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Seeming and Being in Plato's Rhetorical Theory$
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Robin Reames

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780226567013

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: January 2019

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226567150.001.0001

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Heraclitean Opposition and Parmenidean Contradiction

Heraclitean Opposition and Parmenidean Contradiction

Pre-Socratic Ontology and Protagorean Sophistry in the Cratylus, the Theaetetus, and the Euthydemus

(p.77) 3 Heraclitean Opposition and Parmenidean Contradiction
Seeming and Being in Plato's Rhetorical Theory

Robin Reames

University of Chicago Press

This chapter examines three of Plato’s dialogues that deal with Protagoras’s doctrines: the Cratylus, Theaetetus, and Euthydemus. In those dialogues, Plato portrays the sophist Protagoras’s thought as being derivative of pre-Socratic ontology, particularly Heraclitus’s doctrine of flux and Parmenides’s doctrine of nonbeing. The paradoxical pre Socratic origins of Protagoras’s thought create profound epistemic problems for Socrates. This is shown through his struggles with the epistemic consequences of three of Protagoras’s famous doctrines: the man-measure doctrine, the two-logoi doctrine, and the impossibility of contradiction doctrine. As Socrates engages with these doctrines and their pre-Socratic antecedents, he tries but ultimately fails to distinguish between seeming and being or true and false discourse, a failure that is determined by his inability to develop an adequate theory of logos that can be stabilized against the flux and flow of the material universe and the paradox of nonbeing—the implicit pre-Socratic core of Protagoras’s famous doctrines. Along with his other treatment of Protagoras in the Protagoras dialogue, explored in the following chapter, Plato depicts the stakes of Socrates’s inability to overcome the problem of Protagorean epistemology and his man-measure doctrine: he cannot distinguish between seeming and being, reality and appearance, or true and false.

Keywords:   Plato, Protagoras, sophist, Cratylus, Theaetetus, Euthydemus, man-measure doctrine, two-logoi doctrine, Heraclitus, Parmenides

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