Finally, Socrates comes to the idea of knowledge as true judgment accompanied by "an account," meaning evidence or reason. In this context, knowledge would mean not only believing something true, but also having a reasonable justification for that belief; in other words, this definition proposes that knowledge means knowing a true thing and knowing why that thing is true. However, even here Socrates has a problem with the definition, because one cannot ultimately distinguish between the preliminary knowledge required for true judgment and the knowledge required to make an account of that judgment, such that one is led in circle back to the defining of knowledge. Ultimately, Socrates concludes that they cannot truly define knowledge (at least that point) and gives up. For Aristotle, knowledge seems to be a kind of bridge between perception, sensation, and the consequences of those on the individual.
The attempts to define knowledge in Theaetetus is particularly interesting because it simultaneously demonstrates how Plato suffers from a lack of critical depth regarding the presence of evidence for his metaphysical claims while also retaining a kind of implicit awareness of the impossibility of defining abstract ideas without an appeal to physicality. The difficulty in defining knowledge only appears when one attempts to do so in a truly abstract, metaphysical fashion, and it is telling that although Socrates eventually gives up on the effort, Plato himself does not realize that this difficulty arises from a fundamental flaw in his presuppositions regarding the existence of metaphysical forms and ideas. This failure to recognize a demonstration of metaphysics' lack of actual utility is indicative of much philosophy in general, and its helps one to understand how so much of Western thought has been characterized by a lack of critical inquiry and reflection.
Aristotle's attempts to differentiate between different kinds of knowledge suffer from the same problem, but at least in his case his distinctions (such as that between episteme and techne) are dependent on observable realities, meaning that his explanations of what knowledge is and how it works depend largely on how humans use knowledge, rather than an appeal to some sort of fundamental, transcendent truth or meaning (a concept entirely independent of the notion of objective reality). In Aristotle's case, the most important question concerning how one defines knowledge or categorizes it according to different characteristics is the relationship between ...
While both Plato and Aristotle are ultimately not very scientific, and the entire idea of metaphysics depends upon one's being willing to simply ignore the need for evidence when making claims, their investigations into the nature of knowledge and meaning are instructive because they underline so much of Western thought, both secular and religious. Although in its original incarnation metaphysics did not mean beyond physics in the sense it used today, both Plato and Aristotle depend on claims regarding a non-physical world, and as such they operate largely in the realm of the imagination rather than observable, evidential reality. Furthermore, while their belief in superstition, gods, and other imaginary things ultimately colors their analysis to the point that much of the content is useless in any practical sense, they still managed to offer important insights into the process of human knowledge-seeking and the relationship between individual critical inquiry and the public good. For these contributions alone they deserve to be studied and critiqued, because Plato and Aristotle offer some of the earliest and most comprehensive discussions of what it means to gain and have knowledge and how this knowledge is based on and in turn influences human perceptions of reality. In particular, although metaphysics as a concept is fundamentally flawed, both Plato and Aristotle managed to reveal important truths about human ignorance and the means of combating it during their discussions of their respective metaphysical systems of meaning.
Aristotle. The Metaphysics. New York: Cosimo, Inc., 2008.
Plato. The Republic.…
For Aristotle, knowledge seems to be a kind of bridge between perception, sensation, and the consequences of those on the individual.
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