eesti teaduste
akadeemia kirjastus
SINCE 1997
TRAMES cover
TRAMES. A Journal of the Humanities and Social Sciences
ISSN 1736-7514 (Electronic)
ISSN 1406-0922 (Print)
Impact Factor (2021): 0.467
Plato on the Rationality of Belief. Theaetetus 184-7; pp. 339–364
PDF | DOI: 10.3176/tr.2011.4.02

Toomas Lott

This paper offers an explanation of why Plato, in his later dialogues, begins to view the capacity of belief formation as necessarily involving the reasoning part of the soul. I will argue that the standard explanation, according to which for later Plato forming beliefs requires cognitive access to intelligibles (Forms), is unsatisfactory. My focus will be on the passage from Plato’s Theaetetus (184B-187A), which is crucial for understand­ing Plato’s notion of belief. I will argue that this passage does not support the standard explanation, and develop an alternative reading of the passage, according to which forming a belief is a goal-directed activity aiming at truth. In other words, it is the epistemic goal of forming beliefs that matters for Plato, not the cognitive preconditions.



Platonis Opera. Vols. 1–5. New York: Oxford University Press, 1995.

Plato. Complete works. John Cooper, ed. Indianapolis: Hackett, 1997.


Adam, James (1902) The Republic of Plato. Vol. 2, Cambridge: Cambidge University Press.

Becker, Alexander (2007) Platon. Theätet. Frankfurt am Mein: Suhrkamp Verlag.

Benson, Hugh (1992) “Why is there a discussion of false belief in Theaetetus?”. Journal of the History of Philosophy 30, 2, 179–199.

Bobonich, Christopher (2002) Plato’s Utopia recast: his later ethics and politics. New York: Oxford University Press.

Bostock, David (1988) Plato’s Theaetetus. New York: Oxford University Press.

Brown, Lesley (1991) “The verb ‘to be’ in Greek philosophy: some remarks”. In Language, 212–236. Steven Everson, ed. (Companions to Ancient Philosophy.) Cambridge University Press.

Burnyeat, Myles F. (1976) “Plato on the grammar of perceiving”. Qlassical Quarterly 26, 29–51.

Burnyeat, Myles F. (1990) The Theaetetus of Plato. Indianapolis and Cambridge: Hackett.

Burge, Tyler (2010) Origins of objectivity. New York: Oxford University Press.

Cooper, John M. (1970) “Plato on sense perception and knowledge: Theaetetus 184 to 186”. In Plato 1. Metaphysics and Epistemology, 355–376. Gail Fine, ed. New York: Oxford University Press.

Cornford, F.M. (1935) Plato’s theory of knowledge. New York: Humanities Press.

Crombie, I.M. (1962) An examination of Plato’s doctrines I. New York: Humanities Press.

Davidson, Donald (2001) “Rational animals”. In Subjective, intersubjective, objective. New York: Oxford University Press.

Dillon, John M. (2003) The heirs of Plato: a study of the Old Academy (347-274 BC). Oxford, Clarendon Press

Engel, Pascal (2004) “Truth and the aim of belief”. In Laws and models in science, 77–97. Donald Gillies, ed. London: King’s College Publications.

Evans, Gareth (1982) Varieties of reference. New York: Oxford University Press.

Fine, Gail (1979) “False belief in the Theaetetus”. Phronesis 24, 70–80.

Fine, Gail (1988) “Plato on perception: a reply to professor Turnbull ‘Becoming and intelligibility’”. Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy, Suppl. 1988, 15–28.

Fine, Gail (1993) On ideas. Aristotle’s criticism of Plato’s theory of forms. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Fine, Gail (2003) Plato on knowledge and forms. New York: Oxford University Press.

Frede, Dorothea (1989) “The soul’s silent dialogue: a non-aporetic reading of the Theaetetus”. Proceedings of the Cambridge Philological Society 215, 20–49

Frede, Michael (1987) “Observations on perception in Plato’s later dialogues”. In Plato 1. Metaphysics and epistemology, 377–383. Gail Fine, ed. New York: Oxford University Press.

Frede, Michael (1993) “Plato’s sophist on false statements”. In The Cambridge companion to Plato, 397–424. Richard Kraut, ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Frede, Michael (1996) “Introduction”. In Rationality in Greek thought. Michael Frede and Gisela Striker, eds. New York: Oxford University Press.

Gadamer, Hans-Georg (1991) “Mathemathik und Dialektik bei Plato”. In Gesammelte Werke, Band VII, 290–312. Tübingen: Mohr-Siebeck.

Ganson, Todd (2009) “The rational/non-rational distinction in Plato’s Republic”. Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy 34, 179–197.

Gerson, Lloyd (2003) Knowing persons. New York: Oxford University Press.

Heidegger, Martin (1988) Vom Wesen der Wahrheit. Zu Platons Höhlensgleichnis und Theätet. (Gesamtausgabe, Band 34.) Frankfurt am Mein:Vittorio Klostermann.

Heitsch, Ernst (1988) Überlegungen Platons im Theätät. Stuttgart: Steiner.

Holland, A.J. (1973) “An argument in Plato’s Theaetetus 184-6”. Philosophical Quarterly 23, 91, 97–116.

Kahn, Charles H. (2009) Essays on being. New York: Oxford University Press.

Kahn, Charles H., (1981) “Some philosophical uses of ‘to be’”. In Plato, Phronesis 26, 105–134.

Kanayama, Yahei (1987) “Perceiving, concidering and attaining being”. Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy 5, 29–81.

Lafrance, Yvon (1981) La théorie platonicienne de la doxa. Paris: Bellarmin.

Lorenz, Hendrik (2006) The brute within: appetitive desire in Plato and Aristotle. New York: Oxford University Press.

McDowell, John (1973) Plato’s Theaetetus. (The Clarendon Plato Series.) Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Natorp, Paul (1903) Platos Ideenlehre: eine Einführung in den Idealismus. Stuttgart: F. Meiner.

Nielsen, Karen (2008) “Did Plato articulate the Achilles argument?”. In The Achilles of rationalist psychology, 19–42. Thomas M. Lennon and Robert J. Stainton, eds. Springer.

Schmidt, Hermann (1877) Kritischer Kommentar zu Platons Theätet. Leipzig: Teubner.

Scott, Dominic (1995) Recollection and experience. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Sedley, David (2004) The midwife of Platonism. New York: Oxford University Press.

Silverman, Allan (1990) “Plato on perception and ‘commons’”. Classical Quarterly 40, 148–175.

Shea, Joseph (1985) “Judgment and perception in Theaetetus 184-186”. Journal of the History of Philosophy 23, 1–14.

Sprute, Jürgen (1962) Der Begriff der Doxa in der Platonischen Philosophie (Hypomnemata, 2.). Göttingen:Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht.

Stenzel, Julius (1917) Studien zur Entwicklung der Platonischen Dialektik von Sokrates zu Aristo­teles, Breslau:Trewendt & Granier,

Vahid, Hamid (2009) The epistemology of belief. New York: Macmillan Publishers.

Velleman, David (2000) “On the aim of belief”. In The possibility of practical reason, 244–282. David Velleman, ed. New York: Oxford University Press.

Back to Issue