Search for contacts, projects,
courses and publications

Topics in Ancient Philosophy


Purpose: An analysis of Plato’s dialogue Sophist

Description: In antiquity as well as in modern times, many philosophers have wondered about the concept of not-being. For instance, many philosophers have maintained that the idea of a creation ex nihilo is absurd. But it is in the area of philosophy of language and philosophy of mind that the problem of not-being becomes really troublesome: how is it possible to speak of what is not or to think of it? If speaking of what is not is to speak falsely, and to think of what is not is to make a false judgement, one might even feel compelled to aver the completely counter-intuitive claim that it is impossible to speak falsely and to make a false judgement. This course will address the solution to this problem offered in Plato’s Sophist. This dialogue will be analysed in its details and its most important passages will be carefully commented on.



Platonis Opera, i, ed. by E. A. Duke, W. F. Hicken, W. S. M. Nicoll, D. B. Robinson, and J. C. G. Strachan, Oxford (Clarendon Press) 1995, pp. 383–471.

Cornford, F.M., Plato’s Theory of Knowledge: The Theaetetus and the Sophist Translated with a Running Commentary, London (Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co.) and New York (Harcourt, Brace, and Co.) 1935.

Ackrill, J.L., ‘SYMPLOKE EIDON’ = Allen (1965), 199–206.

—— ‘Plato and the Copula’ = Allen (1965), 207–18.

Allen, R.E. (ed.), Studies in Plato’s Metaphysics, London (Routledge & Kegan Paul) 1965.

Bluck, R. S., Plato’s Sophist. A Commentary, ed. by G. C. Neal, Manchester (Manchester University Press) 1963.

Bostock, D., ‘Plato on “Is Not” (Sophist 254–9)’, Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy, 2 (1984) 89–119.

Brown, L., ‘Being in the Sophist: A Syntactical Enquiry’, Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy, 4 (1986) 49–70.

—— ‘Innovation and Continuity: The Battle of Gods and Giants, Sophist 245-249’, in Gentzler, J. (ed.), Method in Ancient Philosophy, Oxford (Clarendon Press) 1998, 181-207.

Crivelli, P., Plato’s Account of Falsehood: A Study of the Sophist, Cambridge (Cambridge University Press) 2012.

Crombie, I.M., An Examination of Plato’s Doctrines, London (Routledge & Kegan Paul) 1967.

Denyer, N., Language, Thought and Falsehood in Ancient Greek Philosophy, London and New York (Routledge) 1991.

Frede, M., Prädikation und Existenzaussage. Platons Gebrauch von ‘…ist…’ und ‘…ist nicht…’ im Sophistes, Göttingen (Vandenhoeck &Ruprecht) 1967.

—— ‘Plato’s Sophist on False Statements’, in Kraut, R. (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Plato, Cambridge (Cambridge University Press) 1992, 397–424.

Keyt, D., ‘Plato on Falsity: Sophist 263B’, in Lee, E.N., Mourelatos, A.D.P., and Rorty, R.M. (eds.), Exegesis and Argument: Studies in Greek Philosophy Presented to Gregory Vlastos, Assen (Van Gorcum) 1973, 285–305.

Kostman, J.P., ‘False Logos and Not-Being in Plato’s Sophist’ = Moravcsik (1973), 192–212.

Lee, E.N., ‘Plato on Negation and Not-Being in the Sophist’, The Philosophical Review, 81 (1972) 267–304.

Lewis, F.A., ‘Plato on “Not”’, California Studies in Classical Antiquity, 9 (1976) 89–115.

Malcolm, J., ‘Plato’s Analysis of τὸ ὄν and τὸ μὴ ὄν in the Sophist’, Phronesis, 12 (1967) 130–46.

McDowell, J., ‘Falsehood and Not-Being in Plato’s Sophist’, in M. Schofield and M. Craven Nussbaum (eds.), Language and Logos: Studies in Ancient Greek Philosophy Presented to G.E.L. Owen, Cambridge (Cambridge University Press) 1982, 115–34.

Moravcsik, J.M.E. (ed.), Patterns in Plato’s Thought: Papers Arising Out of the 1971 West Coast Greek Philosophy Conference, Dordrecht (Reidel) 1973.

Movia, G., Apparenze, essere e verità. Commentario storico-filosofico al “Sofista” di Platone, Milan (Vita e Pensiero) 1991.

Notomi, N., The Unity of Plato’s Sophist: Between the Sophist and the Philosopher, Cambridge (Cambridge University Press) 1999.

Owen, G.E.L., ‘Plato on Not-Being’ = Vlastos (1971), 223–67.

Pelletier, F.J., Parmenides, Plato, and the Semantics of Non-Being, Chicago and London (University of Chicago Press) 1990.

Philip, J.A., ‘False Statement in the Sophistes’ Transactions and Proceedings of the American Philological Association, 99 (1968) 315–27.

Ross, D., Plato’s Theory of Ideas, Oxford (Clarendon Press) 1951.

Runciman, W.G., Plato’s Later Epistemology, Cambridge (Cambridge University Press) 1962.

van Eck, J., ‘Falsity Without Negative Predication: On Sophistes 255e–263d’, Phronesis, 40 (1995) 20–47.

—— ‘Plato’s Logical Insights: On Sophist 254d–257a’, Ancient Philosophy, 20 (2000) 53–79.

—— ‘Not-Being and Difference: On Plato’s Sophist, 256D5–258E3’, Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy, 23 (2002) 63–84.

Vlastos, G., ‘An Ambiguity in the Sophist’, in id., Platonic Studies, 2nd ed., Princeton (Princeton University Press) 1981, 270–322.

Vlastos, G. (ed.), Plato: A Collection of Critical Essays, i, Garden City (Anchor Books) 1971.

Wiggins, D., ‘Sentence Meaning, Negation, and Plato’s Problem of Non-Being’ = Vlastos (1971), 268–303.

Examination Information



Crivelli P.

Course director

Additional information

Academic year
Master of Arts in Philosophy, Elective course, Elective Courses, 1st year
Master of Arts in Philosophy, Elective course, Elective Courses, 2nd year