Philosophy of Knowledge Platos Apology and the Allegory of the Cave

Western philosophy has been from its outset a reflection on knowledge. Socrates in his Apology, Plato in his myths, analogies, and allegories and finally Aristotle in his book on the soul present us three first decisive steps of this reflection. However, nowhere else is the reflection of knowledge as truthful, as objective, and philosophically fascinating as in Platos works. Knowledge for Plato is distinctly different from an opinion. Plato views knowledge as the gradual movement to the realization of everything Good. In his writings, Plato tries to show that knowledge, contrary to previous beliefs, it not an abstract category but a universal form used to judge the quality and importance of objects and actions, as well as an effective means of improving human character.

    Apology and Republic are, probably, the two most important Platos works. Both works have already become a fundamental measure of philosophic knowledge and the basic source of truth about people and the world, in which we live. More importantly, however, is the role which Apology and Republic play in the development of our ideas about knowledge. Plato seeks to prove that knowledge is not an abstract category but a universal form, used to judge the quality and goodness of things and actions. It would be fair to assume that what Plato writes in the Allegory of the Cave is a new philosophy and a new idea about what knowledge is, what functions it fulfills in the physical world, and how individuals can achieve the highest level of being knowledgeable about life. The Allegory of the Cave is the best representation and explanation of knowledge as the highest goal of education, and as something that should serve the ultimate standard of judging the reality and its value

The ascent to see the things in the upper world you may take as standing for the upward journey of the soul into the region of the intelligible they you will be in possession of what I surmise, since that is what you wish to be told.  In the world of knowledge, the last thing to be perceived and only with great difficulty is the essential Form of Goodness. Once it is perceived, the conclusion must follow that, for all things, this is the cause of whatever is right and good in the visible world it gives birth to light and to the lord of light, while it is itself sovereign in the intelligible world and the parent of intelligence and truth (Republic 517c).

Knowledge for Plato is associated with the understanding and recognition of this Form of Goodness, without which knowledge and wisdom become obsolete. Knowledge is fairly regarded as the ultimate stage of ones moral and spiritual evolution. In order for a person to have access to knowledge and to become knowledgeable, this person has to go through several important stages of individual growth, none of which is easy.

Through the prism of the Allegory of the Cave, ones journey to knowledge begins with identifying and trying to interpret the meaning of shadows and other images  as such, imagination is the first step to knowledge (Republic 515b-c). In the process of individual evolution, or being released from chains, individuals acquire a unique opportunity to see physical objects and to perceive relationships between them (Republic 516 a-c). However, grasping the meaning of these objects is impossible without understanding, and the process of understanding should be systematic enough to become knowledge he would be able to look at the Sun and contemplate its nature, not as it appears when reflected in water or any alien medium, but as it is in itself in its own domain (Republic 516c). Finally, this understanding will be logically followed by the gradual apprehension of forms and meanings, which altogether constitute the general form of everything Good and which, in its turn, is used to judge the value and the order of everything in the world (Republic 516d). Only objects and phenomena that are included into the Form of Good are considered meaningful and valuable. Thus, knowledge is the ultimate product of ones long evolution, which begins with imagination and perceptions and ends where knowledge turns into the universal truth. It is obvious that in this state of mind, a person would hardly be willing to return to his (her) previous state, which for Plato is equal to imprisonment or, in simpler terms, is associated with absolute unawareness and mental darkness.

    Not only does knowledge serve to judge the quality and value of all objects in the world, but it should also work to improve human character. That a person was able to undergo dramatic cognitive changes and to arrive to the realization of the universal Form of Good already marks a positive change in ones character. Now, however, when a person is destined to get back to his fellow prisoners, he (she) is expected to utilize his (her) knowledge for the sake of enlightening others Men of Athens, I respect and love you, but I shall obey the god rather than you, and while I live and am able to continue, I shall never give up philosophy or stop exhorting you and pointing out the truth to any one of you whom I meet (Apology 29d). Thus, knowledge as the ultimate measure of everything good should also work for the benefit of others, who need this knowledge and enlightenment to move on to the next, more advanced, stage of individual growth.
    Western philosophy has been from its outset a reflection of knowledge. Dozens of philosophers sought to determine and define what knowledge is, how it works in the real world, and how individuals can achieve the ultimate stage of being knowledgeable. Knowledge for Plato is associated with the ultimate Form of Good not only is this form used to judge the quality and value of different objects, but only objects that are included into this Form of Good are considered valuable. To become knowledgeable, however, an individual is destined to go through several stages of individual evolution, from imagination to understanding the meaning of the permanent objects like Good. Knowledge is not simply valuable in itself, but it should also work for the benefit of others, to improve their characters. Knowledge should serve an effective driver of positive change in everyone, who seeks to become enlightened.


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