Plato and Descartes and Plato Term Paper

Excerpt from Term Paper :

" He also confirmed to himself that God was the origin of his thought, and therefore because his thoughts were real, God must also be real.

3. Descartes -- Senses and Knowledge

When we went outside as a class, part of Descartes ideas was visible in our observations. All the students had a different perception of the external world. Some focused on certain people and certain objects, which were not seen in the same exact way as another student. This shows that the human mind sees a unique version of what our senses tell us is reality. Reality, might however, escape the limitations of the human mind. For instance, a particular relation to a person and an object, this case a tree, might be seen as being a certain way in my mind but a much different way in another student's mind. Each person's unique experience, through the perception of their sense, leads to a unique vision of what is happening in the external world.

Descartes' example of melting candle wax shows how objects are only real in the mind's understanding of them. The physical characteristics of the wax are fundamentally false, for they may vary depending on what person perceives them to be. What really matters to us is how we understand what we take in through our senses; how the mind, which Descartes has proven to exist, understands the world around it. We originally understand the wax to be cool and hard. As it melts, however, the mind adapts to understand it as hot and liquid. Despite the almost opposite physical characteristics, the human mind still believes wax to be the same concept. Our vision of the wax simply changes through our sensory perception of the change, but the same concept still stands in the mind. Through the knowledge of the concepts of physics and mathematics, the human mind is trained to believe that transformation rather than think the liquid wax is now a completely different substance than the original hard candle. This example helps the mind come to trust the sciences which lead to formulating a base for understanding the sensory information which comes through observation of the world. Through thinking about an object, one can trust that it is now real in the mind. Therefore, by thinking of ourselves in a certain way, defines us; not what the senses rely as what we are. Therefore, we gain more trustworthy knowledge about who we are. Personally, I like Descartes vision of how we know the external world and how we know ourselves. It gives us so much power in that things exist only in the way we think them to exist.

Attracted to Opposites

Both Socrates and Descartes use opposites to help prove their visions of the nature of what is real. Socrates uses concepts of darkness and light as a way to show the difference between true understanding and false understanding. The people in the cave live their lifetime in darkness, ignorant of the real nature of the world outside the cave. The light, on the other hand, exposes the truth. When one enters the light from the darkness of ignorance, one can see a clear picture of the external world and how much we once depended on what we believed to be true as true. He uses the method of dialectic to further prove his point. As he, the speaker who dwells in the light of the world outside the cave interrogates the listener who is still chained to the darkness of ignorance. However, he slowly unlocks those chains as he reveals the light to the listener who is then led to a true understanding of an issue. Socrates involves the listeners in his lecture, and therefore he pulls his subjects out of the darkness.

Descartes uses the idea of opposites when he says that everything we ever knew of the world was false. Before truly knowing the world Descartes believed that one had to completely abandon one's old perception of the world. This goes against everything we are taught throughout our lives. Ignoring what our senses tell us, and only trusting or thoughts in our formation of the world, is opposite to what our own body wants us to believe. Thus, by believing what we previously thought was true to be false is opposite to what is…

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