The Spicy Lotus

August 14, 2010

Theaetetus, Plato

Filed under: Uncategorized — pha9 @ 3:21 pm

The Theætetus (Greek: Θεαίτητος) is one of Plato’s dialogues concerning the nature of knowledge. The framing of the dialogue begins when Euclides tells his friend Terpsion that he had written a book many years ago based on what Socrates had told him of a conversation he’d had with Theaetetus when Theaetetus was quite a young man. (Euclides also notes that he’d had to go back to Socrates to ask some more questions about the speeches due to his spotty recollection of the account.)

Euclides is prompted to share his book when Terpsion wonders where he’d been: Euclides, who apparently can usually be found in the marketplace of Megara, was walking outside of the city and had happened upon Theaetetus being carried from Corinth to Athens with a case of dysentery and a minor war wound; Euclides remarks that Socrates had made some uncanny predictions about Theaetetus needing to rise to fame. Euclides’ book is read aloud to the two men by a slave boy in the employ of Euclides.

In this dialogue, Socrates and Theaetetus discuss three definitions of knowledge: knowledge as nothing but perception, knowledge as true judgment, and, finally, knowledge as a true judgment with an account. Each of these definitions are shown to be unsatisfactory. The conversation ends with Socrates’ announcement that he has to go to court to answer to the charges that he has been corrupting the young and failing to worship Athenian Gods.



  1. The whole idea of Socrates as a midwife, helping Theaetetus give birth to knowledge is kind of creepy to me. From what I learned in the symposium, maybe Socrates is just interested in getting into bed with the young boy.

    Comment by pha — August 22, 2010 @ 4:58 pm | Reply

  2. The three definitions of knowledge given in the dialogue are: Knowledge is perception, Knowledge is true belief, and Knowledge is true belief with an account.

    Comment by pha9 — September 4, 2010 @ 2:48 pm | Reply

  3. Because this is one of Plato’s later dialogues he is questioning or criticizing some of the ideas that he laid out in earlier works. This is more appealing to me than something like the Republic where he positively states that such and such is true. I like this form of critical thinking better. I know that in this dialogue Plato comes to no conclusion at all and that the dialogue ends without us learning the true meaning of knowledge. I think Plato is at his best when he is a critic.

    I think that Plato was also trying to accomplish the same thing in the Parmenides, but that dialogue was so difficult to follow that it took me a long time to understand even the most basic concepts of the dialogue.

    Comment by pha9 — September 4, 2010 @ 2:55 pm | Reply

  4. So the empiricist thinks that knowledge can be defined by examples. To know something is to know what kinds of things make it up.

    Comment by pha — September 6, 2010 @ 4:04 pm | Reply

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