Sunday, October 7, 2007

Plato The Sophist

The Sophist is in a sense a commentary on the theme of Parmenides. It breaks into three parts, an illustration of the dialectic method, a discussion of not-being, and a description of the Sophist. The first part is the easiest for me to wrap my mind around so I’ll discuss that.

Plato’s method here is to break a term down into binary components. Each of these term is further broken down so that there is ultimately a classification similar to that of Linnaeus. Whereas the Linnaean system admits of multiple subdivisions, i.e., 2 to 5 kingdoms, multiple phylae under each kingdom, and so forth, the Platonic system apparently admits only two. I’m not altogether clear on whether each term of the pairs should be considered to be in opposition to each other. Neither am I certain as to whether the terms should be considered as making up a “violent hierarchy.”

The binary breakdown as far as it goes is a method of classification, but what about things that are not binary? Would sexuality breakout into heterosexual/non-heterosexual, with the non-heterosexual breaking out into same sex/both sexes? Would that be better, from a classification standpoint, than having 4 or 5 categories at the same level?

Plato’s dialectic produces a fine division of the subject matter. He also defines terms, sometimes overdefines them. Once the process of classification is done, he then undertakes to consider whether the Sophist, who denies the concept of falsehood is right. His demonstration, which I cannot repeat, presumably shows that falsehood exists, in which case the Sophist is wrong.

I’ll be taking a break for a bit, and will relax with A Deeper Blue by John Ringo, and then follow that with some Rilke.