It’s been more than 16 years since I first read Theaetetus by Plato, and revisiting it now feels like reading it for the first time. What I remember from the first reading is Socrates questioning Theaetetus about knowledge, and some vague memories of a theory of false beliefs. Now I’ve noticed there is something in the opening I completely overlooked until now.
The tone set in the beginning is one of sadness. Theaetetus 142 – 144D
It appears the life of Theaetetus ends too soon. Theaetetus is praised for his bravery and conduct in battle, so it surely remains that his sacrifice in war become his contribution rather than some later accomplishment in mathematics.
Even though the sacrifice of Theaetetus is great and admirable the opening leaves me to wonder what Theaetetus may have accomplished if he had lived. I feel conflicted between the admiration of the sacrifice, and wondering if some contribution he may have made later in life has been squandered. Not that his sacrifice is any less important, but it is haunting to wonder what the world has missed out on because Theaetetus didn’t live.
I’ve lost a few relatives to war, but they are people I’ve only heard about long after they are gone. My grandmother’s son Jeff for instance. Strangely, the family members who knew him spoke very little about him. I can’t remember the words my grandmother said about Jeff, but I can still see the sadness in her eyes when she did have something to say about him.
I am old enough that I had to register for the draft when I turned 18, and I was genuinely frightened by the prospect that I might end up in some unforeseen war. I count myself very fortunate that there were no wars while I was of military age. I believe a world without war is actually possible, and there is no such thing as a real necessity for war. War is a byproduct of greed caused by wealthy power brokers, and their lust for pleasure. War is a method of the paranoid rich to keep poor people fearing each other instead of helping one another. War culture survives with a hungry ghost world view that the only way one person can have life it to take someone the life of someone else. War is is ultimately a deception, and contrarily to our true human nature, which is to help other people survive.
I find it sad to think that some of my own relatives have lost their lives to war, and it is surely hard to imagine losing someone whom I know in person that way. We should honor everyone who dies in war including so called enemies, and hopes that all people will work towards compassion instead of war.
As for Theaetetus the opening is somber, but also there is an elegance in these passages with Theaetetus wanting to be home. Presumably, Theaetetus knew he was going to die from his wounds and illness, so his desire to return home must have been the last important thing he ever wanted in life.