Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Joanne B. Waugh, Ph.D.


Plato, Paideia, Hermeneutic interpretation, Epistemology, Classical Greece


Plato's dialogues are set in fifth century Athens but they are performed for a fourth century audience. The context of his dialogues, then is wider perhaps than other philosophers and because of the difference in periods, it is clear that it is necessary for an audience member to possess knowledge of the events of the previous generation, viz., the fifth century BCE. When its cultural context is taken into account, the Theaetetus can not be read as an attempt by Plato to establish an epistemology in the modern sense of the term. While the characters of the dialogue are searching for the 'essence' of knowledge, Plato is teaching the audience of the dialogue to consider the knowledge that different practices of paideia produce and to evaluate that knowledge in light of its implications on the individual and the polis. The answer that emerges is that philosophy is the paideia that will produce the best individual and the best polis, because it is only the practice of philosophy that teaches intellectual virtue. The Theaetetus is an account of the practice of philosophy and the practitioner of philosophy.