Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Philosophy, Science and the Sciences

VL Plato and the Question of Knowledge: Theaetetus

Beere, Jonathan

Wed. 10-12, DOR 24, 1.405 (First Session: April 11)

Despite the fact that many Platonic dialogues discuss the concept of knowledge, the only dialogue that takes up knowledge as its primary topic is the Theaetetus. The text is an interesting one for many reasons: (1) It offers three definitions of knowledge; (2) it formulates a philosophical method – describing Socrates as the midwife of the soul – and it explicitly reflects on that method; (3) the result is an aporia – none of the three definitions of knowledge is accepted; (4) it contains Plato’s discussions of his predecessors, especially of Heraclitus and Protagoras; (5) it is here where we find a clear cut distinction between perception and belief for the first time. In addition, it is remarkable that Plato does not discuss skepticism (the doctrine that we do not know anything); something one might expect when entering a discussion of knowledge. However, Plato does turn to the issue of relativism (understood as the doctrine that whatever we believe is true and, therefore, knowledge).


In this course, we will read the entire dialogue closely, consult recent commentaries, and also discuss relevant contemporary literature. These lectures and the corresponding seminar form a unit; students who register for this course should also attend the seminar.