|Lohbado in Cote des Neiges, Montreal|
The point is to find out what exactly is going on. On a natural level, one has a basic idea of how to do things and to navigate in the world. But when a sense of dissatisfaction, confusion or pain sets in, then one begins to wonder what the fuss of life is all about. One might begin to philosophize. Some people come along and claim to know. In the time of Plato, there was a group called the Sophists who specialized in the art of persuasion or winning disputes. They were hired to train those wishing to be active in politics, law or in any field where the ability to persuade could be profitable. The Sophists were concerned about winning. Justice was secondary. Money called the shots, at the expense of truth. Truth in this context was valued less than financial prosperity. This is at the heart of the dialogue.
In the Sophist, an Eleatic stranger plays the role of bullshit detector usually assigned to Socrates. The approach is to seek a definition of terms in order to discover if the person really knows what they are talking about. According to Socrates, knowing that one does not know is a good thing, since claiming to know, or deluding oneself into thinking one knows would be an obstacle to attaining wisdom.