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[243a] and sometimes many and at variance with itself by reason of some sort of strife. Now whether any of them spoke the truth in all this, or not, it is harsh and improper to impute to famous men of old such a great wrong as falsehood. But one assertion can be made without offence.

Theaetetus
What is that?

Stranger
That they paid too little attention and consideration to the mass of people like ourselves. For they go on to the end, each in his own way, without caring whether their arguments carry us along with them, [243b] or whether we are left behind.

Theaetetus
What do you mean?

Stranger
When one of them says in his talk that many, or one, or two are, or have become, or are becoming, and again speaks of hot mingling with cold, and in some other part of his discourse suggests separations and combinations, for heaven's sake, Theaetetus, do you ever understand what they mean by any of these things? I used to think, when I was younger, that I understood perfectly whenever anyone used this term “not-being,” which now perplexes us. But you see what a slough of perplexity we are in about it now. [243c]

Theaetetus
Yes, I see.

Stranger
And perhaps our minds are in this same condition as regards being also; we may think that it is plain sailing and that we understand when the word is used, though we are in difficulties about not-being, whereas really we understand equally little of both.

Theaetetus
Perhaps.

Stranger
And we may say the same of all the subjects about which we have been speaking.

Theaetetus
Certainly.

Stranger
We will consider most of them [243d] later, if you please, but now the greatest and foremost chief of them must be considered.

Theaetetus
What do you mean? Or, obviously, do you mean that we must first investigate the term “being,” and see what those who use it think it signifies?

Stranger
You have caught my meaning at once, Theaetetus. For I certainly do mean that this is the best method for us to use, by questioning them directly, as if they were present in person; so here goes: Come now, all you who say that hot and cold or any two such principles are the universe, what is this that you attribute to both of them [243e] when you say that both and each are? What are we to understand by this “being” (or “are”) of yours? Is this a third principle besides those two others, and shall we suppose that the universe is three, and not two any longer, according to your doctrine? For surely when you call one only of the two “being” you do not mean that both of them equally are; for in both cases1 they would pretty certainly be one and not two.

Theaetetus
True.

Stranger
Well, then, do you wish to call both of them together being?

Theaetetus
Perhaps.


1 “In both cases,” i.e. whether you say that one only is or that both are, they would both be one, namely being.

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