Plato Theory Of Knowledge Essay

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Plato’s Theory of Forms

Plato, one of the greatest philosophers of all time, has had a profound effect on subsequent ages. He was born into an aristocratic Athenian family in about 428 BCE, and his are the earliest writings of philosophical findings that have been recorded. However Plato not only recorded his own findings, but those of his teacher, Socrates.

Socrates, a man who was known by the Grecians to be a ‘hornet’, forever hovering around, standing up to things, questioning everything and generally being a busybody, was not seen like that in the eyes of Plato. Plato admired Socrates for his teachings, and of his Dialectic method, which was to question and answer everything to show up mortal…show more content…

As Plato’s writings developed, he began to include more of his own ideas. He believed that philosophy, ethics, politics, mathematics and physics were vital for understanding the natural world. He was hostile to the Arts because he believed these obscured the truth, and were only pretences.

In fact, Plato was set on finding out the real truth, and how to gain pure knowledge. On finding out what were pretences, and what were the real objects? All these questions Plato answered in his Theory of Forms, which is at the heart of his philosophy.

He believed that, as well as the material world we live in and of which we experience; there is another world, an eternal world of concepts, or Forms. This eternal world is more real than the world we experience through the senses (or Empirical knowledge – knowledge based on our senses), and it is the object of knowledge, pure knowledge, not opinion.

Before Plato came up with this theory, philosophers before him, namely Heraclitus, viewed the world of as a subject of constant change. In a constant state of flux, things come into the world, they change all the time they are there and then they go away again. He believed the objects we perceive, are not eternal ‘things’, they are processes. There is nothing in the world that is reliable and unchanging, and nothing that we can hold up as a certain,

Plato's Theory Of Knowledge Essay

Plato's Theory of Knowledge


Plato's Theory of Knowledge is very interesting. He expresses this theory with three approaches: his allegory of The Cave, his metaphor of the Divided Line and his doctrine The Forms. Each theory is interconnected; one could not be without the other. Here we will explore how one relates to the other.

In The Cave, Plato describes a vision of shackled prisoners seated in a dark cave facing the wall. Chained also by their necks, the prisoners can only look forward and see only shadows, These shadows are produced by men, with shapes of objects or men, walking in front of a fire behind the prisoners. Plato states that for the prisoners, reality is only the mere shadows thrown onto the wall. Another vision is releasing a prisoner from his chains, how his movements are difficult, his eye adjustment painful and suggestions of the effects of returning to the cave. The Cave suggests to us that Plato saw most of humanity living in "the cave", in the dark, and that the vision of knowledge and the "conversion" to that knowledge was salvation from darkness. He put it this way, "the conversion of the soul is not to put the power of sight in the soul's eye, which already has it, but to insure that, insisted of looking in the wrong direction it is turned the way it ought to be." Plato's two worlds: the dark, the cave, and the bright were his way of rejecting the Sophists, who found "true knowledge" impossible because of constant change. Plato believed there was a " true Idea of Justice". The Cave showed us this quite dramatically.

The Divided Line visualizes the levels of knowledge in a more systematic way. Plato states there are four stages of knowledge development: Imagining, Belief, Thinking, and Perfect Intelligence. Imagining is at the lowest level of this developmental ladder. Imagining, here in Plato's world, is not taken at its conventional level but of appearances seen as "true reality". Plato considered shadows, art and poetry, especially rhetoric, deceptive illusions, what you see is not necessarily what you get. With poetry and rhetoric you may be able to read the words but you may not understand the "real" meaning. For example, take, again, the shadow. If you know a shadow is something "real" then you are beyond the state of imagination which implies that a person is "unaware of observation and amounts to illusion and ignorance".
Belief is the next stage of developing knowledge. Plato goes with the idea that seeing really is not always believing we have a strong conviction for what we see but not with absolute certainty. This stage is more advanced than imagining because it's based more firmly on reality. But just because we can actually see the object and not just it's shadow doesn't mean we know all there is to know about the object.
In the next stage, Thinking, we leave the "visible world" and move into the "intelligible world" which, Plato claims, is seen mostly in...

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