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Plato's Sophist [375-376]


1.) πᾶσαν ἀκούσιον ἀμαθίαν εἶναι (a6). This is a repetition of the proposition we have seen above: "All unproficiency comes to be without a positive decision in favor of it."

2.) μαθεῖν οὐδέν ποτ᾽ ἂν ἐθέλειν τὸν οἰόμενον εἶναι σοφὸν τούτων ὧν οἴοιτο πέρι δεινὸς εἶναι (a6ff.): "No one will learn anything about a subject he considers himself an expert in and thinks he is already thoroughly familiar with."

3.) μετὰ δὲ πολλοῦ πόνου τὸ νουθετητικὸν εἶδος τῆς παιδείας σμικρὸν ἀνύτειν (a8f.): against such ignorance as this ἄγνοια in the strict sense, the mode of education in question, the νουθετητική, admonition and remonstrance, would be able μετὰ δὲ πολλοῦ πόνου σμικρὸν ἀνύτειν, "even with great pains and at great cost, to accomplish but the slightest thing."

The νουθετητική must fail, because the comportment which needs to undergo the purification, by its very sense, shuts itself off from such instruction by considering itself dispensed with the necessity of purification in the first place. Indeed it is part of the very sense of ἄγνοια to believe that it already knows. It is precisely this pretence to knowledge that the διδασκαλική must attack. This pretence must, as it were, be emptied, undermined, and thereby brought to the point that it collapses upon itself.


δδ) The κάθαρσις of the ἄγνοια by ἔλεγχος. The procedure of ἔλεγχος. Setting the δόξαι against each other through the συνάγειν εἰς ἔν. Rejection of the purported discovery of the principle of contradiction. Its discovery in Aristotle. The ἐκβολή of δόξα as μεγίστη τῶν καθάρσεων. The liberation of Dasein toward ἀληθεύειν.


Plato now says that those who know how things stand with this ἄγνοια—that it is precisely grounded in the fact that πᾶσαν ἀκούσιον ἀμαθίαν εἶναι, "all unproficiency comes to be without a resolution toward it"—already possess the path to the ἐκβολή (cf. 230b1). Διερωτῶσιν, they "question" anyone who οἰόμενος λέγειν τι λέγων μηδέν (cf. b4f.); "they question him thoroughly." Διερωτᾶν means to question so as to shake someone thoroughly, as it were, i.e., to overwhelm him with questions so that he is altogether shaken in his εἰδέναιt and is thereby disabused of his purported familiarity with things. Here we see the concrete connection with the modes of everyday activity mentioned at the beginning, e.g., the winnowing of grain. The thorough questioning has determinate stages. What is essential is that the ones who carry it out, take τὰς δόξας, "the opinions" of the person concerned, the one who is undergoing the questioning, and συνάγοντες τοῖς λόγοις εἰς ταὐτὸν τιθέασι (cf. b6), "in discussion they bring together, συνάγειν, the person's opinions about some matter and relate them to one and the same thing." That is to say, they accomplish


Martin Heidegger (GA 19) Plato's Sophist