Semantics, Predication, Truth and Falsehood in Plato’s Sophist
INTRODUCTION: BEING AND NON-BEING, TRUTH AND FALSEHOOD IN PLATO’S SOPHIST
Notes by Stacy Cacciatore
“Ontology is the theory of objects and their ties. ”
“It provides criteria for distinguishing different types of objects (concrete and abstract, existent and nonexistent, real and ideal, independent and dependent) and their ties (relations, dependencies, and prediction).
We can distinguish: a) formal, b) descriptive and c) formalized ontologies.”
“ontology has been developed in two principal ways. The first approach has been to study formal ontology as a part of ontology, and to analyze it using the tools and approach of formal logic”
“Descriptive ontology concerns the collection of information about the list of objects that can be dependent or independent items (real or ideal).”
“Formalized ontology attempts to constructs a formal codification for the results descriptively acquired at the preceding levels.”
“Metaphysics is the science that studies being qua being”
“Ontology is intimately related to metaphysics, the theory of ultimate categories of things. ”
“The Sophist seems to be concerned with two things: being and nonbeing, on the one hand, and true and false speech, on the other. If speech is either true or false speech, it seems not even plausible for being to be either being or nonbeing, since we would then be compelled to say that nonbeing is as much being as false speech is speech.
- To sum up then, the discussion in the Sophist seems to attempt the following things: to distinguish the sense of einai in which it means ‘exist’ from various other senses which the word bears; to deal, as we have seen, with the Paradox of False Belief; and to deal with the (related) problems raised by negation on the assumption that a sentence which does contain, or could be rephrased so as to contain, the copula ‘is’ asserts the existence of its subject and that its negation might be thought to assert its non-existence, or at least to attribute to it a measure of non-existence
- The relevant section begins in 236 d, when the Stranger, having said that sophists pursue apparent rather than real wisdom, goes on to say that there has been, and still is, a serious puzzle about “appearing and yet not being, and about saying something and yet something which is not true”. Arguments implying the possibility of false statement or false belief “venture to say that not-being is; for there could not otherwise be such a thing as falsity” (237 a 4).
- The Stranger then says that Parmenides always warned his pupils not to say that not-being is, and offers as the reason for this ban the argument that ‘not-being’ cannot be the name of anything which is, and therefore cannot be the name of anything. But a man who says something must say some one thing; therefore the man who does not say something must say nothing, and therefore perhaps we ought to say that the man who tries to utter what-is-not not only says nothing but does not even say at all. (237 a-e).
- The Stranger then says that he is unable to see how to define sophistry without contradicting the conclusions that they have come to in their discussion so far.
- The Stranger then says that they must come to terms with Parmenides, and show that not-being in a way is, and being in a way is not.
- The Stranger now concludes that when we speak of not-being we do not speak of the opposite of being, but only of something different from it. Negation does not ‘signify the opposite’. To prefix ‘not’ to a word is to indicate something different from the thing that the word stands for. There are many parts of difference, or in other words many contrasts, such as that between the beautiful and that which is different from it; and the contrasting term (such as the not-beautiful) is just as much a being as the other term, since the former does not signify the opposite of the latter, but only something different from it. This, he says, deals with the problem of the sophists’ teaching. Not-being is the difference. It is not the opposite of being.
- In sum: since we wish to avoid speaking of nonexistent things, or to put it positively, since anything at all combines with or participates in being, ‘not’ must be explained by means of the available network of pure forms. The obvious choice is otherness. ‘Not to be this’ is instead ‘to be that.’ Hence otherness must be a double look, or what would today be called a two-place relation. This conclusion gives rise in turn to a second question: What about sameness?
SRC-not-being is difference. It is not the opposite of being.
In sum: since we wish to avoid speaking of nonexistent things, or to put it positively, since anything at all combines with or participates in being, ‘not’ must be explained by means of the available network of pure forms. The obvious choice is otherness. ‘
One replaces sameness with identity
“From: Anthony Preus, Historical Dictionary of Ancient Greek Philosophy, Lanham, Scarecow Press, 2007 pp. 67-68.
” einai: to be, to exist; to on: that which is, the real; ousia: being, essence. ”
“for Plato, as for Parmenides, absolute nonbeing is nonsense (Sophist 238c), ”
Non-being interpreted as the Other thus ceases to be mere nothingness and becomes instead the source of articulated diversity in things and in thought. Parmenides has been superseded.
From: Ian MacHattie Crombie, An Examination of Plato’s Doctrines, Vol. II: Plato on Knowledge and Reality, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1963 pp. 502-514
Excerpts From: Raul Corazzon. “Theory and History of Ontology.” iBooks.