Perception and Plato's Theaetetus

Topics: Epistemology, Plato, Sense Pages: 2 (467 words) Published: October 8, 1999
Plato discusses theories of knowledge throughout his famous dialogue, the Theaetetus. He discusses many different ways of learning and attempts to define knowledge. Plato does this through a conversation between a few characters: Socrates, the famous philosopher; Theodorus, an aged friend and philosopher of Socrates; and Theaetetus, a young man who is introduced to Socrates before a discussion. One aspect of knowledge which they review is perception. It is defined and explained by Socrates, to the young and innocent Theaetetus.

Perception is defined by Floyd H. Allport in his book, Theories of Perception and the Concept of Structure, as "the way things look to us, or the way they sound, feel, taste, or smell." It is not the way things are exactly, but the way we see them; or because it involves all of the five senses, the way we perceive them. Perception is not restricted to sight only, the world has countless numbers of sounds, smells, and textures. Perception is "the way things look to us" because even though something might seem to be one way, it is another. For example, the Muller-Lyer illusion makes people see two lines of different lengths, while the lines are the same size. This illustrates the fact that just because you perceive something to be a certain way does not mean that it is true. Truth and perception do not necessarily coincide. This is also true with belief. When seeing something that is too far fetched to be real, then you find it hard to believe. Perception is merely an "experience [which] is just a stage along the causal process leading to belief." Perception is not truth or belief, but it is an important (however, not necessary) step to reaching them.

In Plato's Theaetetus, the three characters in the conversation have a discussion on perception and how it relates to the world. Plato recounts Socrates telling the young Theaetetus how, contrary to his belief, perception is not knowledge. Perception...
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