Theaetetus Analysis

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In Plato’s Theaetetus, Socrates seeks the definition of knowledge by questioning and examining young Theaetetus. The dialogue was constructed as a tribute to Theaetetus who was Greek mathematician. When asked what knowledge is, Theaetetus delivered three definitions, which include knowledge is perception, knowledge is a true judgment, and knowledge is true judgment with an account. Socrates correctly rejects Theaetetus’ definitions of knowledge and ends the dialogue in an aporetic fashion. The dialogue begins with two individuals named Eucleides and Terpsion having a slave read them Eucleides’ memory of a conversation that occurred in the past. Plato delivers this story through a third person’s memory, which distances Plato’s voice that is…show more content…
Theaetetus delivers his first definition and claims, “knowledge is simply perception” (168). Socrates identifies his answer with the sophist Protagoras. Socrates states, “For he says [Protagoras], you know, that Man is the measure of all things: which are, that they are, and of the things which are not, that they are not” (169). This claim is problematic, because we have different perceptions of nature. For instance, take into account man’s perception of the wind; is it cold or not cold in itself? In addition, how could something be one thing, i.e. large, heavy, or light? when everything is relative to the subjectivity of each individual man. Socrates then introduces the Heraclitean flux, and adds how all is in constant motion. If things were to stop, everything would be destroyed. Socrates demonstrates the issues with personal relativism (Protagoras) and natural relativism (Heraclitus). He claims if all perceptions are true, then there is no reason to think that animal perceptions are inferior to human ones: a situation which Socrates finds absurd. Socrates states, “I was astonished that he [Protagoras] did not state at the beginning of the Truth that Pig is the measure of all things or Baboon or some yet more out-of-the-way creature with the power of perception” (179). Socrates argues that if relativism is right, then we are equally clever, which is problematic to what Protagoras claims. For example,…show more content…
He states, “it is true judgment with an account that is knowledge; true judgment without an account falls outside of knowledge” (223). Socrates postulates that an account must be constructed on primary elements that just are. The arrangement of these elements will be a rational account or logos. An example is given with the elements of words. Socrates demonstrates that words have parts that contain syllables, which in turn are built out of letters. However, knowing the syllable is more than just knowing the letters it is composed of. Subsequently, either a syllable has no parts to examine, or it is no more than the sum of its parts. Therefore, if syllables are elements and letters, then a basic account is impossible (225). Experience suggests that elements are more comprehensible than complexes. Conceivably, an account may just need to index the elements (like the hundred billion neurons that make up a brain), but knowing elements doesn 't avert miscalculation in their order (as in bad spelling). Socrates successfully exhibits that knowledge is required before one can achieve further knowledge. Socrates establishes the reasons why Theaetetus’ definitions of knowledge are incorrect. Knowledge is not perception because each individual man cannot be the objective measure of everything, and a constant flux contradicts the notion of relativism because one cannot measure something that is in constant flux. Knowledge
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