The Rational Enterprise: Logos in Plato's Theaetetus

By Rosemary Desjardins | Go to book overview

EPILOGUE
The Mathematical Paradigm
(147d3-148b2)

One of the persistent themes of this paper has focused on the binding together of elements so as to generate an emergent whole in a radically new dimension. In fact, it has been argued, it is Theaetetus' failure to recognize the demand for (let alone himself achieve) just such a combination that allows him to settle for a mere addition of true opinion and logos—thereby encompassing the apparent failure of the dialogue. At one remove, it has further been suggested, the reader too is called upon to achieve a generative combination of elements (in this case the elements of dramatic presentation and discursive argument within the dialogue itself) in order to attain to knowledge of "knowledge" as Plato is presenting it. Partly because of the ambiguity inherent in language, and therefore in all verbal communication, partly because he holds that, in the generation of knowledge, abstract argument is only one element, requiring for completion also concrete experience, Plato chose to present his philosophy, not as a philosophic treatise (syggramma: Seventh Epistle, 341c5), but in the form of dramatic dialogues. Here the traditional Greek balance between logos and ergon (word and deed), of which Plato is so evidently aware, 1 finds expression both in the pursuit of logos as argument and definition and in the presentation of ergon through examples, myth, and the dramatic action of the dialogues generally. As Theaetetus is (in a confused way) aware that knowledge will involve as its elements both true opinion and logos, so the reader is (often also in a confused way) aware that understanding a dialogue will involve as its elements, participation in both its dramatic and logical dimensions; as with Theaetetus, however, the problem is to achieve not mere juxtaposition but a generative combination wherein the two will reinforce, complement, and eventually transform each other. It has been in thus taking seriously the dramatic dimensions of the Theaetetus—for example, Socrates' presentation of himself as midwife and

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