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[261a] and when we have perceived that, may prove the existence of falsehood, and after proving that, may imprison the sophist therein, if he can be held on that charge, and if not, may set him free and seek him in another class.

It certainly seems, Stranger, that what you said at first about the sophist—that he was a hard kind of creature to catch—is true; for he seems to have no end of defences,1 and when he throws one of them up, his opponent has first to fight through it before he can reach the man himself; for now, you see, we have barely passed through [261b] the non-existence of being, which was his first prepared line of defence, when we find another line ready; and so we must prove that falsehood exists in relation to opinion and to speech; and after this, perhaps, there will be another line, and still another after that; and it seems no end will ever appear.

No one should be discouraged, Theaetetus, who can make constant progress, even though it be slow. For if a man is discouraged under these conditions, what would he do under others—if he did not get ahead at all or were even pressed back? It would be a long time, as the saying is, [261c] before such a man would ever take a city. But now, my friend, since we have passed the line you speak of, the main defences would surely be in our hands, and the rest will now be smaller and easier to take.


First, then, let us take up speech and opinion, as I said just now, in order to come to a clearer understanding whether not-being touches them, or they are both entirely true, and neither is ever false.

Very well. [261d]

Then let us now investigate names, just a we spoke a while ago about ideas and letters; for in that direction the object of our present search is coming in sight.

What do we need to understand about names?

Whether they all unite with one another, or none of them, or some will and some will not.

Evidently the last; some will and some will not.

This, perhaps, is what you mean, that those which are spoken in order [261e] and mean something do unite, but those that mean nothing in their sequence do not unite.

How so, and what do you mean by that?

What I supposed you had in mind when you assented; for we have two kinds of vocal indications of being.

How so?

1 Perhaps a sort of pun is intended, for πρόβλημα was already beginning to have the meaning of “problem.”

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