Monday, May 25, 2015


A perfect bedtime story, Plato's Théetète. Lohbado found the complete works of Plato in French at the local library. In one passage Socrates mentions that one could be awake or dreaming. Do you trust the senses? Dream appearances could appear vivid. Or if one drinks too much or gazes into the distance, one might see things that aren't really there. To one person the wind might feel cold, to another warm. How much do you trust the senses? For sure, if you perceive something, it's true that you're having a perception. However the appearance could turn out to be insubstantial, like a mirage.

Théetète began the discussion by stating that knowledge is perception. In French it says: "... la science n'est pas autre chose que la sensation." 151e*, which gives a slightly different impression than the English translation available on Internet, which Lohbado glanced at for comparison. What does he mean by knowledge and how does he define perception? What is science and what is sensation?

There's a discussion about the relativity of the senses or appearances with a discussion about certain ideas of Protagoras, man as a measure of all things, and Heraclitis, reality as flux. From perception, one forms a judgement or opinion about the form or nature of what one is perceiving. So the discussion moves on to definition of objects of perception or opinion, or judgement. The section dealing with definition gets quite complex and involves and discussion about true opinions as false opinions. For example, is it possible to have an opinion or believe about that which is not? How do you define things, especially when a thing is made up of elements or components? What is the relationship of the components or aggregates to the total thing being defined? Is the total the same as the sum of parts or is the total form something over and above the individual elements which add up to form a whole, or do elements and totality mix?

Plato has become like an academic institution with many schools of interpretation. Lohbado's reading of Plato's dialogue was like opening the door to a palace and being inspired by the riches inside. Lohbado read Plato for inspiration and enjoyment, as a lay person more than as a scholar. Théetète had a powerful ending, leaving the question of knowledge open ended. Instead of making a positive declaration, Socrates concludes that it's difficult to define knowledge and that it's wisest to know what you don't know than to pretend or believe to know when actually you don't know.

*Théetète, Plato. Translated into French by Michel Narcy, in Platon: Oeuvres Complètes. Paris: Éditions Flammarion 2008.

No comments:

Post a Comment