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[246a] to define the nature of being than that of not-being.

Theaetetus
Very well, then, we must proceed towards those others also.

Stranger
And indeed there seems to be a battle like that of the gods and the giants going on among them, because of their disagreement about existence.

Theaetetus
How so?

Stranger
Some of them1 drag down everything from heaven and the invisible to earth, actually grasping rocks and trees with their hands; for they lay their hands on all such things and maintain stoutly that that alone exists which can be touched and handled; [246b] for they define existence and body, or matter, as identical, and if anyone says that anything else, which has no body, exists, they despise him utterly, and will not listen to any other theory than their own.

Theaetetus
Terrible men they are of whom you speak. I myself have met with many of them.

Stranger
Therefore those who contend against them defend themselves very cautiously with weapons derived from the invisible world above, maintaining forcibly that real existence consists of certain ideas which are only conceived by the mind and have no body. But the bodies of their opponents, and that which is called by them truth, they break up into small fragments [246c] in their arguments, calling them, not existence, but a kind of generation combined with motion. There is always, Theaetetus, a tremendous battle being fought about these questions between the two parties.

Theaetetus
True.

Stranger
Let us, therefore, get from each party in turn a statement in defence of that which they regard as being.

Theaetetus
How shall we get it?

Stranger
It is comparatively easy to get it from those who say that it consists in ideas, for they are peaceful folk; but from those who violently drag down everything [246d] into matter, it is more difficult, perhaps even almost impossible, to get it. However, this is the way I think we must deal with them.

Theaetetus
What way?

Stranger
Our first duty would be to make them really better, if it were in any way possible; but if this cannot be done, let us pretend that they are better, by assuming that they would be willing to answer more in accordance with the rules of dialectic than they actually are. For the acknowledgement of anything by better men is more valid than if made by worse men. But it is not these men that we care about; we merely seek the truth. [246e]

Theaetetus
Quite right.

Stranger
Now tell them, assuming that they have become better, to answer you, and do you interpret what they say.

Theaetetus
I will do so.

Stranger
Let them tell whether they say there is such a thing as a mortal animal.

Theaetetus
Of course they do.

Stranger
And they agree that this is a body with a soul in it, do they not?

Theaetetus
Certainly.

Stranger
Giving to soul a place among things which exist?


1 The atomists (Leucippus, Democritus, and their followers), who taught that nothing exists except atoms and the void. Possibly there is a covert reference to Aristippus who was, like Plato, a pupil of Socrates.

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