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Reading Plato's Theaetetus


Monday, 4 November 2019 to Monday, 16 March 2020
Total hours: 40
Hours of lectures: 40

Examination procedure

  • oral exam


No prerequisite, although a basic knowledge of ancient Greek may be useful.


The course proposes a reading of the Theaetetus, the only Platonic dialogue that specifically addresses the question of the nature of human knowledge, with an astonishing thematic richness; from this dialogue, indeed, it derives a good part of the endowment of Western epistemology, as well as a good part of its lacks. It does not seem risky to say that ''no other dialogue of Plato's speaks so directly to the concerns of the working philosopher in modern times'' (Burnyeat). Plato's interest in episteme goes beyond an evaluation of its definitions: the latter only represent the fuel of the dialogic machine, as attested by the numerous stops, deviations and decelerations that come between the enunciation of a definition and its ultimate refutation. In particular, the very final definition of knowledge as ''true belief accompanied by a logos'', for the way it falls prey to circularity, happens to be the expression of a definitory program which is defeated by a checkmate. In spite of this, such a program is still perpetuated today by the majority of philosophers, according to whom knowledge is a compound mental state, which can be analyzed as a (cognitively) enriched true belief.



Educational goals:

gain understanding of the ingenious arguments of the dialogue and their relevance to the subject of epistemology.

Bibliographical references

J.McDowell,Theaetetus, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1973.

Other references will be indicated during the course.