How Do I Know What I Know

Topics: Mind, Epistemology, Philosophy Pages: 10 (3404 words) Published: February 24, 2013
How do I know what I know?

Question 1: Which main questions, concepts, and theories of epistemology are dealt with by your selected philosopher?

As a rationalist, Plato challenges inquiries of “what we know how we know” by centralizing the human mind (conscience and thought) as the essence of knowledge. Plato often debates using his deceased mentor, Socrates, to honour Socrates’ reputation as a valuable teacher. True knowledge can be rediscovered deep within the mind; otherwise known as the World of Forms. He shows evidence of innate ideas in Platonic Doctrine of Recollection. In Plato’s book Republic he writes about the distinctions between knowledge and personal opinion. He uses numerous concepts and metaphors such as metaphor of the sun, the divided line, and the Allegory in the Cave.

Plato theorized that seeking knowledge is independent from the physical world (world perceived by senses), there are two distinct worlds that reflect each other. "The domain where truth and reality shine resplendent," ( is the World of Forms, Plato predicts, which is within your mind and sustains perfection; whereas, our sensory perception is linked to the visible world (the physical world). In the physical world of changing objects Plato sees it as “Everything in this world is always becoming something else, but nothing permanently is.” (Magee The Story of Philosophy 28) According to Plato, the World of Forms is the truest reality because the perception of the physical world is subject to error as it is constantly changing. This would mean we cannot fully rely on our sensory perception to reason but on our priori knowledge (independent thinking from the experience). Unlike the senses, the mind holds innate ideas that aren’t subject to alteration without the person’s consent. An example of priori knowledge is like early astronomers or land personnel guiding space robots; do not gain knowledge from experience when conducting reasoning of Life on Mars but are outside of the experience using tools like robots

In understanding Plato’s Ideals and Forms, he moulds the idea in the form of an aviary to enhance his message that the human mind is filled with flocks of knowledge that one can grasp:

“Let us now suppose that in the mind of each there is an aviary of all sorts of birds. Some flocking together apart from the rest, others in small groups, others solitary, flying anywhere and everywhere.... We may suppose that the birds are all kinds of knowledge, and that when we were children, This receptacle was empty; whenever a man has gotten and detained in the enclosure a kind of knowledge, he may be said to have learned or discovered the thing which is the subject of the knowledge: and this is to know.” (Philosophy textbook chapter 9 181)

The Platonic Doctrine of Recollection provides insight as to how a person of little to no intellect (a slave boy in this case) possesses knowledge but does not come into realization until the mind is intellectually challenged. The boy is asked a mathematical question and with the guidance of Socrates he eventually understands the question. The boy has never been taught geometry previously. Plato concludes the boy’s understanding of geometry is due to recollection. The mind must recollect the knowledge like in the journey the enlightened prisoner endures in Allegory of the Cave. Plato also adds that the brain that once held knowledge is trapped deep within the mind once a soul is placed in the body.

The Sun illustrates intellectual illumination. It guides our sense of sight, and without it, we would be blind to the physical world. Without the guidance of the sun, our minds can begin to understand how things are without relying on our eyes. In order to do this, we must place our focus in the World of Forms or trust our personal opinions consisting of reasonable justification to determine aspects of life we may have overlooked. The...
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