Plato Essay Research Paper Plato

Plato Essay, Research Paper

Plato’s theory of knowledge is found in the Republic, particularly in his discussion of

the image about the myth of the cave. Plato distinguishes between two levels of awareness:

opinion and knowledge. The myth of the cave describes individuals chained deep within the

recesses of a cave. Bound so that vision is restricted, they cannot see one another. The only

thing visible is the wall of the cave upon which appear shadows cast by models or statues of

animals and objects that are passed before a brightly burning fire. Breaking free, one of the

individuals escapes from the cave into the light of day. With the aid of the sun, that person

sees for the first time the real world and returns to the cave with the message that the only

things they have seen are shadows and appearances and that the real world awaits them if

they are willing to struggle free of their bonds. The shadowy environment of the cave

symbolizes for Plato the physical world of appearances. Escape into the sun-filled setting

outside the cave symbolizes the transition to the real world, the world of full and perfect being,

the world of Forms, which is the proper object of knowledge.

Plato established the Forms as arranged hierarchically; the supreme Form is the Form of the

Good, which, like the sun in the myth of the cave. There is a sense in which the Form of the

Good represents Plato’s movement in the direction of an ultimate principle of explanation.

Ultimately, the theory of Forms is intended to explain how one comes to know and also how

things have come to be as they are. In philosophical language, Plato’s theory of Forms is a

theory of knowledge and a theory of being.

The cave is the world

The fetters are the imagination

The shadows of ourselves are the passive states which we know by thinking.

The learned in the cave are those who possess empirical forms of knowledge

(who know how to make predictions, the doctors who know how to cure

people by using empirical methods, those who know what is going on, etc.).

Their knowledge is nothing but a shadow.

Education, he says, is, according to the generally accepted view of it, nothing

but the forcing of thoughts into the minds of children. For, says Plato, each

person has within himself the ability to think. If one does not understand, this

is because one is held by the chains. Whenever the soul is bound by the

chains of suffering, pleasure, etc. it is unable to contemplate through its own

intelligence the unchanging patterns of things.

No doubt, there are mathematicians in the cave, but their attention is given to

honors, rivalries, competition, etc.

If anyone is not able to understand the unchanging patterns of things, that is

not due to a lack of intelligence; it is due to a lack of moral stamina.

In order to direct one’s attention to the perfect patterns of things, one has to

stop valuing things which are always changing and not eternal.

One can look at the same world, which is before our eyes, either from the

point of view of its relation to time, or from that of its relationship to eternity.

Education means turning the soul in the direction in which it should look, of

delivering the soul from the passions.

Plato’s morality is: Do not make the worst possible mistake of deceiving

yourself. We know that we are acting correctly when the power of thinking is

not hindered by what we are doing. To do only those things which one can

think clearly, and not to do those things which force the mind to have unclear

thoughts about what one is doing. That is the whole of Plato’s morality.


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