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Epistemology – Plato Essay

There were many great philosophers who have contributed in making philosophy what it is today, one of them being Plato. In addition to being an outstanding philosopher, he was also a mathematician and a writer. One of Plato’s biggest inspirations was his very own teacher Socrates. Socrates never wrote down a word of what he said, but thankfully Plato was able to record it all down for him and wrote many dialogues about Socrates words and teachings. One of Plato’s most famous works was his dialogue, The Republic which was written in 380 BC.

The Republic consists of ten books total each consisting of different topics concerning ancient philosophy. From reading a short excerpt from the philosophical text: Western Philosophy: An Anthology (Second Edition) edited John Cottingham, Cottingham takes an excerpt from (Plato, Republic [Politeia, c. 3800 BC], Bk V, 474b-483e. Trans. B. Jowett, in The Dialogues of Plato (Oxford: Clarendon, 1892), vol. lll, pp. 171-9)), Plato writes about knowledge versus opinion and Socrates views on each from a first person point of view.

In the following excerpt there is an ongoing conversation between Socrates and Glaucon discussing their personal views and thoughts on knowledge and opinion. Socrates does not oppose of having opinions, he says they can later be turned into knowledge. These beliefs and opinions will only act as a guide to our knowledge. Socrates believes that opinions are very good and can be useful while one has them as they stay in our minds, but they are only temporary and eventually will leave our minds. Opinions are not of great value and will escape from our minds.

This means they will not be worth much until they are tied down and figured out by working out the reason. Once they are tied down those opinions will evolve into knowledge. This knowledge is permanent and overall much better than true opinion. Knowledge is when one can thoroughly and fully explain why a certain belief is correct. Knowledge can be used to back up ones opinion by using facts and explanations from prior experience. Socrates believed that philosophers were to rule the polis’ of Greece because they were better than all the others due to the knowledge they held.

He believed that anyone who did not have knowledge and rather held to their opinions should remain as followers, that it is only possible for a leader to have knowledge and only philosophers can have knowledge. Socrates felt philosophers were the only ones who could have knowledge because they knew the process of reason. Knowledge is what makes a philosopher who he is and separates him from the rest of mankind. Philosophers are a different kind, special people, being able to see and know more than what meets the eye. Socrates believes that philosophers should be rulers and kings of Greece.

Knowledge is so power that one could mange to be a king. In Socrates mind, philosophers would be the best fit to being a king and having all rule. Knowledge and opinion are very different powers, therefore they must have different objects. Everyday objects can be told and described to be what they are in detail. For example, Iona College has a beautiful campus. This very statement is in between what is, and what is not. Knowledge is relevant to what is, and opinions are just assumptions. This is where Plato introduces us to his theory of the forms, which are absolute true objects of knowledge.

Forms cannot be obtained from any of the senses, only from true knowledge. Forms are absolutes such as justice, happiness, goodness, etc. Forms are responsible for making sense of our surroundings and making sense of why things are as they are. On page 13 in John Cottingham’s book, Socrates says, “I need not remind you, that a lover, if he is worthy of the name, ought to show his love not to some one part of that which he loves, but of the whole. ” meaning when someone loves something they love the entirety of it, not just a part but every part.

Socrates knows that the average human is unable to love something for all that it is because they do not have any knowledge. The philosopher loves all knowledge and wisdom and will always be curious and stay open-minded until they find knowledge. During this dialogue Glaucon disagrees with what Socrates says, Glaucon believes that you do not need to be a philosopher in order to be curious and know things. Socrates says that the difference between a person of that type and a philosopher is that philosophers are lovers of truth.

On page 14, Socrates says, “The lovers of sound and sights, I replied, are, as I conceive, fond of fine tones and colours and forms and all the artificial products that are made out of them, but their mind is incapable of seeing or loving absolute beauty. ” He is saying that philosophers are very different from the lovers of sight and sound because they claim to know all about the beauty of things but cannot claim to have any knowledge. Those lovers of sight and sound do not see the beauty itself, they are only lovers of opinion. These lovers cannot, and will not ever be philosophers.

Whereas philosopher embrace each and every thing for itself and each part that it is. Socrates is defining a true philosopher as someone who desires the entirety of knowledge and loves the sight of truth. A lover of truth is a knower of truth. This knowledge that philosophers possess are the forms. Socrates does not actually know of the World of Forms, he never gives a name to these realities and form of true knowledge. Plato is the one who introduced the world of forms based off of Socrates ideas. When reading The Republic, one must infer that Socrates is talking about the forms.

Socrates knows the forms are present, that there is a higher level of knowledge and reality, but never puts a name to this object. Knowledge is certain and can never change due to the forms. Socrates is a firm believer in that knowledge as a whole is relative to being and knows being. He then will go further and divide all being into classes. The classes are, what is completely and what is not at all. These classes can be further divided into what is both and what is not. What is completely is knowable, which is also the forms because only they can count as what is knowable.

The forms are certain knowledge and unchangeable. Only philosophers have knowledge because only they have access to the forms. What is in no way is inexperience and what has not used by the senses. What both is and is not is the matter of opinion. Knowledge and opinion can be separated since they are such different objects. The philosopher is known for being wide awake on top of having knowledge. The philosopher is awake to reality of the world and his eyes are wide open to understanding truth and consuming knowledge.

Being in his actual world he is able to use reason and come to conclusion of obtaining knowledge. The non-philosopher, the one who only has opinions is a dreamer, living in a dream world. This dream world is only a reflection of the forms, which are only minor images and are not existent. This dreamer can be awoken from his slumber of the world of forms once his temporary turn into more permanent knowledge. Socrates now introduces faculties of our mind which are knowledge of the real and our notion in appearances.

One can use reason to understand the properties of the form of beauty, when doing this that one has achieved the power of knowledge of beauty for its true self. But if one only see some parts of beauty they only believe in its general appearance. His senses can deceive him if that is all he is doing. This person cannot be a philosopher for believing in only the appearance of a thing. Glaucon compares the attempt to separate knowledge from the belief in appearance by saying this process is so weak that it reminds him of riddles and children’s puzzles.

On page 17 Glaucon says, “They are like punning riddles which are asked at feasts or the children’s puzzle, and upon what the bat was sitting. A man who was not a man (a eunuch) threw a stone that was not a stone (a pumice-stone) at a bird that was not a bird (a bat) sitting on a twig that was not a twig (a reed). ” Glaucon is expressing the misperception of the intellect and how it is hard to actually separate knowledge from the appearances of things. As one can see from The Republic, Socrates has generally the same repeating ideas about those who have knowledge and those who have opinions.

It is extremely clear that Socrates only believes that philosophers are the only ones who have knowledge. The non-philosophers consist of those who only have opinions meaning they only view the appearance of things. These non-philosophers are quick to judge a thing not for itself due to the fact that they are lacking from knowledge in their minds. Plato introduces us to a new concept the world based off of the teachings of Socrates. This new concept is the world of forms and will take us into a deeper understanding of knowledge more than one could ever think to have known.

The forms are what lead us to true knowledge. With the help of the knowledge from the forms one can now know reason, and why things are the way they are. The world we live in now makes sense and everything can come into place. In conclusion Socrates says knowledge is much more powerful than opinions, that the philosophers who love the truth in each thing are to be known as lovers of knowledge, they are not and never will be lovers of opinion due to how much knowledge they have.


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