Skeptic Approach To Socrates' Knowledge About Knowledge

1513 words - 6 pages

In Plato's Republic Book V lines 476d to 478e, Plato's main characters Socrates and Glaucon have an interesting discussion about epistemology. The argument in this passage serves to prove that knowledge and opinion are not the same. This argument is based on the premise that knowledge is set over the complete existence of things, whereas opinion is set over "intermediate" existence of things. In this paper, I will first divide the completeness into two categories, that is, mathematical and moral. Then I will contend that mathematical completeness can be achieved, thus known, yet moral completeness is impossible, thus one is bound to opine about moral issues. To substantiate, I will focus on the Form of Justice. I will argue that it is doubtful whether one can know the Form of Justice, since justice does not exist completely, but in contexts that vary. Hence, if justice does not exist completely, due to its lacking Form, then Socrates' main argument loses its soundness, because it is based on the premise that knowledge and Forms apply to everything, which inevitably include knowledge of justice as well.Socrates' argument starts with the distinction of two types of people regarding their power to think, one's thoughts being opinions and the other's knowledge (476d). What distinguishes these two groups of people, Socrates argues, is their differing ability to see the world (476). The ones who opine can only see what the thing is like (participants), whereas the ones who know can see the thing itself (Form) as well. Socrates declares his first premise in line 477a: "what is completely is completely knowable and what is no way is in every way unknowable". Consequently, he points out the premise that knowledge is assigned to what is, or to elaborate what exists, and ignorance is assigned to what does not exist. Connecting these two premises, one comes to the condition that to be known, things should exist completely. At this point, Socrates' aforementioned argument must be recalled, which states that there are participants of the things and the thing (Form) itself (476c-d). Since participants exist in the opining person's mind, but Forms don't, Socrates argues that those who are capable of seeing one half of the reality could only be considered as having half of the complete knowledge, the "intermediate". He concludes that opinion and knowledge are set over different things and have different functions, thereby having different powers (477c-d). In short, knowledge is an infallible power and opinion fallible, as knowledge is based on Forms which are stable; yet opinion only on the Form's participants which are ever-changing.It is noteworthy that in his argument, Socrates makes a full correlation between knowledge of Forms and knowledge in general. So there are two necessary preconditions to know. Firstly, the Forms should exist, and secondly, Forms should be knowable. Only if both of these preconditions are true, one could assert to have knowledge,...

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