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date: 23 October 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Plato’s late dialogue, the Sophist, divides clearly into two very different parts. In the Outer Parts (216–236d; 264b9–end), the main speaker, a nameless visitor from Elea in Italy (hereafter ES, for Eleatic Stranger) embarks on a discourse ostensibly designed to say what a sophist is. Using the so-called Method of Division, the ES offers no fewer than seven accounts of what the sophist is. Interrupting the seventh attempt, the Middle Part (236d9–264b8) provides a striking contrast. There the ES undertakes a lengthy discussion sparked by problems arising from defining a sophist as a maker of images and purveyor of false beliefs. This chapter focuses on two key problems discussed and solved in the Middle Part: the Late-learners’ problem (the denial of predication), and the problem of false statement. It looks at how each is, in a way, a problem about correct speaking; how each gave rise to serious philosophical difficulty, as well as being a source of eristic troublemaking; and how the ES offers a definitive solution to both. The Sophist displays an unusually didactic approach: Plato makes it clear that he has important matter to impart, and he does so with a firm hand, especially on the two issues discussed.

Keywords: Plato, dialogues, philosophy, Sophist, predication, false statement, correct speaking

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