The Theaetetus of Plato
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The Theaetetus of Plato

4.12 of 5 stars 4.12  ·  rating details  ·  2,165 ratings  ·  52 reviews
M. J. Levett's elegant translation of Plato's Theaetetus, first published in 1928, is here revised by Myles Burnyeat to reflect contemporary standards of accuracy while retaining the style, imagery, and idiomatic speech for which the Levett translation is unparalleled. Bernard William’s concise introduction, aimed at undergraduate students, illuminates the powerful argumen...more
Paperback, 336 pages
Published March 15th 1990 by Hackett Publishing Company, Inc. (first published -369)
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Riku Sayuj

Epistemological Idiots

Here Plato engages with the concept of ‘knowledge’ and ‘understanding’ as in many other dialogues, but Theaetetus is often hailed as ‘Plato’s most sustained study of epistemology,’ and is a deep investigation into the question ‘What is knowledge?’ As such, it is the founding document of what has come to be known as ‘epistemology’, as one of the most important branches of philosophy and went on to influence Aristotle, the Stoics and the modern geography of the field.

In comp...more
Plato’s Theaetetus is one of his most important dialogues, a work that is fundamental to the field of epistomology or the study of how we know. In it Socrates discusses the subject of knowledge with the boy Theaetetus and his teacher of mathematics, Theodorus. In this complex work Plato explores not only his primary focus but touches upon a host of additional topics, drawing on the ideas of previous and contemporary philosophers. This makes the work often seem highly digressive but nonetheless p...more
Next to Parmenides, this is probably the most rigourous/'difficult' Platonic dialogue. It might also be the most frustrating, mainly due to the fact that the intellectual bandying-about does not yield any clear, definitive conclusion. The dialogue asks: What is knowledge?, Is knowledge perception? (T.'s response), and, Can one have knowledge of knowledge? In a forest of ideas and assertions (along with some brilliant metaphors on the part of Socrates (midwifery)), no answer is to be found.

Le Théétète n'est pas aussi aussi ardu que Parménide, mais il reste assez exigeant, et il faut rester concentrer pour suivre Socrate dans toutes ses subtilités. Tous les dialogues de Platon ne sont pas faciles d’accès. A son habitude, Socrate perturbe les certitudes de ses amis en les poussant à analyser les conséquences de leurs opinions. On est payé de la perte de ses illusions par celles de ses préjugés.
The more I read Plato, the more I wonder how much I’m missing through translation. Of course, something is always lost when a work is taken out of its native tongue. But the arguments in Plato’s dialogues often hinge on specific verbal formulas and definitions, and so I imagine the problem of translation is especially acute in this case. But I’m not about to learn Ancient Greek any time soon.

This is by far the most conceptually hairy dialogue of Plato I’ve so far read. Some sections are damn nea...more
Knowing that Theaetetus is one dialogue in a trilogy with Sophist and Statesman following it, and with Parmenides prior and linked to the trilogy, and having struggled through the almost impenetrable Parmenides, I was apprehensive about Theaetetus but then pleasantly surprised when I read it. After Parmenides, Theaetetus seems like a hybrid of Plato’s early, middle and late periods (assuming this division). It’s a bit more genuine dialogue as opposed to monologue, it has more humor and irony (in...more
This is much harder work than your average Socratic Dialogue by Plato. I found I really had to concentrate on some of the twists in the argument and have to say that I found some of the footnotes quite distracting in this edition. As someone who does not read Ancient Greek – part of the reason I’m reading Plato in translation – it is a little hard to know why my reading needs to be interrupted to be told the translator is reading some word in Ancient Greek as it is in the manuscript.

I got half...more
Sam L
An interesting one this - contains Plato's formulation of the 'justified true belief' theory of knowledge (though strangely, Socrates voices some cryptic objection to it at the end). Also the classic rejoinder against Protagorean relativism: if man is the measure of all things and truth just reduces to opinion, then if it's my opinion that man is not the measure of things then that is true for me, so why should I take Protagorean relativism seriously? Zing! Most interesting of all are the tantal...more
Très intéressante étude des théories de Protagoras et l'homme "mesure de toute chose" et d'Héraclite, qui ne peut néanmoins se faire sans une initiation à Platon et une lecture minutieusement décomposée.
Douglas Dalrymple
“For wonder is the feeling of a philosopher, and philosophy begins in wonder.”

Reading even a little from Plato’s dialogues now and then may serve as a sort of mental palette cleanser. It is especially tonic during those unhappy intervals when you find the world at large has nothing to offer but fuel for cynicism. The Theaetetus is neither the easiest nor most enjoyable of the dialogues – and finally there is no answer for the question it addresses, on the nature of knowledge – but Socrates’ inte...more
Theaetetus is an elaboration of the basic problem presented in Meno: how can we know something if we don't already know what that thing is? Doesn't something have to precede knowledge to tell us that what we "know" is true? The question that Theaetetus presents is similar to the "zetetic paradox" presented in Meno, but it is more specific and more compounded. Rather than the general question of how we know anything, it asks how do we know knowledge itself. After successfully dethroning relativit...more
Nov 26, 2011 wigwam added it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to wigwam by: PEL podcast reading suggestions
Shelves: philosophy
tran FM Cornford 1961 73 pages

this copy from the library totally smells like stale cigarette smoke, haha (what lucky borrowers have gone before me! yum!!)

I was much more frustrated with the digressions in the middle about slavery and this Protagorus guy's Truth than I was the ultimate inconclusiveness of their argument about the nature of knowledge. I was fascinated by how limited a definition of knowledge they seem to be wanting to pin down, how fixed and finite it must seem to them, and they o...more
Dec 03, 2012 Brandon rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Jeff Beebe
When reading Plato, there is always a sense of accomplishment upon nearing the conclusion of any of his dialogues. The same was true here. Theaetetus was very smooth in taking readers from knowledge defined as perception to knowledge as true judgment, and then to knowledge with a rational reason and definition, and finally to knowledge as "right opinion with knowledge of difference or of anything! And so, Theaetetus, knowledge is neither sensation nor true opinion, nor yet definition and explana...more
Sam Dodge
I recently got into the Theaetetus and the Meno, two dialogues by Plato about knowledge. These are usually intended to convey the main conflict in the history of epistemology (knowledge) between the empiricists (think experience based) and the rationalists (logical deductions - thinkers like Plato and Descartes).
Let me say, it is a slog through most of the Theaetetus, where Plato does a favorite trick and has Socrates start talking with a student of another teacher asking him what is knowledge...more
Roxanne Russell
So if I write down everything my teacher says and publish it, I get to be the author?

Is knowledge perception? 1) Theaterus' claim
2) Protagorus' doctrine that man is the measure of all things 3) Heraclitus' theory of flux

---> supports Platonic doctrine that true reality is a non sensible realm of changeless being "The Forms"

Critique of three theses
1) each man is the measure of his own wisdom
2) everyone is equally wise
3) there is no such thing as wisdom
4) no one is wiser than anyone else

Hello philosophy. You've just convince me that I don't know what knowledge is.

Okay, not true, actually, you've pushed me in the direction I was already inclined to go, and my concept of knowledge is pretty much what it already had been.

Thus I am guilty once again of seeking out philosophy based on the presumption that it will confirm me in what I think I already know, rather than seeking to be corrected.

I'll think some more, though.
This is another of my favorite Platonic dialogues not because of the discussion on perception and knowledge but because of the poetic language and imagery used throughout. Here's one of my favorite passages about the importance of a philosophic life:

"This is the way that belongs to each, Theodorus, one of them nurtured in his very being in freedom and leisure, the one whom you call a philosopher, who's blameless for seeming to be naive and of no account whenever he stumbles into slavish services...more
A good philosophy book. I read it for a course in university. The book covers what exactly knowledge is, and takes you through with a dialogue. The back-forth style of writing is good, because you can see an idea be proposed, and then refuted/ corrected, slowly narrowing down what exactly knowledge is.

It's worth reading if you're interested in philosophy.
This is one of my favorite Platonic dialogues, and it was a joy to reread it for an SJC alumni seminar. The different images for how we store knowledge in our souls are beautiful, and I am somewhat sorry that they ultimately get discarded. I still think that the best definition offered is that it is "right judgment with an account", but in order to maintain it, I will need to figure out of what sort the requisite account is.
Moreover, at the end of the dialogue, the question which haunts me is "w...more
Jacob Stubbs
So, I used this in my Ancient philosophy paper over (unsurprisingly) Plato's _Theaetetus_. I specifically focused on the Protagorean and Heraclitean themes within the first definition of knowledge as "perception." Burnyeat's commentary on the _Theaetetus_ was extremely helpful. That being said, I was very sad to see that he had not addressed Sarah Waterlow's commentary on the "dialectical nothingness" that is the Protagorean position. That criticism aside, Burnyeat's commentary was great.

A good introduction to various epistemological views, even-handed and usually lucid in its attempts to illuminate what "knowledge" is. Or rather, what it isn't. Although the dialogue is basically inconclusive, its characterization and imagery (particularly the "midwife" analogy) and Socrates' feats of philosopher-channeling self-rebuttal are entertaining enough to stave of frustration at Plato apparently treading water. Considering how admirably unbiased (yet not invariably inconclusive) Socrate...more
This dialogue stands alone as giving full veracity to the claim that "all philosophers are but a footnote to Plato." Epistemology was not a branch of philosophy when this was written. Within a brisk dialogue, Socrates both provides us the ladder to reach its heights, and makes the reader realize he's merely standing atop a foot stool. Humility quickly follows. Furthermore, the advancement of the dialectic is profound. Socrates warns that if we are to cease seeing things as static and in a moment...more
Kelly Davio
This dialogue took my brain out, stretched it, tied it in knots, and now it won't go back to the way it was. Thanks, Plato.
This is, personally speaking, the most challenging of Plato's dialogues merely because it is so rigorous yet does not yield a conclusion. It will make your head spin if you do not have a firm grip on the philosophies of Parmenides, Heraclitus, and Protagoras. However, if you do, and you like postmodernism, this will serve as an antidote. The dialogue asks, "How can you have knowledge of knowledge?" The answer - set theory (of classes) - is not here; meanwhile, Plato blunders through some incredi...more
What is knowledge? I don't know.
Very boring. Honestly.
Oct 17, 2007 Shaun rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Plato enthusiasts
Shelves: philosophy
This five star rating system just doesn't cut it. I enjoyed this much more than the Parmenides, but I can't quite say I "really" liked it. Regardless, this aporetic dialogue focuses on knowledge. As a fan of Platonic myth and metaphor (simply for its beauty and richness,) this dialogue has plenty; the midwife analogy, the aviary, and the wax block. Some interesting issues in knowledge are developed and refuted leaving us to ponder: has Plato truly abandoned knowledge as true belief with an accou...more
Why can't Plato just say what he has to say without hammering our brains with made-up conversations between people who possibly never even met?

And why do I have to read it in school? Tell me why, why, why..

This is an effort to fill in some blank spots in my adult reading record. I came across some notes on prior reading and wanted to add this and some other books. This book is a statement of Plato's epistemology. I read it for a grad seminar in Plato at CUA in fall 1977. It was a good seminar and I enjoyed working through the text. As I have read more, it would have been good to have gone through a survey on Plato first, although catching up is also exciting.
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  • De Anima (On the Soul)
  • Philosophical Fragments/Johannes Climacus (Kierkegaard's Writings, Volume 7)
  • The Enneads
  • Early Greek Philosophy
  • Fragments
  • The Discourses
  • Ptolemy's Almagest
  • Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics
  • On Old Age, On Friendship & On Divination
  • Untimely Meditations
  • A Treatise of Human Nature
  • Euclid's Elements
  • Elements of Chemistry
  • Elements of the Philosophy of Right
  • The Blue and Brown Books
  • Philoctetes
Plato is a Classical Greek philosopher, mathematician, student of Socrates, writer of philosophical dialogues, and founder of the Academy in Athens, the first institution of higher learning in the Western world. Along with his mentor, Socrates, and his student, Aristotle, Plato helped to lay the foundations of Western philosophy and science.

Plato is one of the most important Western philosophers,...more
More about Plato...
The Republic The Trial and Death of Socrates The Symposium Apology Five Dialogues: Euthyphro, Apology, Crito, Meno, Phaedo

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“For this feeling of wonder shows that you are a philosopher, since wonder is the only beginning of philosophy.” 83 likes
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