This is what happens when I read the Sophist by Plato; on almost every page I would hope for something like this:
STRANGER: There are some who imitate, knowing what they imitate, and some who do not know. And what line of distinction can there possibly be greater than that which divides ignorance from knowledge?
THEAETETUS: There can be no greater.
STRANGER: Was not the sort of imitation of which we spoke just now the imitation of those who know? For he who would imitate you would surely know you and your figure?
STRANGER: And what would you say of the figure or form of justice or of virtue in general? Are we not well aware that many, having no knowledge of either, but only a sort of opinion, do their best to show that this opinion is really entertained by them, by expressing it, as far as they can, in word and deed?
** PUNCH **
STRANGER: Did you just punch me in the face?
THEAETETUS: Yes, in the nose.
STRANGER: That REALLY hurt!
THEAETETUS: Sorry, but I had a “justified true belief” that punching you in the face would finally make this interesting.
STRANGER: I think my nose is bleeding…
THEAETETUS: I’ve been saying “yes”, and “very true” for over an hour now and you haven’t communicated anything of testable value. You’ve assumed a definition of knowledge and seem to be under the impression that we can arrive at absolute truth which would somehow settle further inquiry. You’ve provided not a single conjecture that I, or anyone listening, could ever evaluate, test, or even attempt to falsify.
STRANGER: But why did you punch me in the face?! That really hurt!
THEAETETUS: You’re right, that was uncalled for. Please, go on using sophistry to tell me why sophistry is bad.
But that never happened.
Here’s something fun, filter out everything Theaetetus says throughout the entire dialogue, here’s a section:
THEAETETUS: What do you mean, and how do you distinguish them?
THEAETETUS: Very true.
THEAETETUS: Yes, it is often called so.
THEAETETUS: By all means.
THEAETETUS: Most true.
THEAETETUS: To be sure.
THEAETETUS: Very true
THEAETETUS: There are certainly the two kinds which you describe.
THEAETETUS: Very good.
THEAETETUS: By all means.
Perhaps out of boredom, or perhaps I was just trying to distract myself from hoping the stranger gets punched in the face, I wondered if every “True” and “Very true” could be deciphered as some kind of code or riddle- maybe there is a hidden message encoded in his inane and repetitive affirmations. Or maybe I’m just desperately looking for something of value in this book…
Anyway, this is not a dialogue (as we use the word), but instead a diatribe against sophists; ironically characterizing “sophists” for doing exactly what Plato, as the “stranger”, was doing via his dialectic approach.
At one point I had to stop because I thought maybe I was reading a farcical comedy. I kept an open mind, but every page became harder and harder to get through. Hours of dialectic-glop and semantic entanglements. I’ll assume some of that was a problem of translation, but still, a punch in the face would have made things much more interesting.