Volume 3, 1998
Probleme de la Predication
Noeud Central du Sophiste de Platon
Some scholars have found the dealing of the problem of predication, or attribution, in the Sophist (251a-e), a "digression," or a treatment of "a trivial question" and "an insignificant example." We propose to reconsider the importance of Plato’s doctrine on the subject from the point of view of the epistemology- ontology relationship in Plato. This leads to a replacement of the passage inside the whole dialogue. Beginning with the definition of the sophist, Plato goes on to treat the "mimetic" art and finds himself confronting a perplexing difficulty: how to understand falsehood, either in thought or in discourse. This is an epistemological difficulty, which raises the central difficulty of how to attribute non-being to being. So, the heart of the matter is the possibility of predication, as Plato states very clearly (238a). The solution arises from the doctrine of the community of species, making possible any attribution of one thing to another. In looking carefully to the dialogue as a whole, we find that the passage 251a-e, dealing with the general problem of predication, occupies a central position, in all meanings, even numerically (between 236e and 264a).