Modes of Being at Sophist 255c-e

in Phronesis
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I argue for a new interpretation of the argument for the non-identity of Being and Difference at Sophist 255c-e, which turns on a distinction between modes of being a property. Though indebted to Frede (1967), the distinction differs from his in an important respect: What distinguishes the modes is not the subject’s relation to itself or to something numerically distinct, but whether it constitutes or conforms to the specification of some property. Thus my view, but not his, allows self-participation for Forms. Against Frede and the more traditional interpretation, I maintain that the distinction is not introduced by way of the pros alla/kath’ hauta distinction, or by way of uses or senses of the verb ‘to be’, but is established prior to the argument and is deployed in its frame. Moreover, since I read the argument’s scope as restricted to properties in what I shall call the attribute mode, my interpretation can explain, as its rivals cannot, why the criterion of difference at 255d6-7 does not apply to the Form, Difference, itself.


A Journal for Ancient Philosophy



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F.M. Cornford, Plato’s Theory of Knowledge, 282-5.


Michael Frede, Prädikation und Existenzaussage, 8-10; Owen, ‘Not-Being’, 128-9.


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