In Plato's Sophist he tackles the question of being and not-being. Can something that "is" be "not" or to put it in perspective can an idea that is true be false?

If somebody has the idea of winning the lottery, and he knows for a fact winning the lottery exists, and he clings to this idea knowing he can win the lottery but at present he has not, how can an idea that is true, be false.

Of course the conventional view is that hope, fate and luck have a big say in the matter but the person with the knowledge or opinion of all these facts, and attempting to bring into being that which is, how can he avoid being sucked into the paradox of that which "is" "is not" and that which "is not" "is"?

Is his idea of winning true or false, and if true, how does he avoid continuously deceiving himself if at any given moment, after acquiring the necessary tickets, he has not won?

  • It sounds like your lottery-aspirant has not internalized Hume's advice to proportion belief to evidence (see David Hume, "On Miracles"). That is, he is simply not reasoning probabilistically. But if you'd like an explication of Plato's problem, perhaps you could note which section of Sophist you're interested in. – ChristopherE Dec 30 '13 at 15:14
  • Thanks for that, I'm interested in the section dealing with being and non-being as interpreterated by the example above (could be other examples but literally the whole of the sophist). Ideas which are not yet realized but evidence and probability indicate that they can. If a person who has no medical training wants a job as a doctor, then of course evidence and belief will prevent a rational person deceiving himself. But what about an idea as indicated in the example above where the facts are some people win and some people don't. Plato is trying to mitigate self deception. – cct Dec 30 '13 at 15:53
  • For an explication of that aspect of Sophist, see the SEP entry on Being and Not-being in Sophist. If you have a more specific question about a particular passage, let us know. – ChristopherE Dec 30 '13 at 16:44

The larger context in Plato is always the idea that everything in the ordinary reality we experience is a imperfect copy of something more Real, Perfect, True and Eternal.

The problem addressed by this specific passage is that nothingness can't be a copy of anything Real -- therefore, in Plato's view, we shouldn't even be able to speak about it or conceive of it.

The answer is that we're not actually talking about "Real" nothingness (which is a contradiction in terms), we're talking about an extremely weakened, corrupted version of somethingness. We conceive of nothing only by taking our concepts of something, and removing traits.

To relate this back to your example, the fantasy that I won the lottery is false, yet it is constructed from corrupted versions of concepts based on real things (and Real things).

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