Plato and Innate Knowledge

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Universal knowledge possessed by human beings is not acquired, but is “innate”. The senses effectuate a recollection of wisdom gained during the soul’s existence prior to birth. I believe these statements to be true and as a proponent, shall argue in favor on the basis of Plato’s works regarding the same. Plato asserts that universal knowledge is not acquired, but rather, is inherently present in humans from birth. This “knowledge of the forms” was gained by the soul in an existence preceding entry into the physical realm. Fused within its mortal tabernacle, the soul subsequently “forgets” its previous realm and universal lore. Plato therefore argues that “all wisdom is recollection” (Biffle 216) of that which was learned prior to mortality. This notion remains consistent with beauty, perfection, courage, equality, and other metaphysical concepts that transcend sensory experience. The very existence of these unattainable sentiments testifies of preexisting universal measures for which humanity aspires. Plato’s argument for innate knowledge is further exemplified in Phaedo, where Socrates explains to his friend Simmias the concept of equality using an example of two sticks or two stones which may or may not be equal in their appearances. After probing Simmias for comparisons, Socrates infers that the senses are limited to recollection of absolute equality, since the physical realm can only manifest “imperfect copies” (Biffle 212). Additional evidence for pre-mortal knowledge may be found in a child’s ability to distinguish “fair” and “equal” portions relative to its siblings. The young mind, limited in sensory experiences, is aware of equality even though the very word and definition has not been introduced to its vocabulary. It will unfortunately be left wanting, since “absolute” concepts like unto equality can be aspired to, but never obtained in this physical realm. The point Socrates makes is surely a valid one, for prior knowledge is prerequisite to...
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