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MaieusisEssays in Ancient Philosophy in Honour of Myles Burnyeat$
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Dominic Scott

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780199289974

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2008

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199289974.001.0001

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Plato on What is Not *

Plato on What is Not *

(p.254) 13 Plato on What is Not *

Noburu Notomi

Oxford University Press

Modern philosophers often assume that Plato treats what is not merely as the privation of being and that he dismisses the idea of absolute nothingness from the inquiry altogether. Citing the way in which Plato in the Sophist describes what is not as ‘different from what is’, these philosophers fault him for reducing the problem of absolute nothingness to that of something lacking particular properties. This chapter argues against this interpretation and suggests that Plato tackles a more profound problem — what is not is no more trivial or easy to deal with than its counterpart, what is. It is perhaps a more perplexing concept, since it seems to prevent any discussion. This feature takes us to the heart of the problem that Plato faces in the Sophist, where he works out a new strategy to overcome the difficulty: what is not can only be clarified together with what is. The implications of this strategy are discussed.

Keywords:   the Sophist, absolute nothingness, naming, logos, what is

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