Plato, Aristotle and Descartes

Topics: Plato, Epistemology, Philosophy Pages: 6 (2262 words) Published: March 17, 2013
“We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light”, Plato said. Studying knowledge is something philosophers have been doing for as long as philosophy has been around. People always see just a part of things around the world. They need an open mind to understand more deep and wise into the world. It’s one of those perennial topics that philosophy has been refining since before the time of Plato. The discipline is known as epistemology which comes from two Greek words episteme which means knowledge and logos which means a word or reason. Epistemology literally means to reason about knowledge. Epistemologists study what makes up knowledge, what kinds of things can we know, what are the limits to what we can know, and even if it’s possible to actually know anything at all. In fact, people always see just a part of things around the world. They need an open mind to understand more deep and wise into the world. Plato becomes increasingly discourage by both the “mob” and the “elite”. The mob, represented by the jury at Socrates’ trial, was irrational and dangerous; it was swayed by sophistic appeals to emotion, not by reason. Plato concluded that most people are unfit by training and ability to make the difficult and necessary decision that would result in a just society. The average person lacks wisdom and self-restraint. As Plato saw things, most people make emotional responses based on desire and sentiment, rather than on rational consideration stemming from an objective view of what is genuinely good for the individual society. Socrates’s death, the revolt of the Thirty, sophistic abuses, and other factors convinced Plato that a corrupt state produces corrupt citizens. He thus attempted to develop a theory of knowledge that could refute sophistic skepticism and moral relativism. Plato believed that if he could identify and articulate the difference between mere opinion and genuine knowledge, it would then be possible to identify the structure of an ideal state based on knowledge and truth rather than the mere appearance of truth and personal whim. The allegory of the cave is an example for this from Plato. The prisoners (unable to turn their heads) would know nothing else but the shadows, and perceive this as their own reality. This is an important development to the story because it shows us that what we perceive as real from birth is completely false based on our imperfect interpretations of reality and Goodness. Plato expresses another of his favorite ideas: that education is not a process of putting knowledge into empty minds, but of making people realize that which they already know. This notion that truth is somehow embedded in our minds was also powerfully influential for many centuries. In Plato’s world, reality is not conceived through the senses, but rather intelligible truths of reality in the forms of ideas and figures, as opposed to the visible world. In The Allegory of the Cave, Plato describes the physical world as a “dark place” in which humans can only perceive objects through the senses. Plato referred to these objects as phenomena, or weak forms of reality. Thus, the physical world is not a realm where humans can obtain knowledge of true reality. Plato describes the process of acquiring knowledge from darkness to the light. In this journey, humans are able to see the essence of truth, or in other words, they are able to gain an understanding of what is actually real. This process, though painful and distressing, will at the end offer freedom and enlightenment to those who have acquire knowledge. Happiness is achieved by gaining an understanding of what is actually real. Because the philosopher has knowledge, his task is to descend to the cave to help as many people as possible to gain knowledge, or in other words, to learn the truth. This doesn’t convince me because science involves the pursuit of knowledge of general...

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