Some Problems about Being and Predication in Plato's Sophist 242-249
One of the central tasks which Plato sets for himself in the Sophist is to say what being is. In doing this he makes a variety of philosophical moves. The first is to show that non-being in a very restricted sense of the term is an impossible and self-contradictory concept. This occupies the first part (237A ft.) of the central section of the Sophist. After discussing some puzzles concerning deceptive appearances (240 B) and falsehoods (240 D), Plato turns to a discussion of being at 242B. In this section of the dialogue Plato claims to show that the attempts of previous philosophers to define being have failed and he makes his own first attempt in the dialogue to define being (cf. 242C and 247E). 2 In this paper I am concerned only with this section of the Sophist (242-249), and I want to show first that Plato's notion of being here is ambiguous, the term x6 5v shifting between "being" and "what has being," between the form and those things which participate in it. Second, I want to show that the definitions of being at 248C and 249D are not only compatible with one another but also that, when properly understood, they make sense of Plato's use of motion and rest in the Sophist. And finally, I want to show that Plato is caught in the snares of self-predication when he talks about being and other Forms of the same ontological level. This is due to the way in which he formulates the difference between statements of identity and predication in the argument against Parmenides in this section of the Sophist.
Journal of the History of Philosophy, Volume 14, Number 1, January 1976, pp. 1-10