Plato's "Theaetetus" and "Sophist": What False Sentences Are Not

Dissertation, The University of Wisconsin - Madison (1982)
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Plato's Theaetetus rejects four explanations of how someone could falsely believe something. The Sophist accepts an explanation of how someone could falsely believe something. The problem is to fit together what Plato rejects in the Theaetetus with what he accepts in the Sophist, given the intended unity of these two dialogues. ;The traditional solution is to take the Sophist's explanation of false speech and belief to be Plato's last word on the matter, to take that explanation as somehow overreaching the problems raised in the Theaetetus. I argue that this solution is unsatisfactory: Using the Cratylus, I point out a 'match-up postulate' needed for false speech, namely, that a person can 'match-up' x with y in some way or other whether or not x and y really belong together in that way. But The Theaetetus rejects this postulate. And This rejection is canonical, that is, Plato is there arguing in his own person. Now Nowhere in the Sophist is any reason given to accept this postulate, nor is it compatible with certain parts of the Sophist. Thus The Sophist's explanation does not overreach the problems raised in the Theaetetus. ;Having rejected the traditional way of fitting together the Theaetetus and Sophist, I suggest the following new way. Instead of taking the explanation of the Sophist to be Plato's last word on false speech, I take his last word to be the rejection of the various explanations in the Theaetetus. ;I motivate this suggestion by comparing Plato's peculiar style of dialogue--as found, for instance, in the Laches and Meno--with the modern, expository style of presenting philosophy. The aim of my comparison is to show that, whereas in an exposition the arguing is done in the middle followed by the conclusion at the end, in Plato's dialogue style the arguing is done in the middle followed by a denial of the conclusion at the end
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