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Plato’s theory of knowledge


Plato’s theory of knowledge presented the assumption that the human soul is immortal and that beyond all, it holds all knowledge. Plato was Socrates’ student and, in his writings, he often used Socrates as a character, who helped him explain various concepts more clearly. When Plato was asked to prove that the soul is immortal, he used the concept of equality to elaborate his idea.


Plato’s argument for knowledge had two premises, with the first one being that human knowledge comes from a prior knowledge of some form, or rule, or standard. According to Plato, human beings are able to recognize things that they have never been taught, which supports the notion that they must have had the knowledge before their lives began. Plato was a supporter of reincarnation as an idea and in his arguments, he explained that even when the human body dies, the soul goes on and enters a new body, human or animal. Using equality as an example, he explained how could human beings recognize that two objects were equal? How would you know that 2 shapes or lines are equal without even being taught? His argument was that human knowledge, such as the concept of equality is innate because we knew of them before our lives began.


Plato’s second premise for human knowledge is that it cannot be acquired through teaching or the senses. Plato felt that knowledge of some form, rule, or standard, such as equality, cannot be acquired through learning or the senses and thus it must have been acquired before our lives began. Thus, Plato’s first conclusion is that human knowledge of the forms is acquired through an earlier existence, or the soul. Thus, the second conclusion of this view is that the human soul is immortal, and there is no denying that it has always existed. Essentially, such knowledge cannot be acquired through the senses or teaching, but everyone can understand that one object is equal to another and vice-versa. Other examples are the concepts of beauty, justice, or truth.


Plato’s ideas were partially supported by St. Augustine who did not contest the idea of the mind’s ability to collect organize and store information. Augustine discussed that human memory is able to recall information from the past, present, and anticipate the future. However, Augustine rejected Plato’s ideas of the soul’s pre-existence in favor of the idea that God is the source of eternal ideas. Since all human beings are created by God, Augustine explained, then He is the force that gives peoples ideas since human beings are his image.


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