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[237a] in contradiction.

Theaetetus
Why?

Stranger
This statement involves the bold assumption that not-being exists, for otherwise falsehood could not come into existence. But the great Parmenides, my boy, from the time when we were children to the end of his life, always protested against this and constantly repeated both in prose and in verse:“Never let this thought prevail, saith he, that not-being is;
But keep your mind from this way of investigation.
Parmenides Fr. 7 [237b] So that is his testimony, and a reasonable examination of the statement itself would make it most absolutely clear. Let us then consider this matter first, if it's all the same to you.

Theaetetus
Assume my consent to anything you wish. Consider only the argument, how it may best be pursued; follow your own course, and take me along with you.

Stranger
Very well, then. Now tell me; do we venture to use the phrase absolute not-being?

Theaetetus
Of course.

Stranger
If, then, not merely for the sake of discussion or as a joke, but [237c] seriously, one of his pupils were asked to consider and answer the question “To what is the designation 'not-being' to be applied?” how do we think he would reply to his questioner, and how would he apply the term, for what purpose, and to what object?

Theaetetus
That is a difficult question; I may say that for a fellow like me it is unanswerable.

Stranger
But this is clear, anyhow, that the term “not-being” cannot be applied to any being.

Theaetetus
Of course not.

Stranger
And if not to being, then it could not properly be applied to something, either.

Theaetetus
How could it? [237d]

Stranger
And this is plain to us, that we always use the word “something” of some being, for to speak of “something” in the abstract, naked, as it were, and disconnected from all beings is impossible, is it not?

Theaetetus
Yes, it is.

Stranger
You assent because you recognize that he who says something must say some one thing?

Theaetetus
Yes.

Stranger
And you will agree that “something” or “some” in the singular is the sign of one, in the dual of two, and in the plural of many.

Theaetetus
Of course. [237e]

Stranger
And he who says not something, must quite necessarily say absolutely nothing.

Theaetetus
Quite necessarily.

Stranger
Then we cannot even concede that such a person speaks, but says nothing? We must even declare that he who undertakes to say “not-being” does not speak at all?

Theaetetus
The argument could go no further in perplexity.


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