Epistemology * Theory of knowledge; often provokes big questions on the meaning and justifications of conventional knowledge. * Ex; What is knowledge? Can we know anything for certain? What are the limitations of what we know? * Socrates began to question the usual perceptions of knowledge, advocating for a clearer picture than common sense allowed. The Philosophy of Plato * You cannot claim to know something if you cannot claim to believe it as well. * Belief is not the only requirement for knowledge, truth is also required. * You need to be able to communicate what you know.
* Real life application: We often do not believe what people tell us if it is not communicated clearly, reflecting Plato’s theories on the importance of being able to convey knowledge to others. Justification is equally as important, which is why when parents say “Because I said so” it makes teenagers so frustrated. Images * Component of the visible world. * Real images are lasting, and can exist without non-sensible things, such as shadows or reflections. * Shadows and reflections exist as a state of mind, and are not things. * Deception occurs when we confuse an image with a thing.
* Real life application: I have experienced Plato’s classic definition of deception when reading books with especially attractive protagonists. I confuse the image created in my mind with the true Peeta in the novel. He cannot exist without imagination, and so he is not a true image according to Plato. None the less, I find his fictional personal is substantial enough for a puppy love crush. Sensible Objects These are the things in the world that Plato finds more real than images. However, there non-permanence and dependency on things like the sun and other forms. * Desks, trees, dogs, cats.
* Can die, be burned, destroyed, etc. * A state of belief exists when the object of our awareness is a sensible object, yet this does not mean that we know it by any means. * However, questioning how we can know sensible objects involves complex questioning. Can anyone know a true object? This leads to issues of elitism. Concepts * We leave the world of belief and accept conceptual perceptions in a move toward understanding the “intelligible realm”. * We use scientific theories to understand events beyond what our imaginations can often handle, ie; Newton’s theories on attraction of masses.
* Plato does not consider this the highest form of knowledge. * Real life application: Often times, in biology class, I find myself letting go of my bigger questions- the why, or the how, in order to grasp the watered down concepts that are still so hard to understand. I do because I accept the theories of scientists and mathematicians like Newton as sufficient knowledge to form a building block from which I can grow my understanding of the topic. Forms These are higher truths, archetypes of everything in the visible world, including the non-physical concepts.
* Not physical or mental. * Eternal and unchanging, yet dependent on a Super-Form, “the Good”, which establishes a true reality and holds true the center of Platonic reasoning, so it is not absolutely real. * We can only grasp the Forms if we leave behind our senses and images that are contaminated with our own physicality. * Plato believed there was an ultimate universal element to beauty that could be understood formulaically. * Meno’s paradox: How can we find something out if we have no knowledge of, and if we find it, how will we recognize what we have accomplished?
* Plato believes in the innate idea, that from birth, the idea is present, and knowing it is simply recalling it. * Real life application: When I was younger, I would always see advertisements for internet psychics. While their credibility maintains dubious, I still wonder about the existence of ESP type talents or skills. It would align with Plato’s theory that there is an innate idea that most people have forgotten how to access if certain individuals could seem to have “special powers” because they understood how to tap into that innate knowledge. * Basics for epistemology: * Knowledge is leaving behind a world of solely belief.
* Understanding the new world is not mental or physical. * To understand, we base knowledge off of certain innate truths. * We then prescribe an internal order to show how an observation is related to a truth. Rene Descartes’s Rationalism * 17th century * Social, political and economic influences of theories of knowledge * Emergent democracy and new ideals influenced Plato. * Descartes dealt with religious and social opposition. * New knowledge challenged old order and power structure; science challenged the church’s ideals about creation and meaning and caused a great deal of conflict.
* Descartes tried to bridge the gap between religion and science with philosophy to appease the people in power (religious leaders). * Knowledge is built up like a building and is only as strong as the foundation it rests on. * Methodological doubt: Doubt everything in the hopes of finding something that cannot be doubted. This certainty will be the foundation for knowledge. This is not a way of life, more so it is a game. * Doubt the senses, and begin to tear down the structure of former knowledge. * Descartes recognizes certain knowledge seems absurd to doubt.
* How can we know if we are dreaming now? * A priori: a claim that can be determined as true or false without observation. * A posteriori: a claim whose truth can be known only through observation. * Mathematics is an a priori? * “Evil genius” hypothesis: What if there was an evil genius type of god who continually deceives us and what we think we know is actually false? How would we disprove the existence of such an evil genius? * Descartes does not give up in his search for what is certain and can be the foundations of knowledge.
* Origins of “I think, therefore I am” as a way to combat the evil genius and which Descartes takes as certain. * Our bodies are relevant when we define who we are; they are not just the wrappers for our minds. * We cannot doubt that we have a mind or a body without proving that we do have one. * Thinking: doubting, understanding, conceiving, affirming, denying, refusing, willing, imaging, feeling. * Wax example: we often cannot imagine what we perceive and know to be true. * Real life application; As a small child, how could we imagine the concept of snow without our perceptions?
All our perceptions would mislead us to think it was not made of water. Like Descartes argued, our senses are too easily fooled to rely on them. It must be an innate idea that cannot be found through observation. * Substance (material) involves an identity in order to form a clear picture. * If god exists, there is no evil genius, but we cannot trust observations on this as proof. * Descartes argument * From there, he will find out if the outside world exists. * World of mathematics and world of physical things = material objects. * Can we measure souls?