Sophist | Resources

Class times: 6.30 pm Tuesday: 22, 29 June & 6, 13, 20, 27 July 2021

Zoom link for all six sessions

Dial-in back-up in case of internet disruptions: +61 2 8015 6011 | Meeting ID: 828 1626 6002 | Passcode: 192851


Find how to access a translation of Plato’s dialogue the Sophist on the Course Outline page. This also gives the standard page references for the weekly readings.

Catch-up Classes

Week 1

Session 1 | Making the right distinctions | page 216 to 221c

The method of division as the supreme science of dialectics

The method of investigation exemplified in the Sophist is presented in other dialogues as the practice characterising the supreme science of dialectics.

In Plato’s Cratylus (p. 390) dialectics is given as the inquiry that best determines the formal structure of reality upon which a corresponding naming system can be built as a guide for lawmakers.

In Plato’s Phaedrus (p. 265) the method of collection (synagoge) and division (diairesis) is presented as the divine art of dialectics.

In Euthydemus ( p. 290) geometers discover realities, but they do not know how to use them. They are like hunters who give what they catch to the cook who knows how to use it. Likewise, the dialectician knows how to use what the geometer discovers.

The Republic (Bk VII p. 531d-534e) presents dialectics as the supreme science that finds the common relationship of reality. The mathematical sciences are only a prelude to a higher dialectics which deals only with forms. The higher dialectic investigates the realm of pure forms and advances beyond the bridging science of geometry by destroying its preconceptions.

The higher dialectic and the divided line.

Autopoiesis and Cognition and Platonic Epistemology

At the end of the class there was a discussion of how the theory of autopoiesis might help us imagine an epistemology that does not resort to proposing object external to my experience that correspond with the objects in my experience but which are completely unknown and unknowable. Good beginners guides to autopoiesis are hard to come by, and so are the original accounts by Maturana and Varela (see here and here). I am now seeking advice and will share any good suggestions when they come through.

Week 2

Session 2 | Hunting down the sophist | page 221d to 237a

Week 3

Session 3 | Killing his father | page 237b to 245e

Week 4

Session 4 | The battle of the gods and the giants | page 246 to 250e

Week 5

Session 5 | The Philosopher’s high science of dialectic | page 251 to 259b