Plato’s is the power of knowledge. As he emphasizes

Plato’s Republic

 

            The thought process behind decision
making is entirely different for everyone. What is it that drives us to make
the “best” choices? In Plato’s Republic, Socrates tries to answer this
question. He creates a platform for a variety of discussions. The arguments
that arise are often manipulated in a way that brings out a nearly perfect
solution. Within Book V, Socrates attempts to convey the characteristics of a
perfect city. The most important aspect to this city is of course, the ruler.
Socrates makes it apparent that a just ruler needs to have certain
characteristics to be fit for the role. One characteristic that Socrates argues
is vital as a ruler, is the power of knowledge. As he emphasizes the
significance of this power through many arguments, there is no doubt that there
would be opposing views. To further show importance, he uses examples and
analogies that help to support his ongoing theory.

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            To understand Socrates’ stance on
knowledge, we first need to define what knowledge is. According to Socrates,
knowledge is “what is completely is completely an object of knowledge and what
is in no way at all is an object of complete ignorance” (477a). In order to
have knowledge, something must be static, complete, and unchanging. Knowledge
is truth, not opinion. To get into the mindset of thinking knowledgably,
Socrates uses a thinking style known as forms. Forms help to see beyond the
physical characteristics of something and allow you to grasp what it is that
makes something good or true. Those who use forms are highly knowledgeable. For
example, if you think about something being beautiful, like a flower or a
person, you first think of its physical characteristics. By using the forms,
you are able to see past these superficial components to an object or person,
and see the non-physical qualities, the essence of what makes that object so
beautiful. To have a belief that something is beautiful, compared to having
knowledge of the beauty that something holds, takes a different level of
thinking.    

Socrates defines knowledge by
comparing it to belief. In order to isolate knowledge in its purest sense, he
uses the antithetical concept of knowledge, which is ignorance, to assist in
his definition. If you have a spectrum with knowledge on one side and ignorance
on the other, since ignorance is the absence of knowledge, something must lie
between. What lies between is belief. Belief is opinion based and does not bear
enough factual evidence to be considered knowledge. Yet a belief is not
completely absent of knowledge, therefore it must be placed somewhere between
the two. To put it another way, Socrates states that belief seems to be opaquer
than knowledge, but clearer than ignorance, (478c). Socrates would explain
belief by saying, one who uses belief would strictly be able to only see the
objects for what they are and recognize that they are beautiful, not knowing
what the beauty actually is.

Taking a closer look into the realm
of knowledge, there are certain objects that help to define, see, and
understand how knowledge is assembled. The first object of knowledge is the
form of good. Socrates explains this at length, saying that “And if we do not
know it, you know that the even the fullest possible knowledge of other things
is of no benefit to us, any more than if we acquire any possession without the
good. Or do you think there is any benefit in possessing everything but the
good?” (505a). Socrates firmly believes that the knowledge of good is the most
important subject to be educated on. This is what philosophers focus the most
on. The reason behind this is that the “good” is what most people strive to
feel or to see when they make any decision, therefore for philosophers it is
imperative to understand the reasoning behind these choices and to figure out
if they actually are good or not. The second object of knowledge is truth.
Truth is the part of knowledge that is fixed and stagnant; there is no way to
manipulate the truth. Finally, the third object of knowledge is power. Power
gives light to the other two objects. Power allows you to see, often times with
the use of the senses. Socrates makes use of a few analogies using these
objects to show the power of knowledge.

            The analogies used to demonstrate
the power of knowledge are of the sun, a divided line, and the allegory of the
cave. The sun’s power of offering light, gives us the ability to see, not necessarily
giving us vision. With this ability to see, we are also given the ability to
choose what is good and what is not. Comparing that with the ability to know
what is good, the good is what we learn from and gives us knowledge to carry on,
just like the sun gives the ability for many things to prosper. Socrates uses a
divided line analogy to go deeper into this idea. He divides the line, one side
being the visible side, the other being of intelligence. It should be noted
that one side is larger than the other, with the visible side being divided
again into vision and belief. From this we can understand that in vision we can
see shadows, however we cannot know the actual shape of the object because it
is always changing. With belief, we are able to see physical objects but cannot
comprehend the knowledge behind them, it is strictly what is there. It can be
concluded that these two subdivisions give us opinion. The side of intelligence
is also divided. Intelligence consists of forms and reasoning. From this we are
able to figure out what is good and why exactly it is good. The two sides, in
conclusion, help one another. It is important to remember that the side of the
intelligent is more important to Socrates. Finally, The Cave is used to paint a
picture of how we need to go beyond what is just visible to the eye. In the
cave the prisoners can only see shadows that some unknown being projects onto
the walls in front of them. This is to show assumption without knowledge. Once
one prisoner is able to escape the cave and actually see that there is more to
the shadows, he is blown away. This goes back to the divided line. Vision is
not all we need to be able to “see” or distinguish what is good or real, we
must have both sides in order to have knowledge.

How is it then that we acquire
knowledge to think so precisely? We cannot just acquire knowledge, we obtain it
from our experiences. We all have to go through certain situations to learn and
take away lessons, that is knowledge. Knowledge is learned, it is not just achieved.
I think that goodness plays a huge role in knowledge. Again, by the choices
that we make, whether they are good or not, that is up to the person, however,
we gain knowledge from these choices. So yes, when we agree that something is
good, for whatever reason, we then acquire knowledge from it. I think that you
can also have knowledge without goodness. Even if an experience is not chosen
or performed out of goodness, we still have the ability to be knowledgeable
about it. I believe that this is shown within the allegory of the cave. The
prisoner has been assuming from the shadows he has seen through his life,
however, once he is out of the cave he is able to put to life what has been
hidden for so long. He has gained knowledge from experience, seeing, sensing
and finding out the truth of what is outside of the cave.

Since explaining how knowledge is
acquired, it is also important to note how Socrates used dialectic and
dialectical discussions as a way to find out the truth of knowledge. He states
that dialectic is the only method of inquiry that is able to get rid of
hypotheses to make a sound answer (533c-d). However, it should be noted that
there are concerns with this type of thinking. For instance, dialectical
thinking is used to come to an end point, a final truth, however, if by chance
one cannot move past a certain point in an argument, there is a problem. The
purpose of thinking this way is to build off one another, gaining truths to one
point, not to find ambiguities. Socrates seems to believe that the form of good
is more important than acquiring knowledge and truth, yet through his dialect
he seeks to obtain knowledge, and is never seen attempting to obtain the good.

Socrates’ account of acquiring knowledge
without good is in no way a benefit to us (505a). I do not particularly agree
with this account. Knowledge can be acquired with or without the ability of
receiving good. As stated prior, knowledge is learned through experiences.
Those experiences do not necessarily need to have a good outcome to learn and
to gain something from it. I feel that learning is always good, whether or not
the outcome is positive, you have the ability to gain from the experience.
Isn’t that what Socrates claims as good? Obtaining any knowledge from a
situation should be seen as good. My view would definitely contradict Socrates’
account. I do not think that Socrates can refute my position and still hold his
view. I think that he should give up his view and realize that knowledge can be
obtained from any experience, not just in the form of something good.

According to Socrates, knowledge is
the most important power that anyone can obtain. It is what drives a good
ruler. I agree with both of those statements. After realizing that knowledge
consists of the power to see, some good, and absolute truth, it is clear to say
that there is no way to refute knowledge. With that being said, it is the strongest
influence to have over anyone.  Socrates creates
many thorough arguments and it is clear that they are well thought out, however
on the topic of knowledge I feel there needs to be a small correction. I believe
firmly that you can acquire knowledge with receiving any good. Any knowledge is
power, and power helps to build a great leader or individual.

 

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