Ancient Philosophy




Theconcept of knowledge has attracted immense attention particularlyfrom philosophers and scholars from varied other disciplines.Knowledge has often been defined as the awareness and comprehensionof certain elements of reality or rather the lucid and clearinformation that is obtained via the application of reason toreality. The conventional approach is that knowledge is based onthree sufficient and necessary conditions so as to define it as ajustified true belief. These include truth, belief and justification.In the case of truth, it should be noted that false propositionswould never be known, in which case something would only count asknowledge when it is actually true (Phaedrus, 221a-b). Similarly, anindividual would not know something if he or she does not believe inthe statement of the same. The justification underlines the notionthat such beliefs would have to be based on a particular knownphenomenon rather than simply luck. In philosophy, knowledge isexamined within the lens of epistemology, which Plato defined as thejustified true belief. Plato’s epistemology underlines the notionthat knowledge is innate, which means that learning would involve thedevelopment of ideas that are buried deep into one’s soul usuallyunder the guidance of an interrogator. Of particular note is theclear difference between knowledge and true opinion, as the former iscertain while the latter is not. According to Plato, knowledgeprimarily emanates from essences or the world of timeless forms,while opinions emanate from the dynamic world of sensation.

Essentially,knowledge for Plato revolves around grasping ideas through searchingwithin oneself. As much as Plato opined that only philosophers havethe capacity to achieve knowledge in this manner and changethemselves into gods as far as it would be possible for human beings,common people also possess the potential to attain knowledge in spiteof their deficient condition (Clitophon, 539b- 541e). Of course, thequestion is what stands between a common person and a philosopher asfar as the acquisition of knowledge is concerned. However, Platostates that common people are prisoners in a world of becoming. Tofree themselves from the illusion, they have to turn around towardstruth, which they cannot do without external assistance. Suchassistance would only be obtained from a teacher who would posequestions to them and get them to aporiaior conceptual difficulties. Further, common people have thelikelihood to incorporate desires, emotions, as well as fears thatrender them deaf and blind to rational persuasion and, as aconsequence, overpower their rational thinking causing them to actagainst their will. Essentially, teachers have to strive to establisha disposition in his partner that would prepare him to accept theproduct of rational arguments and cause a realization pertaining towhat may be considered as false or true, as well as assist him in thetransformation of the knowledge to ethical or moral tendencies.Further, Plato postulates that individuals can only achieve realknowledge if they concentrate on the immortal soul (Republic, 509c).For common people, the therapy pertaining to the moral self and theappropriate safeguards of affections are crucial in the developmentof the appropriate habits that offer the foundation for realknowledge and virtue.

Apartfrom the innate knowledge, there are other ways of acquiringknowledge including thought process, observation, as well as acombination of thinking and observing. In the case of observationalknowledge, one would acquire the knowledge of a particular objectthrough observing particular phenomenon. Of course, the questionwould be the amount of observation that is necessary forobservational knowledge or rather the standard that has to be met forobservational evidence to be sufficient to give knowledge.

Inthe case of knowledge through thinking, philosophers explore thepossibility that one would acquire knowledge through thinking orreflection and not observation. This underlines the question onwhether it is possible to have a priori knowledge. Priori knowledgewould be substantive and possible in instances where the knowledgebeing acquired is trivial or simple. However, the acknowledgement ofthe limits pertaining to both observational and reasoned knowledgecreates the need to combine the two so as to eliminate theirrestrictions or defeat a reasonable or sufficient number of the same.

Asnoted, it is imperative that common men undergo a therapy of theirmortal selves and have appropriate regulations of their affections soas to develop the appropriate habits that offer the basis for realknowledge and virtue. However, the human passion therapy thatgenerates a certain modification of emotions in human beings makingthem better learners and more amenable to advice is fundamental.Without the groundwork, common people would not act in line with theinsights and judgments that emanate from conversation. Resisting theappropriate opinion is seen as a deficiency of knowledge (Phaedo,86a). The phenomenon that affections, emotions and desires such asfear could stand in the way of an individual accepting the product ofrational argument is theoretically underpinned in the partitioning ofthe soul. The partitioning provides an explanation on why emotionscan sometimes overcome reason against an individual’s will.


Cooper,J.M (1997). Plato: Complete Works: New York: Hackett Publishing