The Case of Theaetetus

Phronesis 46 (1):1 - 37 (2001)
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Abstract

Any comprehensive interpretation of the "Theaetetus" has to provide answers to, among others, two very general questions concerning that dialogue: "What is Plato's relation to the problems faced in the "Theaetetus"?" and "What is the significance of the absence of the Forms from the discussion of the "Theaetetus", given their undoubted relevance to the topic of the dialogue, i.e. knowledge?" Predominantly, the answer given to the first question in the literature has been that the problems are those that Plato is trying to tackle and the one to the second question, when it has been addressed at all, that the Forms are left out of the discussion because Plato no longer thought them relevant, either for having abandoned or seriously revised them, by the time of writing the "Theaetetus". In this study of the Wax Block and the Aviary models of judgment that occur in the second part of the "Theaetetus" as part of its discussion of the problem of false judgment, I argue that the problems faced there actually arise because of the neglect of Forms. The discussion of the second part is, I contend, carried out on a materialist ontology, an ontology assumed because it suits the definition of knowledge as true judgment which inaugurates that part of the dialogue, an ontology in no way subscribed to by Plato. The Wax Block is, I explain, a materialist model and fails in the case of judgments about numbers for treating them on a par with material subjects, ignoring their intelligible status. In particular, it fails to distinguish judging 5 and 7 to be 11 from judging 12 to be 11 because of its neglect of Forms; Plato would distinguish those judgments by distinguishing 5 and 7 from 12 with help from his part-whole analysis, to which the Forms are essential

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