists; and therein we will imprison
the Sophist, if he deserves it, or, if not, we will let him go again and
look for him in another class.

THEAETETUS: Certainly, Stranger, there appears to be truth in what was
said about the Sophist at first, that he was of a class not easily caught,
for he seems to have abundance of defences, which he throws up, and which
must every one of them be stormed before we can reach the man himself. And
even now, we have with difficulty got through his first defence, which is
the not-being of not-being, and lo! here is another; for we have still to
show that falsehood exists in the sphere of language and opinion, and there
will be another and another line of defence without end.

STRANGER: Any one, Theaetetus, who is able to advance even a little ought
to be of good cheer, for what would he who is dispirited at a little
progress do, if he were making none at all, or even undergoing a repulse?
Such a faint heart, as the proverb says, will never take a city: but now
that we have succeeded thus far, the citadel is ours, and what remains is

THEAETETUS: Very true.

STRANGER: Then, as I was saying, let us first of all obtain a conception
of language and opinion, in order that we may have clearer grounds for
determining, whether not-being has any concern with them, or whether they
are both always true, and neither of them ever false.


STRANGER: Then, now, let us speak of names, as before we were speaking of
ideas and letters; for that is the direction in which the answer may be

THEAETETUS: And what is the question at issue about names?

STRANGER: The question at issue is whether all names may be connected with
one another, or none, or only some of them.

THEAETETUS: Clearly the last is true.

STRANGER: I understand you to say that words which have a meaning when in
sequence may be connected, but that words which have no meaning when in
sequence cannot be connected?

THEAETETUS: What are you saying?

STRANGER: What I thought that you intended when you gave your assent; for
there are two sorts of intimation of being which are given by the voice.

THEAETETUS: What are they?

STRANGER: One of them is called nouns, and the other verbs.

THEAETETUS: Describe them.

STRANGER: That which denotes action we call a verb.


STRANGER: And the other, which is an articulate mark set on those who do
the actions, we call a noun.

THEAETETUS: Quite true.

STRANGER: A succession of nouns only is not a sentence, any more than of
verbs without nouns.

THEAETETUS: I do not understand you.

STRANGER: I see that when you gave your assent you had something else in
your mind. But what I intended to say was, that a mere succession of nouns
or of verbs is not discourse.

THEAETETUS: What do you mean?

STRANGER: I mean that words like 'walks,' 'runs,' 'sleeps,' or any other
words which denote action, however many of them you string together, do not
make discourse.

THEAETETUS: How can they?

STRANGER: Or, again, when you say 'lion,' 'stag,' 'horse,' or any other
words which denote agents--neither in this way of stringing words together
do you attain to discourse; for there is no expression of action or
inaction, or of the existence of existence or non-existence indicated by
the sounds, until verbs are mingled with nouns; then the words fit, and the
smallest combination of them forms language, and is the simplest and least
form of discourse.

THEAETETUS: Again I ask, What do you mean?

STRANGER: When any one says 'A man learns,' should you not call this the
simplest and least of sentences?


STRANGER: Yes, for he now arrives at the point of giving an intimation
about something which is, or is becoming, or has become, or will be. And
he not only names, but he does something, by connecting verbs with nouns;
and therefore we say that he discourses, and to this connexion of words we
give the name of discourse.


STRANGER: And as there are some things which fit one another, and other
things which do not fit, so there are some vocal signs which do, and others
which do not, combine and form discourse.

THEAETETUS: Quite true.

STRANGER: There is another small matter.

THEAETETUS: What is it?

STRANGER: A sentence must and cannot help having a subject.


STRANGER: And must be of a certain quality.

THEAETETUS: Certainly.

STRANGER: And now let us mind what we are about.

THEAETETUS: We must do so.

STRANGER: I will repeat a sentence to you in which a thing and an action
are combined, by the help of a noun and a verb; and you shall tell me of
whom the sentence speaks.

THEAETETUS: I will, to the best of my power.

STRANGER: 'Theaetetus sits'--not a very long sentence.


STRANGER: Of whom does the sentence speak, and who is the subject? that is
what you have to tell.

THEAETETUS: Of me; I am the subject.

STRANGER: Or this sentence, again--

THEAETETUS: What sentence?

STRANGER: 'Theaetetus, with whom I am now speaking, is flying.'

THEAETETUS: That also is a sentence which will be admitted by every one to
speak of me, and to apply to me.

STRANGER: We agreed that every sentence must necessarily have a certain


STRANGER: And what is the quality of each of these two sentences?

THEAETETUS: The one, as I imagine, is false, and the other true.

STRANGER: The true says what is true about you?


STRANGER: And the false says what is other than true?


STRANGER: And therefore speaks of things which are not as if they were?


STRANGER: And say that things are real of you which are not; for, as
we were saying, in regard to each thing or person, there is much that
is and much that is not.

THEAETETUS: Quite true.

STRANGER: The second of the two sentences which related to you was first
of all an example of the shortest form consistent with our definition.

THEAETETUS: Yes, this was implied in recent admission.

STRANGER: And, in the second place, it related to a subject?


STRANGER: Who must be you, and can be nobody else?

THEAETETUS: Unquestionably.

STRANGER: And it would be no sentence at all if there were no subject,
for, as we proved, a sentence which has no subject is impossible.

THEAETETUS: Quite true.

STRANGER: When other, then, is asserted of you as the same, and not-being
as being, such a combination of nouns and verbs is really and truly false

THEAETETUS: Most true.

STRANGER: And therefore thought, opinion, and imagination are now proved
to exist in our minds both as true and false.


STRANGER: You will know better if you first gain a knowledge of what they
are, and in what they severally differ from one another.

THEAETETUS: Give me the knowledge which you would wish me to gain.

STRANGER: Are not thought and speech the same, with this exception, that
what is called thought is the unuttered conversation of the soul with

THEAETETUS: Quite true.

STRANGER: But the stream of thought which flows through the lips and is
audible is called speech?


STRANGER: And we know that there exists in speech...

THEAETETUS: What exists?

STRANGER: Affirmation.

THEAETETUS: Yes, we know it.

STRANGER: When the affirmation or denial takes Place in silence and in the
mind only, have you any other name by which to call it but opinion?

THEAETETUS: There can be no other name.

STRANGER: And when opinion is presented, not simply, but in some form of
sense, would you not call it imagination?

THEAETETUS: Certainly.

STRANGER: And seeing that language is true and false, and that thought is
the conversation of the soul with herself, and opinion is the end of
thinking, and imagination or phantasy is the union of sense and opinion,
the inference is that some of them, since they are akin to language, should
have an element of falsehood as well as of truth?

THEAETETUS: Certainly.

STRANGER: Do you perceive, then, that false opinion and speech have been
discovered sooner than we expected?--For just now we seemed to be
undertaking a task which would never be accomplished.

THEAETETUS: I perceive.

STRANGER: Then let us not be discouraged about the future; but now having
made this discovery, let us go back to our previous classification.

THEAETETUS: What classification?

STRANGER: We divided image-making into two sorts; the one likeness-making,
the other imaginative or phantastic.


STRANGER: And we said that we were uncertain in which we should place the

THEAETETUS: We did say so.

STRANGER: And our heads began to go round more and more when it was
asserted that there is no such thing as an image or idol or appearance,
because in no manner or time or place can there ever be such a thing as


STRANGER: And now, since there has been shown to be false speech and false
opinion, there may be imitations of real existences, and out of this
condition of the mind an art of deception may arise.

THEAETETUS: Quite possible.

STRANGER: And we have already admitted, in what preceded, that the Sophist
was lurking in one of the divisions of the likeness-making art?


STRANGER: Let us, then, renew the attempt, and in dividing any class,
always take the part to the right, holding fast to that which holds the
Sophist, until we have stripped him of all his common properties, and
reached his difference or peculiar. Then we may exhibit him in his true
nature, first to ourselves and then to kindred dialectical spirits.

THEAETETUS: Very good.

STRANGER: You may remember that all art was originally divided by us into
creative and acquisitive.


STRANGER: And the Sophist was flitting before us in the acquisitive class,
in the subdivisions of hunting, contests, merchandize, and the like.

THEAETETUS: Very true.

STRANGER: But now that the imitative art has enclosed him, it is clear
that we must begin by dividing the art of creation; for imitation is a kind
of creation--of images, however, as we affirm, and not of real things.

THEAETETUS: Quite true.

STRANGER: In the first place, there are two kinds of creation.

THEAETETUS: What are they?

STRANGER: One of them is human and the other divine.

THEAETETUS: I do not follow.

STRANGER: Every power, as you may remember our saying originally, which
causes things to exist, not previously existing, was defined by us as

THEAETETUS: I remember.

STRANGER: Looking, now, at the world and all the animals and plants, at
things which grow upon the earth from seeds and roots, as well as at
inanimate substances which are formed within the earth, fusile or non-
fusile, shall we say that they come into existence--not having existed
previously--by the creation of God, or shall we agree with vulgar opinion
about them?

THEAETETUS: What is it?

STRANGER: The opinion that nature brings them into being from some
spontaneous and unintelligent cause. Or shall we say that they are created
by a divine reason and a knowledge which comes from God?

THEAETETUS: I dare say that, owing to my youth, I may often waver in my
view, but now when I look at you and see that you incline to refer them to
God, I defer to your authority.

STRANGER: Nobly said, Theaetetus, and if I thought that you were one of
those who would hereafter change your mind, I would have gently argued with
you, and forced you to assent; but as I perceive that you will come of
yourself and without any argument of mine, to that belief which, as you
say, attracts you, I will not forestall the work of time. Let me suppose,
then, that things which are said to be made by nature are the work of
divine art, and that things which are made by man out of these are works of
human art. And so there are two kinds of making and production, the one
human and the other divine.


STRANGER: Then, now, subdivide each of the two sections which we have

THEAETETUS: How do you mean?

STRANGER: I mean to say that you should make a vertical division of
production or invention, as you have already made a lateral one.

THEAETETUS: I have done so.

STRANGER: Then, now, there are in all four parts or segments--two of them
have reference to us and are human, and two of them have reference to the
gods and are divine.


STRANGER: And, again, in the division which was supposed to be made in the
other way, one part in each subdivision is the making of the things
themselves, but the two remaining parts may be called the making of
likenesses; and so the productive art is again divided into two parts.

THEAETETUS: Tell me the divisions once more.

STRANGER: I suppose that we, and the other animals, and the elements out
of which things are made--fire, water, and the like--are known by us to be
each and all the creation and work of God.


STRANGER: And there are images of them, which are not them, but which
correspond to them; and these are also the creation of a wonderful skill.

THEAETETUS: What are they?

STRANGER: The appearances which spring up of themselves in sleep or by
day, such as a shadow when darkness arises in a fire, or the reflection
which is produced when the light in bright and smooth objects meets on
their surface with an external light, and creates a perception the opposite
of our ordinary sight.

THEAETETUS: Yes; and the images as well as the creation are equally the
work of a divine hand.

STRANGER: And what shall we say of human art? Do we not make one house by
the art of building, and another by the art of drawing, which is a sort of
dream created by man for those who are awake?

THEAETETUS: Quite true.

STRANGER: And other products of human creation are also twofold and go in
pairs; there is the thing, with which the art of making the thing is
concerned, and the image, with which imitation is concerned.

THEAETETUS: Now I begin to understand, and am ready to acknowledge that
there are two kinds of production, and each of them twofold; in the lateral
division there is both a divine and a human production; in the vertical
there are realities and a creation of a kind of similitudes.

STRANGER: And let us not forget that of the imitative class the one part
was to have been likeness-making, and the other phantastic, if it could be
shown that falsehood is a reality and belongs to the class of real being.


STRANGER: And this appeared to be the case; and therefore now, without
hesitation, we shall number the different kinds as two.


STRANGER: Then, now, let us again divide the phantastic art.

THEAETETUS: Where shall we make the division?

STRANGER: There is one kind which is produced by an instrument, and
another in which the creator of the appearance is himself the instrument.

THEAETETUS: What do you mean?

STRANGER: When any one makes himself appear like another in his figure or
his voice, imitation is the name for this part of the phantastic art.


STRANGER: Let this, then, be named the art of mimicry, and this the
province assigned to it; as for the other division, we are weary and will
give that up, leaving to some one else the duty of making the class and
giving it a suitable name.

THEAETETUS: Let us do as you say--assign a sphere to the one and leave the

STRANGER: There is a further distinction, Theaetetus, which is worthy of
our consideration, and for a reason which I will tell you.

THEAETETUS: Let me hear.

STRANGER: There are some who imitate, knowing what they imitate, and some
who do not know. And what line of distinction can there possibly be
greater than that which divides ignorance from knowledge?

THEAETETUS: There can be no greater.

STRANGER: Was not the sort of imitation of which we spoke just now the
imitation of those who know? For he who would imitate you would surely
know you and your figure?

THEAETETUS: Naturally.

STRANGER: And what would you say of the figure or form of justice or of
virtue in general? Are we not well aware that many, having no knowledge of
either, but only a sort of opinion, do their best to show that this opinion
is really entertained by them, by expressing it, as far as they can, in
word and deed?

THEAETETUS: Yes, that is very common.

STRANGER: And do they always fail in their attempt to be thought just,
when they are not? Or is not the very opposite true?

THEAETETUS: The very opposite.

STRANGER: Such a one, then, should be described as an imitator--to be
distinguished from the other, as he who is ignorant is distinguished from
him who knows?


STRANGER: Can we find a suitable name for each of them? This is clearly
not an easy task; for among the ancients there was some confusion of ideas,
which prevented them from attempting to divide genera into species;
wherefore there is no great abundance of names. Yet, for the sake of
distinctness, I will make bold to call the imitation which coexists with
opinion, the imitation of appearance--that which coexists with science, a
scientific or learned imitation.


STRANGER: The former is our present concern, for the Sophist was classed
with imitators indeed, but not among those who have knowledge.

THEAETETUS: Very true.

STRANGER: Let us, then, examine our imitator of appearance, and see
whether he is sound, like a piece of iron, or whether there is still some
crack in him.

THEAETETUS: Let us examine him.

STRANGER: Indeed there is a very considerable crack; for if you look, you
find that one of the two classes of imitators is a simple creature, who
thinks that he knows that which he only fancies; the other sort has knocked
about among arguments, until he suspects and fears that he is ignorant of
that which to the many he pretends to know.

THEAETETUS: There are certainly the two kinds which you describe.

STRANGER: Shall we regard one as the simple imitator--the other as the
dissembling or ironical imitator?

THEAETETUS: Very good.

STRANGER: And shall we further speak of this latter class as having one or
two divisions?

THEAETETUS: Answer yourself.

STRANGER: Upon consideration, then, there appear to me to be two; there is
the dissembler, who harangues a multitude in public in a long speech, and
the dissembler, who in private and in short speeches compels the person who
is conversing with him to contradict himself.

THEAETETUS: What you say is most true.

STRANGER: And who is the maker of the longer speeches? Is he the
statesman or the popular orator?

THEAETETUS: The latter.

STRANGER: And what shall we call the other? Is he the philosopher or the

THEAETETUS: The philosopher he cannot be, for upon our view he is
ignorant; but since he is an imitator of the wise he will have a name which
is formed by an adaptation of the word sophos. What shall we name him? I
am pretty sure that I cannot be mistaken in terming him the true and very

STRANGER: Shall we bind up his name as we did before, making a chain from
one end of his genealogy to the other?

THEAETETUS: By all means.

STRANGER: He, then, who traces the pedigree of his art as follows--who,
belonging to the conscious or dissembling section of the art of causing
self-contradiction, is an imitator of appearance, and is separated from the
class of phantastic which is a branch of image-making into that further
division of creation, the juggling of words, a creation human, and not
divine--any one who affirms the real Sophist to be of this blood and
lineage will say the very truth.

THEAETETUS: Undoubtedly.

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