Philosophy Questions Essay, Research Paper
SharaForman PHL 103 01
In looking at the development of Plato?s conception of knowledge through the mouthpiece of Socrates, one can see that philosophy is about questioning the limits of knowledge. The ever popular and reoccurring question that philosophers want to know is what is everything? The beliefs and ideas of Socrates were shared by all philosophers of their time.
Ignorance was a major Socratic theme. Socrates was very concerned with definitions. He was always questioning what something was, or even how something worked for that matter. However, much of his ideals and beliefs were merely speculations and could not be proven. Socrates can be viewed as looking for objective knowledge.
In the Euthyphro, Socrates is under indictment for corrupting the young and not believing in the gods in whom the city believes in. Euthyphro is prosecuting his own father for the murder of a laborer who is himself a murderer. In the Euthyphro, Socrates is in search of the definition of piety. Socrates asks Euthyphro to help him understand the difference between pious and impious. Euthyphro says that what is dear to the gods is pious and what is not is impious. Socrates then gives the example of an action or a man that pious is dear to the gods and that an action or man that is impious is hated by the gods. This leads to a discussion of how if this is so, then different gods must have different opinions and views on things. Things are then indeed opposites.
Another idea proposed by Socrates that is turned down about piety is that the same things are loved by the gods and hated by the gods at the same time. They try to view this as love associated with pious and hate associated with impious. However, this too is not understood or accepted as the definition of piety. We are then beginning to see a pattern of ignorance developing in that the obvious and opposite are being compared. They use the example of something being loved and something loving as two different things. This leads us to the belief that just because someone perceives something one way, it doesn?t mean that someone
Shara Forman PHL 103 01
else can perceive in another way.
We then come to a third view on piety which is that all that is just is pious. But yet again the confusion and comparison occur. Socrates asks if all that is pious is just but not all that is just is pious. The example that is used to explain this viewpoint here is that of shame and fear. Socrates says that he does not think that where there is fear there is shame. Again opposition occurs because Socrates begins to examine his example and read into it. This explanation of piety is turned down as well.
The conclusion from the Euthyphro is that Socrates learns that something can be pious and impious. Nothing is actually concluded from this dialogue because it goes in a complete circle and ends up exactly where it started with the examination of the question of what is piety?
In Plato?s Meno dialogue, the main question that Meno is asking is can virtue be taught? (Or for that matter, can anything be taught?) In this dialogue, we see the relationship between whole knowledge and partial knowledge of a subject develop. A major idea in the Meno dialogue is that of the if-then situation. This was also a common theme and answer in the Euthyphro as well. In this situation, an idea is proposed and then a scenario or result goes along with it. For example, Socrates asks Meno, if a woman is strong, that the strength will be the same and have the same form. Basically, he is trying to say that as far as strength is concerned, that is strength no different whether a man or a woman. This idea of the if-then situation can also be looked at as logic or second hand knowledge.
Form is a common theme or idea that occurs in many of Plato?s dialogues. It refers to the appearance of something that could possibly be tangible. The idea of Form is shown in the Meno dealing with Pythagorus and shapes. It deals with the idea of one and the many and the belief that the study of numbers is good for the soul. This idea of Form can be divided into three categories: development, upright citizens and abstract reflection.
Shara Forman PHL 103 01
In the Meno, it said in Meno?s paradox, that beautiful things are good, and that goodness is the object of an action. This leads to the idea that you can?t just act good, you have to have restraint. The ideal and belief of recollection is evident in the Meno. It is believed to be the process in which you can access the soul. This is where it is believed that partial knowledge is possible. It is then posed that just by asking people questions, they will eventually get the answer.
However, in the Meno too, there is no conclusive evidence that the question of what is virutous was answered. Socrates concludes with the idea that virtue appears to be present in those who possess it as a gift from the gods. This basically is saying that some people may possess virtue while others may not. But again the opposition occurs and so we are back again at square one.
In the Phaedo, there is the idea and belief that the soul is immortal and that men have all knowledge that is necessary to answer all questions. The theme of recollection is also present in the Phaedo dialogue. Two examples of recollection in the Phaedo dialogue are things that are similar and dissimilar. This meaning that if one recollects something that reminds them of something else then they appear equal. For example, if the sight of one thing makes you think of another whether it is similar or dissimilar, it doesn?t mean that those things are necessarily equal.
Another idea of recollection is that of if one recollects something, they must have known it before and that consequently, when knowledge comes to mind, it is recollection. This concludes that if you have known knowledge of something before, then it is recollection.
One major idea that can be seen in the Phaedo is the idea that a person can know things through sensory perception through the mind and through reason and that the soul comes to the knowledge of reality. Reality is viewed by Plato as being found with thought and not the body or the senses.
Shara Forman PHL 103 01
In conclusion, there is no universal knowledge as seen through the development of Plato?s conception of knowledge through Socrates. From trying to understand the meaning of virtue to what is pious and impious, Plato shows through Socratic ignorance that things are and are not what they seem. Indeed, some things are pretty much black and white, and not gray in between.