More Theaetetus Beginning

The introduction has two layers before beginning the dialogue between Socrates and Theaetetus.

In the first layer Terpsion finds Euclides after Euclides has departed from Theaetetus who is dying from severe war wounds and dysentery. They walk to the home of Euclides where he has his servant read the discourse between Socrates and Theaetetus for them while they rest. The whole thing is written by Plato, but inside the story of the dialogue it is Euclides who wrote the notes which Euclides and Terpsion are listening to as the main dialogue read by a servant within the context of resting at the home of Euclides.

In the second layer Theodorus talks with Socrates about Theaetetus before Socrates and Theaetetus are introduced. Theodorus has been teaching math and other sciences to Theaetetus, and praises the impressive intellectual abilities of Theaetetus. Theodorus also claims that Theaetetus has a likeness to Socrates in both physical appearance and intellect. As Theodorus describes Theaetetus to Socrates he also mentions that the wealth of the father may already have been squandered by the trustees of Theaetetus, but praises Theaetetus for generosity as well. Theodorus introduces Theaetetus with much praise, which makes me wonder if Theodorus fears the future for his beloved student because of the making of so much praise over him. It almost looks as if Theodorus is saying there is something he’s worried about with Theaetetus, and doing all this praising instead of actually telling Socrates what is troubling his mind – I don’t know. As the discourse begins it turns out Theaetetus has impressive mental abilities, but surely Socrates will soon take him to task on his view that knowledge is nothing but perception.

I would like to entertain two extreme views from these opening passages. Here I’m taking a poetic reading of the opening, which I assume Plato does not intend, but my philosophical nature is a feral one. After all, I’m basically a secular humanist, so why not grant myself the right for using a poetic inference license?

In the dialogue Socrates will question Theaetetus about the nature of knowledge, thus from the opening I wonder how much the desire to return home and the desire to rest from war – in the case of Theaetetus – may be similar to our deepest desire for knowledge? The poetic inference I’m making here is between our desire to be resting at home and our desire for knowledge.

Then secondly, I wonder if we can squander our best efforts to understand knowledge with the assumption that perception is knowledge? That our thinking that perception is knowledge is a distraction from actually doing real work to try and understand the nature of knowledge. I believe that knowledge should be something instinctual and intuitive, rather than conceptually constructed or formed into a doctrine. I don’t believe knowledge can be a conceptual construction, nor a dogmatic doctrine like the young Theaetetus has committed himself to believing in; that knowledge is nothing but perception. The poetic inference I’m making here is between Theaetetus letting his inheritance be squandered, and squandering his intellect on the dogma that perception is knowledge.

With even more extreme speculation, on my part, I’m wondering about the death of Theaetetus as a poetic inference about knowledge. If we could actually possess knowledge then would it would be like going home, finding rest, or even like death.

I believe when we die we do not become nothing, but instead we become someone else. Death, I think, really is to become someone else, and a natural process which happens to all living things. Also, I think we would become someone else if we came into possession of real knowledge. I speculate, if we actually came into possession of the knowledge we are driven to discover by our desires; we would not only become someone else, but something else and no longer be human.

I’ve just made a lot of strange metaphysical poetic inferences which may be too strong for most people’s views, and I assume Plato does not intend. Surely, it’s natural for us to wonder about the nature of knowledge, and wondering about the real nature of knowledge should leave room for some wild speculations. If there’s nothing wrong with wild speculations about knowledge, then the notion that perception is knowledge must merely be another wild speculation.

2 thoughts on “More Theaetetus Beginning

  1. I think when we die we become someone else too, more like something else. Like either ashes or worm food.

    There was a time when I was interested in the supernatural because it was exotic. I might have agreed with you that we become someone or something else when we die. Now I’ve gone back to being a skeptic.

  2. If this makes my head hurt, what might it do to someone else? 😯

    Leon, I agree with you for the most part. But I think it is possible for science to discover phenomena that happens when we die that can explain, or discount the supernatural.

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