Plato is one of the most studied philosophers in modern times as his works cover a wide range of subjects. He particularly emphasized on philosophical works, such as his epistemology which is his preference for a theory of knowledge.
Our perception of knowledge is a standard collection of the cognizance that appears linked to a myriad of topics to enable us to scale through life as naïve-ridden beings. Once a person is born, he must acquire knowledge as life’s greatest pre-requisite. But a conceptual appraisal of knowledge is an acquaintance of life; this, in fact, is the philosopher's tone.
In their dwellings, philosophers try to contort normal meanings into profound ones; the ones that make you think deep. In the process, they adopt the use of metaphors, and relatable allegories that attempt to incite their feelings in their students, or whoever reads their work.
Likewise many others, Plato falls into this category. He looks to have a well carved out point of view and a strong opinion base that creates a clear distinction between the people of knowledge – philosophers – and the commoners.
Plato; born between 428 – 427 BC and died between 348-347 BC, was an Athenian and Greek philosopher. He was a student of Socrates and teacher of Aristotle. He is also known as the infamous author of the Republican.
Plato was born into the aristocratic family of Ariston and Perictione. As a young man, he built an orbit around Socrates, learning all he had to offer on a vast scope of topics, particularly, philosophy.
Plato was a highly opinionated philosopher. In some context, most of his philosophical works were built around the sentiment he had towards the killing of his teacher, Socrates; the reason he regarded democracy as poorly inclined to intellect and a government of the mob. Similarly, this is why he placed emphasis on topics that had to do with knowledge, justice, morality because he saw humanity in darkness.
He also has treatises on history, politics, metaphysics, reason, cosmology, theology and many more. Nonetheless, among other intriguing topics of Plato, this article will focus on his epistemology: in it, is the theory of knowledge.
Plato’s theory of knowledge is his insight on knowledge and its acquisition, wherein he uses a doctrine of recollection, his allegory of the cave, the metaphor of the sun and the divided line to buttress his unsullied point.
Since we are all born, not with a variant degree of knowledge, but with the same level, the realization and recollection of knowledge are what distinguish us from other counterparts. Plato says that our souls once lived in reality, but it is in a trapped state and it does not accord us with the knowledge it possesses. Therefore, we must recollect the knowledge our souls hold dear within.
As Plato put it, the allegory of the cave is simply humanity's lack of knowledge, sometimes out of a sheer will, and of the fact that we are all prisoners until we exonerate ourselves from the grasp of ignorance.
He tells a story of prisoners trapped in a dark cave, they know nothing but the reality given to them by the puppeteers who create shadows on the walls of the cave. This is the reality of the prisoners, a dense showcase of actual reality. This is how Plato views the human race, as prisoners who have an obscure perspective of reality.
In another instance, he tells the story of a released prisoner who narrates how his movement, eyes, and body suffer, not only emotionally, but physically, positing that as humanity lives in a dark age, there is a pain that settles with seeking knowledge for those that have carved a life in the dark.
The sun is a source of intellectual illumination according to Plato. We all have eyes, our God-given medium of site. However, the eyes cannot be utilized when darkness resides, hence the need for some sort of incandescence. As Socrates’ student, Plato avers that since the sun is the greatest provider of light, we all need a surplus source of illumination - the sun - to light the way. Without this, we cannot, in all spheres be knowledgeable and sentient beings.
There comes the visualization of four levels of knowledge – imagination, belief, thinking, and perfect intelligence – as the process of diving into an intelligible world from the visible world. There is a line that divides these processes into two, on one half we have imagination and belief (visible world), and on the other half, we have thinking and perfect intelligence (intelligible world).
Imagination is the lowest stage because what we see does not always equate to reality, it is only an indolent way of circumscribing untrue actualities. This rhetoric is the precept of mere ignorance and false intuitions.
To now move on to believing is the second stage of knowledge development. When we begin to have a strong conviction of what we see, however, without complete certainty. This is believed to be more advanced than imagination because of the surety attached.
Further, the third stage – thinking - is the first element in the intelligible world. To think, we form perspectives, analyze subject matters, and create opinions based on our central thought. As we think, we formulate questions and ask them based on certain events, which to Plato is a very superior motive in knowledge acquisition.
Lastly, as we pass the thinking stage, having succumbed to obstacles, we attain a level of perfect intelligence, which is the summit of knowledge. With this condition, we indelibly consider our thoughts and are able to discern intelligence from it. Representing the mind in its most powerful state, hypotheses are no longer valid, we now provide answers to questions.
In summary, Plato gives an outline of analogies, allegories, and metaphors on how to acquire knowledge, and as an intellectual person of high regard, his views can be accorded to his experiences with Socrates. His theory of knowledge under his epistemology is well studied in modern times.
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