Plato on What is Not

Noburu Notomi

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Modern philosophers often assume that Plato treats what is not merely as the privation of being and that he dismisses the idea of absolute nothingness from the inquiry altogether. Citing the way in which Plato in the Sophist describes what is not as 'different from what is', these philosophers fault him for reducing the problem of absolute nothingness to that of something lacking particular properties. This chapter argues against this interpretation and suggests that Plato tackles a more profound problem - what is not is no more trivial or easy to deal with than its counterpart, what is. It is perhaps a more perplexing concept, since it seems to prevent any discussion. This feature takes us to the heart of the problem that Plato faces in the Sophist, where he works out a new strategy to overcome the difficulty: what is not can only be clarified together with what is. The implications of this strategy are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMaieusis
Subtitle of host publicationEssays in Ancient Philosophy in Honour of Myles Burnyeat
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9780191711008
ISBN (Print)9780199289974
Publication statusPublished - 2008 May 1


  • Absolute nothingness
  • Logos
  • Naming
  • The sophist
  • What is

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities


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