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A Very Short Introduction - Plato
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The Theaetetus is one of Plato's most appealing dialogues, but also one of his
most puzzling. In it, Socrates says that he is a midwife like his mother: he draws
ideas out of people, before testing them to see whether they hold up to reasoned
examination. Refusing to put forward his own ideas about what knowledge is
(though displaying sophisticated awareness of the work of other philosophers),
he shows faults in all of the accounts of knowledge suggested by young
Theaetetus. Pursuing the thought that if you know something, you can't be
wrong, Theaetetus suggests that knowing might be perceiving; then having a
true belief; then, having a true belief and being able to defend or &give an
account of' it. All these suggestions fail, and the dialogue leaves us better off
only in awareness of our own inability to sustain an account of knowing.
Socrates' insistence on arguing only against the positions of others, not for any
position of his own, made the dialogue a key one for the Platonic tradition which
took Plato's inheritance to be one of seeking truth by questioning those who
claim to have it (as Socrates often does in the dialogues) rather than by making
his own philosophical claims. Others, noting that in other dialogues we find
positive, ambitious claims about the nature of knowledge, thought of the
Theaetetus as clearing away only accounts of knowledge that Plato took to be
mistaken. Socrates here, the midwife of others' ideas who has no &children' of his
own, seems very different from the Socrates of other dialogues such as the
Republic, who puts forward positive ideas quite confidently. Readers have to
come to their own conclusions about this (some ancient and modern solutions
are discussed in Chapter 3).

Contents
List of illustrations ix
1 Arguing with Plato 1
2 Plato's name, and other matters 12
3 D rama, fiction, and the elusive author 25
4 Love, sex, gender, and philosophy 43
5 Virtue, in me and in my society 53
6 My soul and myself 65
7 The nature of things 77
References 93
Further reading 97
I ndex 99
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