PLATO: THEAETETUS

by John McDowell

Oxford World’s Classics (2014) p/b 161pp £9.99 (ISBN 9780199646166)

The translation provided here dates from 1973, but is preceded by a new, lengthy, detailed and valuable introduction by the Oxford philosopher Lesley Brown. The dialogue is one of notable difficulty, and addresses the subject generically known as ‘Theory of Knowledge’, or epistemology. Modern philosophers who have been concerned with the dialogue include F.M. Cornford, Wittgenstein, Gilbert Ryle, and Heidegger; more recently, D. Sedley and Myles Burnyeat have been notably prominent. (This book contains an admirable brief bibliography, of a kind which should put joy into the heart of any undergraduate studying Plato and/or epistemology). There are other translations available, but the one in the Loeb Library series—which of course includes the Greek text, and includes Sophist—by H.N Fowler dates from 1921, and, for this reviewer, reads less well than McDowell’s. Textual problems are very few, seven of them being touched on in the notes. Stylometric analysis places Theaetetus among Plato’s later works, perhaps soon after The Republic, from which, however it differs in ways that are too complex to be considered here.

Inexpensively priced, this book, especially its Introduction, is strongly recommended for undergraduates and anyone with a serious interest in Plato.

Colin Leach

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