Plato and Innate Knowledge

Topics: Tabula rasa, Plato, Philosophy Pages: 5 (1859 words) Published: October 21, 2010
Knowledge is present everywhere in society. Every human being has it. Some may have a lot, while some might have very little. How is one supposed to attain such knowledge? According to some philosophers it’s a tossup between being born with it while others think that knowledge is gained as one grows up. In simple terms, is knowledge nature or nurture? Are you already born to be joining IMSA or are you brought up with a great education? Plato believes that knowledge is innate, meaning that it’s already in you from the beginning, also known as a priori knowledge. But other philosophers claim that knowledge is gained through experience. While Plato’s theory does make some sense, I believe that the opposing side, empiricism, has more value in today’s society.

Plato’s theory on recollection and a priori knowledge is first brought up in his dialogue Meno. Socrates is Plato’s spokesperson to Meno. In the dialogue Meno asks Socrates if virtue can be taught. Socrates then tries to show that knowledge is brought up from within. He calls Meno’s uneducated slave and asks him to try and double the area of a figure shown. Through questions and answers the slave successfully draws the figure. Socrates then tries to prove that because he is “uneducated” and successfully drew the figure, knowledge is innate and that everyone is always born with it. (Pojman 43-44)

Some of the problems that I have with the dialogue are that Socrates assumes through the figure that the uneducated slave drew had the knowledge. If knowledge is innate then there would be no reason to call his slave uneducated. How can one tell that through the questions asked and the answers that were given is reliable? What if Socrates gave really great answers to the slave that they would understand? In the dialogue, the questions asked by the slave and the answers given by Socrates are not shown. So how can you tell what exactly took place. One can assume a lot of the questions and answers posed, so this situation doesn’t seem to plausible that knowledge is innate.

I believe that knowledge is gained through experience. Empiricism is a view that experience is the only source of knowledge, or a posteriori (Latin for posterior or after). John Locke came up with the idea that one’s mind is a tabula rasa (Latin for blank slate) at birth. Tabula rasa is saying that everyone is born with a blank slate; they know nothing and only through experiences are where they get their knowledge from. There are many different kinds of empiricists. Some believe that the soul is born with essential truths, while the rest is blank. While others say we have innate knowledge of God’s existence, free will and immortality. Others like John Locke fully deny all claims of innate ideas. (Pojman 44-45)

Soren Kierkegaard believes that religion is innate. (Pojman 44) Meaning, the soul has always believed in God since birth and beforehand. I believe that religion is nowhere close to being innate. The environment a person grows up in is what influences their decision in religion. From the beginning a baby does not really know from what is right and wrong in what religion to choose. It was always the parents. You were chosen a religion by your parents at young age. In Christianity that is what the baptism is about. Being baptized is a start in the belief of God. From there you are forced to go to church with them. As someone grows up there comes a time when they choose their religion for themselves. Christianity has a process called Confirmation. It reaffirms what the parents chose for them as religion. This is what someone goes through to choose a church they would like to be a part of. At the time it’s not always true that from the beginning of birth they are destined to be Catholic or Methodist or Lutheran, sometimes people don’t go through Confirmation. Through their experiences some people choose not to go to Church anymore the can say yes or not to the religion, hence the reason religion is...

Bibliography: Pojman, Louis P. Who Are We? Theories of Human Nature. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006.
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