Plato in one of his most famous earliest dialogue Meno tried to provide a new way of explaining how we humans ‘acquire’ knowledge. The common notion of the ancient Greeks and even to our times on how we acquire knowledge is the characteristic of knowledge to be taught and learned. Knowledge in a sense is an outside entity that resides outside ourselves. We learn outside of ourselves through our environment or other people that try to teach us. However, the events and flow of discussion in Meno had convinced Plato to provide a new framework that will be able to discuss how we acquire knowledge.
Plato’s basic discussion says that knowledge acquisition is more in fact a matter of recollection rather than learning. We acquire knowledge and ideas from the inside of ourselves and not through the lessons outside ours. Plato rooted this from the belief of the priest and diviners and even philosophers to the immortality of the soul. The soul had existed since time immemorial making it able to know everything it needs to know. Whatever knowledge and ideas had already been embedded on the soul because of immortal existence.
However, as the soul transfer from one body to another body because of the mortality of the human body, Plato argued that as the body withers and dies, all the knowledge are forgotten and put into background. From here, Plato would argue for the knowledge acquisition to be a matter of recollection and remembering of the knowledge and ideas already possessed by the soul. Plato believed that whatever we know is a recollected and remembered idea of the soul’s former existence.
This concept was explained by Socrates to Meno with the help of Meno’s slave. Socrates called the slave and asked some questions regarding geometry and the measurement of some shapes. Socrates tried to ask some questions that direct the slave to answer them rightfully. It is important to note the slave is uneducated in the classical sense. However, through Socrates’ questions, he managed to enable to direct the slave towards right answers. This had help to prove to Meno that the soul already possessed the knowledge and opinions about everything.
For Plato, this knowledge can be accessed by examining ourselves and with yourself or someone asking the right questions that will redirect you to the knowledge and ideas inside your soul. Knowledge is defined in its justification, truth and being a belief. After discussing the nature of knowledge and how we can acquire it, Socrates and Meno moved on to discuss to define opinion and its relevance on the affairs of man. The task is simple, to define opinion (true opinion) and to contrast it to knowledge.
Primarily, Socrates acknowledged the role of a good opinion in the human affairs. He did not disregard it completely but rather understand its use in some cases. In fact, he acknowledges the inclination of virtuous men to rely on their true opinion to do good things. However, Socrates clearly undermines opinion; even they are good when it is contrasted to knowledge. For Plato, an opinion does not last long and easily withers in contrast to knowledge that has the capability to last eternally.
The main difference lies on the presence of a rationality and grounds on knowledge and its absence of an n opinion. He used the example of a statue. He stated that the statue with that is tied in a good foundation will be able to last longer compare to a statue that is not tied. For Socrates, though an opinion can produce the same awe to an observer, it is a natural tendency for humans to ask the question of why and how. These questions cannot be answered by an opinion because of its absence of ground. In this sense, knowledge exceeds an opinion.
This definition of knowledge that is characterized by Plato which is defined as a justified true belief had dominated from the ancient Greeks up to the mid-late 20th century. The general belief that knowledge for it to be referred as knowledge must be able to satisfy three basic characteristics, which is (1) justification (2) truth (3) belief was questioned by Edmund Gettier’s paper entitled “Is Justified True Belief Knowledge? ”. This short paper that had managed to provide a doubt to the long tradition in epistemology that considers knowledge to be a justified true belief.
Edmund Gettier provided to two cases or examples will put in to question the long era of this ancient belief. He presented a case in which the three conditions are present namely justification, truth, belief yet unable to be count as knowledge because of the play of other factors. In Gettier’s examples which were referred as Gettier’s cases, the three criteria were only made possible by some elements of luck and chance which clearly invalidate it to be knowledge.
This put an ‘end’ to a long tradition of considering knowledge by the virtue of three elements of justification, truth and belief. Though the paper of Gettier did not provide an alternative view or solution to his problem, responses on his paper can be summarized to the attempts of many philosophers to look or find out for the fourth criteria that will make the definition of knowledge. Works Cited Plato. Grube G. M. A. (trans) Cooper, John (rev) Five dialogues. 2002. Hacket Publishing Company Inc. IN. Print Gettier. Edmund. Is Justified True Belief Knowledge? Web.
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