What can I know with certainty, if anything? What is the source of knowledge? What is ‘truth’?
In human life, there are many things people think they know with certainty. Is it really so? Can anybody be really sure about knowing something? What make us know something? Is there any knowledge in the world that is so certain that no reasonable man could doubt it? According to Bertrand Russell, this last question, which at first sight might not seem difficult, is really one of the most difficult that can be asked. In daily life, we assume many things to be certain, which after a closer analysis, are found to be less correct than we first thought.
Knowledge plays a very important part in human lives. In the history of humankind, it was knowledge that separated common people from the mighty ones. It was the one’s knowledge that evoked respect, power, or fear from others. Today, knowledge is more accessible than ever before. There is an obligatory education system, newspapers, Internet, and scientific journals that are available for everybody and offer all kinds of information and knowledge. But is everything what we learn in school or read on the Internet true? Can I be certain about any knowledge I have gained in my life? It is the theory of knowledge that deals with these kinds of questions, to distinct things between appearance and reality, between what things seem to be and what they are. The technical name for the theory of knowledge is epistemology, which is derived from the Greek word episteme, meaning “knowledge,” and the suffix ology, meaning “science of.” In its original sense the word “science” meant “an organized body of knowledge.” Today, theory of knowledge is an organized body of knowledge about the knowledge.
The question about the nature of knowledge became very popular for ancient Greek philosophers who formulated numerous theories concerning it. An important part of the ancient Greek thinker’s philosophies was the concern about the origin and nature of the world. These early thinkers were led to the conclusion that the world is different from what it appears to be. This fact allowed a new series of disputes about the true nature of reality, and these disputes generated extended controversy about the nature of knowledge itself. According to Heraclitus, the world is a thoroughly dynamic system (a “fiery flux”) in which permanence and stability are something of an illusion. He claimed that everything moves on and that nothing is at rest. Parmenides, a contemporary of Heraclitus tried to explain how reality is known, but ended up with an absolutely surprising view of things. According to Parmenides, thought and reality are the same and whatever is, is; and whatever is not, is not. Hence, change cannot occur. A later thinker, Protagoras, turned his back to the idea that there is an ultimate reality behind appearances and argued that our knowledge concerns appearances and nothing else. He asserted that man is the measure of all things, so things that appear to one man may be different to another. Protagoras’ claims seemed false to Plato. According to Plato, “one cannot reasonably claim that all knowledge is relative because in doing so one implies that some of it is not, namely, the knowledge one claims to have.” To allow that the latter knowledge may also be relative is completely self-defeating, since it will also allow the alternative claim of Heraclitus and Parmenides that genuine knowledge is never relative (Aune, 5). Therefore Plato thought that at least some knowledge is nonrelative.
In developing his ideas, Plato used the views of Heraclitus and Parmenides. For Plato, the both men were undoubtedly correct in saying that knowledge is nonrelative and concerns the true nature of reality. Heraclitus’s idea that the natural world is constant, throughout going change; and Parmenides’s idea, that true knowledge concerns something eternal and unchanging both impacted Plato’s thinking. To provide his...
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