The mind as aviary

Perhaps the most delightful talk in the dialogue comes near the end, when Socrates compares the human mind to an aviary. Socrates draws the distinction between having and possessing; the former typically implies the latter, though on the other hand, one can possess something, such as a bird, without actually having it (with them at any moment)(199a). Socrates says that as a man goes hunting about in his mind for knowledge of something, he might grab hold of the wrong thing. He says that mistaking eleven for twelve is like going in for a pigeon and coming up with a dove (199b). Theaetetus joins in the game, and says that to complete the picture, you need to envision pieces of ignorance flying around in there with the birds. But if this is the case, how would you be able to distinguish between the birds representing real knowledge and the ones representing false ones? Are there other birds that represent this type of knowledge? Socrates comes to the conclusion that this is absurd and therefore he discards the aviary analogy.

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