Broken Down to the Question Essay

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This can occur without any human intervention. Therefore the issue of permanence becomes incomprehensible to man, regardless of science and logic (or perhaps because of it). As such, we cannot legitimately claim that any object or form is "real" because in order to be truly real, it was have to be explicable. Thus in Phaedrus, Socrates asserts:

"I must dare to speak the truth, when truth is my theme. There abides the very being with which true knowledge is concerned; the colourless, formless, intangible essence, visible only to mind, the pilot of the soul. The divine intelligence, being nurtured upon mind and pure knowledge, and the intelligence of every soul which is capable of receiving the food proper to it, rejoices at beholding reality, and once more gazing upon truth, is replenished and made glad, until the revolution of the worlds brings her round again to the same place."

In Plato's view, in order for something to be truly real, it must also act as a permanent and enduring fixture over time. He considered reality to be more deeply connected to the final state of being, rather than the process which perpetuates that state. However the "enduring fixture" component is not enough to change the reality. Moreover, there are some true beliefs that even when they are logical in nature, cannot be legitimately referred to as knowledge.

In applying an experience from my own life to these suppositions, I recall a time when I first became aware of the distinction between the reality that truly exists, and the one which we have created for ourselves. Often there is a conflict between these two realities, which is something I have had to learn repeatedly throughout my life.

Because reality is subjective it is based largely on personal perception. Incongruity in these perceptions can cause conflict within ourselves, as well as with others who do not share our unique perspectives. An example from my life growing up in which a conflict close to home was fueled by alternate perceptions involves an argument my mother and I had over keeping my room clean.

From her perspective, I lived in her and my father's home and therefore was obliged to do everything according to their rules. Any attempt to break those rules was considered disrespectful and worthy of punishment. One of the rules was to keep my room neat and ordered at all times. However being a kid, this was not always so easy to accomplish.

From my perspective, my room was my own territory and since my parents did not have to live in it, I saw no reason that I should have to keep it according to their standards. I once told my mother this and was subsequently sentenced to not only clean my room but the rest of the house as well. Needless to say, I from then on only muttered these sentiments under my breath as I was doing my "duty" and cleaning my room.

The conflicting perspectives between my mother and I on the issue of keeping my room clean were based on divergent perceptions of reality, and thus our different understandings of the truth. Her truth was that I was her child and I was to do what I was told without question. This was also my truth, but it was not one that I agree with. It was my reality, but not by choice. But is reality actually a choice, or is it just a permanently fixed object that is true regardless of varying perspectives? This is just one of the many questions that seekers of an understanding of truth wrestle with repeatedly.


What must I know to know that I know something? Descartes and Kant have made it quite clear that simply believing something to be true does not constitute knowledge. Locke seems convinced that our perceptions influence our reality to the point that we are often unable to distinguish between what is knowledge and what is merely our perception of knowledge. Plato wrestles with the dichotomy between fixed and permanent realities and variable perspectives of knowledge and truth. Thousands of other philosophers, some famous and some never heard of, have pondered all of these questions and more. Through their writings I have developed enough of an understanding about truth and knowledge to make the final concluding statement: I know what I know because my mind makes it so.


Alston, William and Brandt, Richard, the Problems of Philosophy: Introductory Readings, Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 3rd ed., 1978

Descartes, Rene, Meditations I. available online

Foley, R. (2001) Intellectual trust in oneself and others, Cambridge University Press

Kant, Immanuel [1785]. transl. By James W. Ellington, Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals 3rd ed.. Hackett, 1993

Locke, John. An Essay Concerning Human Understanding. Available online

Philosophy Pages, Kant: Experience and Reality, Analogies of Experience, Britannica, 2001, available online

Plato, Phaedrus 360 B.C.E Transl. Benjamin Jowett available online

Scharfstein, Ben-Ami the Philosophers: Their Lives and the Nature of Their Thought, Oxford University Press, 1980[continue]


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