Epistemology and Descartes

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Plato/Descartes Reading Response

In both Plato’s Allegory of the Cave and Descartes’ The Fourth Meditation, they discuss truth; what it is, where it comes from and how to differentiate it from falsehood and error. Plato’s paper is more metaphorical and uses imagery to paint a picture of his idea of truth, while Descartes’ is more straight forward, and uses examples. These papers are written very differently but are, at the same time, very similar when it comes to content. Although it’s not word for word, these two papers complement each other very well when it comes to defining truth and explaining its origin.

In Allegory of the Cave, Plato’s view is that our senses, such as sight, skew our understanding of true knowledge. We are, for all intense and purposes, chained at the neck and ankles, unable to move. Our world is a cave lit by a fire disguised as the sun. We only see what is before us: our shadows, our falsities and errors. However, on the rare occasion that we break free from our chains, we are able to experience true knowledge. We understand the world around us and realize what we once thought we knew isn’t real. We view things in a new perspective, a new light…sunlight. This is what Plato believes truth is. The cave where men are chained is, essentially, a mask, hiding Earth’s true identity. Once that mask is taken off, we know Earth’s true identity, we understand. One may relate being ‘unchained’ to an epiphany, or divine intervention. It’s an experience of something so pure, so insightful; you know it to be true. And once we have experienced this pure truth, we must return to the cave populated by shadows and lit with an artificial sun. We must do to this so we can share our true knowledge with others, so they too, may one day be ‘unchained.’

In The Fourth Meditation, Descartes rationalizes God’s Will, and all of imperfections, through a series of questions and answers. In this paper, Descartes describes God as the source of goodness, truth...
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