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The Theaetetus on how we Think

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image of Phronesis

I argue that Plato's purpose in the discussion of false belief in the Theaetetus is to entertain and then to reject the idea that thinking is a kind of mental grasping. The interpretation allows us to make good sense of Plato's discussion of 'other-judging' (189c-190e), of his remarks about mathematical error (195d-196c), and most importantly, of the initial statement of the puzzle about falsity (188a-c). That puzzle shows that if we insist on conceiving of the relation between thought and its objects on the model of holding or grasping something in our hands, we will be unable to account for the possibility of false identity judgments: For no one who is literally grasping two things in his hands would seriously entertain the idea that one of the things is numerically identical with the other.


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