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Plato on True Belief and Knowledge

 
 
kennethamy
 
  1  
Reply Sat 21 Nov, 2009 11:44 am
@Theaetetus,
Theaetetus;104892 wrote:
Sorry my bad. I was assuming that since you used it, he did too. I have been consulting my other translations and ignoring the Jowett.


In any case, I don't think it makes any difference to the issue at hand whether it is "true belief" or "right opinion". It still does not follow that because a belief is true that is cannot be false, as Socrates claims. Contingent truths are true, but they can be false. (And it doesn't matter whether we substitute "right opinion" for "true belief". The point is the same). The problem is what matters, not the translation.
jeeprs
 
  1  
Reply Sat 21 Nov, 2009 06:20 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;104761 wrote:
But what is to the point is that anyone (including Plato) who proposes the idea is obligated to argue for it. He may not be talking about knowing ordinary truths, but then, so what? If by "higher knowledge" he only means knowledge of "higher truths" and not just ordinary truth like that Quito is the capital of Ecuador, then he ought to say that. But that has nothing to do with different kinds of knowledge. It has to do with knowledge of different kinds of truths. And, that distinction is obviously important.


So you think there are different kinds of truths? If so, what are some examples?
kennethamy
 
  1  
Reply Sat 21 Nov, 2009 06:27 pm
@jeeprs,
jeeprs;105010 wrote:
So you think there are different kinds of truths? If so, what are some examples?


That's a good question. There are analytic truth (I think) that are true in virtue of the meanings of their terms. For instance, all bachelors are unmarried men. And there are synthetic truths. like all dogs are mammals, which are not true in virtue of the meanings of their terms.
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jeeprs
 
  1  
Reply Sat 21 Nov, 2009 06:59 pm
@kennethamy,
It doesn't really address the issue though. We were discussing whether Plato is tallking of 'higher truths', so I suppose the question really is, are there such kinds of truth, and if so, what might the substance of those be?

I think in the ancient world, there was a distinction between 'the philosopher' and 'the ordinary man'. This was not unique to Plato but was one of the key distinctions in Greek philosophy generally. Philosophic wisdom was something that had to be attained - hence the Curriculum of the Academy, and all of the many conversations about 'the good man' and how he is able to perceive important principles and truths which 'the ordinary man', because of his lack of wisdom, was not able to grasp.

Now of course this distinction might have been lost in modern philosophy. But perhaps it is intrinsic to the dialog we are considering?
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ACB
 
  1  
Reply Sat 21 Nov, 2009 07:24 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;104923 wrote:
It still does not follow that because a belief is true that is cannot be false, as Socrates claims. Contingent truths are true, but they can be false.


If someone says "contingent truths cannot be false", what precisely do they mean? Is it a metaphysical claim, i.e. that there is only one logically possible universe? But then the truths wouldn't be contingent, would they? The idea that contingent truths cannot be false sounds like a contradiction (= contingent truths are necessary).
0 Replies
 
Theaetetus
 
  1  
Reply Sun 22 Nov, 2009 12:15 am
@kennethamy,
ACB wrote:
If someone says "contingent truths cannot be false", what precisely do they mean? Is it a metaphysical claim, i.e. that there is only one logically possible universe? But then the truths wouldn't be contingent, would they? The idea that contingent truths cannot be false sounds like a contradiction (= contingent truths are necessary).

But doesn't a truth presuppose that it is true? Whether it is contingent or not is irrelevant because it must be true to be a truth.

kennethamy wrote:
In any case, I don't think it makes any difference to the issue at hand whether it is "true belief" or "right opinion". It still does not follow that because a belief is true that is cannot be false, as Socrates claims. Contingent truths are true, but they can be false. (And it doesn't matter whether we substitute "right opinion" for "true belief". The point is the same). The problem is what matters, not the translation.


I think you hit on something that is interesting to say the least--especially considering my response to ACB. There are many different ways to classify thinks as true. There are those things that are true to the individual and whether they are actually true or not is irrelevant. Then there are those things that are true according to a group of people. But then there are those things that are true independent of people. For example, the earth exists is independent of any human or group of humans. The universe exists is another. What this means is that as far as we know, nearly all truths are contingent truths that require individuals or groups of individuals to declare them true through their acceptance.

Looking at the Meno, and the other related dialogues, it is obvious that Plato was trying to transcend this and find a way to make contingent truths something that was grounded beyond the yea-sayers. Thus, the forms.
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jeeprs
 
  1  
Reply Sun 22 Nov, 2009 12:48 am
@kennethamy,
a.k.a, 'higher truths'
jgweed
 
  1  
Reply Mon 23 Nov, 2009 10:14 am
@kennethamy,
Friedlander points out that in the Meno, Plato is attempting to bridge the gap between true knowledge and ignorance (un-knowledge); for many people "know" true things without understanding the principles and grounds for it. One can, for example, know many true matters of fact by rote or memorization without being able to "give an account" of them.

There seems to be a parallel between learning ( and teaching) knowledge on the one hand, and true belief [outside of the Platonic doctrine of Remembrance] on the other. For example, it is quite possible to have true belief about much of history, but someone acquainted with the principles of historiography and historical tradition would be able to provide a discursive foundation over and above someone holding a true belief.
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kennethamy
 
  1  
Reply Mon 23 Nov, 2009 10:18 am
@jeeprs,
jeeprs;105080 wrote:
a.k.a, 'higher truths'


If a higher truth is a truth which is independent of whether it is believed or not, then it is hard to think of any truth that is not a higher truth. But, in that case, the term "higher" doesn't do much work.
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jeeprs
 
  1  
Reply Mon 23 Nov, 2009 02:13 pm
@kennethamy,
I can't put my hands on a quote from the Dialogs, but I think about it this way (perhaps more Buddhist than Platonic but I am sure there are parallels). One of the hallmarks of sagacity or the philosophic temperament is disinterestedness - absence of self-interest. Ordinary people are driven by passions, likes and dislikes. So their every act and perception is coloured by 'what I want' or 'what I believe'. In the absence of the passions, the sage is much more able to discern what is truly the case by not acting from self-interest. Consider the last speech of Socrates - I think this was a good example. He was looking at the whole situation from the viewpoint of the State, not from his own viewpoint, and was able to be completely unaffected by his own imminent demise.

This sense of detachment from self is, I am sure, a prerequisite for what the traditional cultures understood as the higher knowledge. This is very much at odds with our own culture which puts so much emphasis on the self and individual perogative.
kennethamy
 
  1  
Reply Mon 23 Nov, 2009 02:58 pm
@jeeprs,
jeeprs;105434 wrote:
I can't put my hands on a quote from the Dialogs, but I think about it this way (perhaps more Buddhist than Platonic but I am sure there are parallels). One of the hallmarks of sagacity or the philosophic temperament is disinterestedness - absence of self-interest. Ordinary people are driven by passions, likes and dislikes. So their every act and perception is coloured by 'what I want' or 'what I believe'. In the absence of the passions, the sage is much more able to discern what is truly the case by not acting from self-interest. Consider the last speech of Socrates - I think this was a good example. He was looking at the whole situation from the viewpoint of the State, not from his own viewpoint, and was able to be completely unaffected by his own imminent demise.

This sense of detachment from self is, I am sure, a prerequisite for what the traditional cultures understood as the higher knowledge. This is very much at odds with our own culture which puts so much emphasis on the self and individual perogative.


Have you any examples of what is supposed to be higher knowledge as contrasted with lower? knowledge, or just plain knowledge? I expect that the difference is supposed to be not in the degree of knowledge (as it would seem) but rather in what is supposed to be known. My reading of Plato is that he holds that the objects of knowledge have to be of a certain kind, and that other things we think we know, we do not really know. So the difference is not in the kind of knowledge (higher or lower) but in what is an object of knowledge, and what is not an object of knowledge.
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jeeprs
 
  1  
Reply Mon 23 Nov, 2009 03:10 pm
@kennethamy,
I think the source for this understanding is The Parmenides. There is a great deal in it, about how that which is real cannot pass away, and that which is always changing cannot be said to truly exist, and therefore can't be said to be an object of true knowledge. But I don't have it on hand, perhaps someone with a copy might be able to find some supporting quotes. (I do recall that when I studied it at University, I found it very difficult to fathom.)
kennethamy
 
  1  
Reply Mon 23 Nov, 2009 03:35 pm
@jeeprs,
jeeprs;105450 wrote:
I think the source for this understanding is The Parmenides. There is a great deal in it, about how that which is real cannot pass away, and that which is always changing cannot be said to truly exist, and therefore can't be said to be an object of true knowledge. But I don't have it on hand, perhaps someone with a copy might be able to find some supporting quotes. (I do recall that when I studied it at University, I found it very difficult to fathom.)


Yes, you are right. But in Republic, especially. But that is what I was saying. It is what is known that is higher or lower. Not the knowing. Only the Forms are objects of knowledge. Whether, for instance, Quito is capital of Ecuador is, for Plato, opinion. For it is not, as you said, "permanent". Plato seems to have taken this from Parmenides. (But, it is true that Plato also maintains that knowledge itself has to be absolutely certain to be in tandem with what must be the object of knowledge. What we know and what we believe cannot be the same things).
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jeeprs
 
  1  
Reply Mon 23 Nov, 2009 05:16 pm
@kennethamy,
This distinction had enormous consequences in philosophy and metaphysics, of course, and arguably became the source of the primary dualism in Western philosophy between 'the ideal' (celestial, unchanging, perfect, incorruptible) and 'the material' (transitory, sorrowful, corrupt, etc.). However I think it is nevertheless good to appreciate the source of this distinction and look at it again, through modern eyes.
0 Replies
 
Reconstructo
 
  1  
Reply Wed 21 Apr, 2010 01:25 pm
@jeeprs,
jeeprs;105450 wrote:
There is a great deal in it, about how that which is real cannot pass away, and that which is always changing cannot be said to truly exist, and therefore can't be said to be an object of true knowledge.

What's that quote? That Western Philosophy is footnotes to Plato? Sure, we should include Plato's influences, but I think he was right. (Whitehead?)

We basically have Plato and the inversion of Plato. That's pretty much the spectrum. But even the inverters of Plato are still speaking the Truth, or else they are not exactly philosophers. I love Nietzsche, but this contradiction still seems to apply to him and all the moderns he influenced. I love Rorty also, and he too is in this camp. I'll salute Rorty for knowing it, for having a Cheshire grin. Doesn't Western Science seem to stem directly from Platonic notions? The form beneath the flux.
kennethamy
 
  1  
Reply Wed 21 Apr, 2010 01:33 pm
@Reconstructo,
Reconstructo;154944 wrote:
What's that quote? That Western Philosophy is footnotes to Plato? Sure, we should include Plato's influences, but I think he was right. (Whitehead?)

We basically have Plato and the inversion of Plato. That's pretty much the spectrum. But even the inverters of Plato are still speaking the Truth, or else they are not exactly philosophers. I love Nietzsche, but this contradiction still seems to apply to him and all the moderns he influenced. I love Rorty also, and he too is in this camp. I'll salute Rorty for knowing it, for having a Cheshire grin. Doesn't Western Science seem to stem directly from Platonic notions? The form beneath the flux.


What is inexactly a philosopher? And what is this all about? More word salad, and no dressing either. (I wonder who wants to know that you love Neitzsche, and salute Rorty. And why anyone would want to know that).
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jeeprs
 
  1  
Reply Wed 21 Apr, 2010 05:45 pm
@Reconstructo,
Reconstructo;154944 wrote:
Doesn't Western Science seem to stem directly from Platonic notions? The form beneath the flux.


Undoubtedly it originated there but has outgrown its heritage. I am reading in Is God a Mathematician? of the impact of non-Euclidean geometry on the early modern outlook. Prior to the discovery of this, Euclid's axioms were thought to be absolute and indubitable. Then the rise of non-conventional geometry, and many other discoveries of modern science, completely undermined the assumed world-view. It should be remembered that the medieval worldview was built around the ptolmaic cosmology and very specific interpretation of scripture. So it all came crashing down in the transition from medieval to modern thought. But now the modern outlook itself is in crisis over cosmology and the nature of matter. "The more it changes, the more it stays the same", as the saying goes.

This is outside the realm of philosophy per se. It is really more a study in the history of ideas. To which end, I am reading The Great Chain of Being, by Arthur Lovejoy. Another title which looks very good in this area is The Unity of Philosophical Experience by Gilson. Have a look at the ToC in the Amazon preview.

Unlike many, I don't believe that the earlier versions of the Grand Tradition are entirely outmoded by subsequent discoveries. They need to be re-interpreted rather than dscarded. The tendency to believe that we must thrown out everything that existed previously and start again with a blank slate needs to be applied carefully.
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