Semantics, Predication, Truth and Falsehood in Plato's Sophist


"The Sophist seems to be concerned with two things: being and nonbeing, on the one hand, and true and false speech, on the other. If speech is either true or false speech, it seems not even plausible for being to be either being or nonbeing, since we would then be compelled to say that nonbeing is as much being as false speech is speech. If nonbeing, however, is being, then nonbeing cannot be nonbeing, for otherwise the falseness of false speech would not consist in its saying 'nonbeing.' And, in turn, if nonbeing is nonbeing, the falseness of' false speech again cannot consist in its saying 'nonbeing,' for it would then not be saying anything. If we then say that nonbeing is appearing, and appearing is not unqualified nonbeing, being is being and appearing, and we want to distinguish between the strict identity which belongs to being and the likeness of' nonbeing to the strict identity of being. We say, then, 'Here is Socrates himself' and 'Here is a likeness of Socrates.' Everything in the likeness of Socrates that is a likeness of' Socrates himself will generate a true speech of Socrates identical to another speech true of Socrates himself. Everything, how ever, in the likeness of Socrates that is not a likeness of Socrates himself yields a false speech of Socrates. Among the false speeches of Socrates would be, for example, the paint on Socrates' portrait but not the color of the paint that is true of Socrates himself. The paint, then, without the color (per impossibile), is not true of Socrates, but it certainly is not a likeness of Socrates either. The paint must be together with its color in order for it to be both a likeness of Socrates and nonbeing, but it seems to be utterly mysterious how by being together it can be that and by being apart it ceases to be anything of the sort. If every thing then is just what it is and nothing else, it is impossible for there to be any speech, either true or false, for speech is impossible unless something can be put together with something else..



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