Perception And Plato S Theaetetus Essay, Research Paper
Plato discusses theories of knowledge throughout his famous dialogue, the Theaetetus.
He discusses many different ways of learning and attempts to define knowledge. Plato
does this through a conversation between a few characters: Socrates, the famous
philosopher; Theodorus, an aged friend and philosopher of Socrates; and Theaetetus, a
young man who is introduced to Socrates before a discussion. One aspect of knowledge
which they review is perception. It is defined and explained by Socrates, to the young and
Perception is defined by Floyd H. Allport in his book, Theories of Perception and
the Concept of Structure, as the way things look to us, or the way they sound, feel, taste,
or smell. It is not the way things are exactly, but the way we see them; or because it
involves all of the five senses, the way we perceive them. Perception is not restricted to
sight only, the world has countless numbers of sounds, smells, and textures.
Perception is the way things look to us because even though something might
seem to be one way, it is another. For example, the Muller-Lyer illusion makes people see
two lines of different lengths, while the lines are the same size. This illustrates the fact
that just because you perceive something to be a certain way does not mean that it is true.
Truth and perception do not necessarily coincide. This is also true with belief. When
seeing something that is too far fetched to be real, then you find it hard to believe.
Perception is merely an experience [which] is just a stage along the causal process
leading to belief. Perception is not truth or belief, but it is an important (however, not
necessary) step to reaching them.
In Plato s Theaetetus, the three characters in the conversation have a discussion on
perception and how it relates to the world. Plato recounts Socrates telling the young
Theaetetus how, contrary to his belief, perception is not knowledge. Perception is too
varied, Socrates says. He gives the example of a breeze blowing; one man can be made
cold from the wind, while the man next to him might not be cold at all. The blowing wind
is the same temperature, but as defined above, perception is the way things look to us.
Everybody is different and so everybody will therefore experience the world in a different
This is what Socrates explains to Theaetetus, who sparked the topic of
conversation with his reply, knowledge is simply perception. He was incorrect in his
thinking because knowledge consists of justification, belief, and truth. Since two of these
aspects are unattainable with perception alone, then perception can, in no way, be
considered knowledge. Theaetetus quickly learns the error he has made and the dialogue
and the examination of knowledge continues.