Author The issue of authorship as well as date of this epistle cannot be settled in isolation.
Introduction The Theaetetus, which probably dates from about BC, is arguably Plato's greatest work on epistemology. Arguably, it is his greatest work on anything. His two respondents are Theaetetus, a brilliant young mathematician, and Theaetetus' tutor Theodorus, who is rather less young and rather less brilliant.
Also like other Platonic dialogues, the main discussion of the Theaetetus is set within a framing conversation ac between Eucleides and Terpsion cp. This frame may be meant as a dedication of the work to the memory of the man Theaetetus.
Sedley 6—8 has argued that it is meant to set some distance between Plato's authorial voice and the various other voices including Socrates' that are heard in the dialogue. Alternatively, or also, it may be intended, like Symposium —3, to prompt questions about the reliability of knowledge based on testimony.
The Theaetetus reviews three definitions of knowledge in turn; plus, in a preliminary discussion, one would-be definition which, it is said, does not really count. Each of these proposals is rejected, and no alternative is explicitly offered.
Thus we complete the dialogue without discovering what knowledge is. We discover only three things that knowledge is not Theaetetus c; cp. This matters, given the place that the Theaetetus is normally assigned in the chronology of Plato's writings.
If so, and if we take as seriously as Plato seems to the important criticisms of the theory of Forms that are made in the Parmenides, then the significance of the Theaetetus's return to the aporetic method looks obvious.
Apparently Plato has abandoned the certainties of his middle-period works, such as the theory of Forms, and returned to the almost-sceptical manner of the early dialogues.
In the Theaetetus, the Forms that so dominated the Republic's discussions of epistemology are hardly mentioned at all. A good understanding of the dialogue must make sense of this fact. Summary of the Dialogue At the gates of the city of Megara in BC, Eucleides and Terpsion hear a slave read out Eucleides' memoir of a philosophical discussion that took place in BC, shortly before Socrates' trial and execution ac.
In this, the young Theaetetus is introduced to Socrates by his mathematics tutor, Theodorus. Socrates questions Theaetetus about the nature of expertise, and this leads him to pose the key question of the dialogue: Theaetetus' first response D0 is to give examples of knowledge such as geometry, astronomy, harmony, arithmetic a-c.
Socrates objects that, for any x, examples of x are neither necessary nor sufficient for a definition of x de. Theaetetus admits this, and contrasts the ease with which he and his classmates define mathematical terms with his inability to define of knowledge ce.
Theaetetus, he suggests, is in discomfort because he is in intellectual labour ed. Socrates does not respond to this directly. Instead he claims that D1 entails two other theories Protagoras' and Heracleitus'which he expounds ee and then criticises ec.The thunder-and-lightning example seems like a bad comparison for this kind of situation, in that the false claim is (1) easily observable to be untrue, and (2) utterly useless to the society that propagates it.
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