Q is for Question

| April 12, 2014

Despite not reaching a definitive conclusion as to what knowledge is in Plato’s Theaetetus, the discussion within the dialogue itself provides the reader with valuable insight. Three main answers to the central question are explored. While each response is subsequently countered through Socrates’ challenges and refutations, what knowledge is agreed not to be proves just as enlightening a discourse. The beginning of the dialogue, like its conclusion, paints Socrates as a midwife who is without child. Socrates’ duty is to help others give birth to knowledge. He states that the highest point of his art “is the power to prove by every test whether the offspring of a young man’s thought is a false phantom or instinct with life and truth” (150c). The truths which others birth from within are discovered by themselves; however, this delivery is due in part to Socrates. The mentioning of the midwifery at the end of the discourse is done to show that Socrates has deemed a miscarriage necessary as the men have seemed to exhaust all of the possible answers to what knowledge could be. The absence of a definitive definition is not caused by a lack of understanding, however. Through establishing instead what knowledge is not perhaps shows that knowledge is too grand of a concept to simply be defined. The unsuccessful attempt of putting what knowledge is into words is not a fault of Socrates or Theaetetus. In contrast, this failure establishes the ineffability of certain truths.