Plato and Aristotle on the Nature of Knowledge Essay

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  7
Wordcount:  1753 Words
Date:  2022-06-16

Plato on the Nature of Knowledge

Plato's view of knowledge was premised on the certainty of the same. In this case, Plato drew a difference between knowledge that emanates from mere opinion and one that is certain. The certainty of knowledge emerges from the fact that it comes from the soul. Plato argued that it is inherent in everyone as opposed to being learned. Therefore, people do not learn new things. They already possess this knowledge and simply remember its existence in their souls. The true knowledge is already in place in what Zeyl explains as the concept of always is as opposed to becoming. The certainty of "always is" can explain Plato's depiction of knowledge being inside the souls of human beings all the time and only surfacing when they remember. The truth becomes when individuals recall is as opposed to being in a permanent state of never is. For instance, Timaeus uses this concept to explain the existence of God. In this case, the argument is that God is presence because the universe is in the process of becoming, which means that it always is as opposed to being in a state of never is. Hackett says, "The world, then, though a thing that has come to be, is nevertheless modeled after that which is intelligible and eternally stable (Zeyl, 2000)" to illustrate the relationship between true knowledge that is certain as facilitated by Plato. The position can lead one to conclude that if human beings exist with this knowledge, then it is safe to assume that there is a cause that put it in them.

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Plato included the theory of forms to facilitate a more profound discussion of knowledge. The theory of forms asserts that permanent forms are a reality that can depict knowledge. The forms exist in the same state and are always unchangeable. They are not subject to variances as premised on the particular context. Plato differentiated them from particulars that are subject to various changes. The particulars are inclusive of senses that cannot be trusted because they are subject to changes. Plato used the pure forms as metaphors for objects of knowledge that always are because of their constant state. For instance, when one describes the concept of beauty, there is no variation to the same. Beauty exists and does not change because it is true knowledge. A person knows when something is beautiful and when it is not. However, an aspect like plastic can change in its shape and form when exposed to certain temperatures. In this case, Zeyl explains this theory of forms using the aspect of being and becoming. They can explain the certainty of knowledge that Plato emphasized in his theory of knowledge. Zeyl says, "What is characteristic of anything that always is and has no becoming..........Plato then gives the answer: the former is such that it is grasped by understanding, the latter such that it is grasped by opinion (Zeyl, 2000)." In this case, one can note that the concept of never becoming (never is) is false knowledge because it is purely based on the opinion of individuals. The aspect of becoming to reach the process of always is comprises of true knowledge due to the fact that one can trust it will not change. Hence, the position leads back to Plato's concept of knowledge emanating from the soul. One can trust it because it always is and can be explained by forms that are not informed by mere opinion as discussed by Zeyl.

The theory of forms is important in understanding knowledge and the physical world from the perspective of Plato. In this case, Plato employed forms to explain that people react to their physical surroundings using their senses. The senses are an extension of knowledge that correlates to the physical aspects around them. However, the senses are classified as mere opinions because of the concept of becoming and never being. Physical aspects change all the time because they are always becoming. Forms extend beyond mere senses and inform the intellect that is responsible for logic. The same explains why Zeyl was convinced that the world was in a state of being before it became. The rationale is that it is an interaction of intellect and soul that can be used to explain the unchangeable form. The situation, therefore, leads one to conclude that Plato's aspect about the soul being the source of knowledge could hold some truth because of the concept of being. It already existed and remains as always is, which informed the creation of the universe when it was mixed with the intellect as represented by the mind. Zeyl showcases how Timaeus asserted that God created the soul and put in inside the body that is a representation of the world (Zeyl, 2000). Hence, one can conclude that the intellect that is the mind works in combination with the soul to facilitate a universe that is perfect and good. The theory of forms helps one to reach this conclusion and posit that the dimensions of true knowledge lie in the forms that are informed by the soul and intellect. The rest is a mere react of one's senses to the goodness of the physical world.

Plato associated natural sciences like astronomy with the concept of souls and beings. In this case, he saw them as being intertwined and representing the concept of knowledge. For instance, the science of astronomy concludes that there are planets that revolve around one another. Others like mercury and Venus constantly overtake one another. Plato saw them as being a representation of the souls that are superior in the world. He also associated this aspect of astronomy to the intellect that illustrates the source of knowledge. For instance, Plato opined that the sun is a metaphorical representation of the intellect. He did not refute their astronomical significance and existence. Rather, he used astronomy to further advance his theory of forms and knowledge. Zeyl presents the concept of contrary power that seeks to explain this astronomical relationship with the theory of knowledge by Plato.

Aristotle and the Nature of Change

Aristotle presented somewhat different views in which he argued that everything is prone to the aspect of change. He argued that anything that is natural is subject to the concept of change. It is ideal to posit that the natural is what represents the real knowledge that individuals should possess. Hence, one can note that Aristotle abandoned the concept of forms being unchangeable as facilitated by his predecessor. Plato always maintained the need for a constant to represent real things. They needed to be as further away from change as possible for them to represent actual knowledge that people can trust. In some ways, this makes sense because it would be difficult to trust concepts that are always changing. However, Aristotle introduced a different dynamic when he argued that natural aspects should remain the same. The existence of contraries in natural phenomenon necessitates this aspect of change. The rationale is that the absence of presence of either needs to take place, which is indicative of the state of change that is necessary. The natural aspects also gain or lose some properties as part of their process that should be considered as normal. There is a large extent to which this account by Aristotle makes more sense that Plato's theory of forms. For example, a piece of bronze may melt into some other shape when exposed to certain conditions. The same should not lead individuals to believe that it is unnatural. Aristotle seemed to posit that this is in fact the natural process that should be used to inform the true concept of knowledge.

Aristotle also departed from Plato when he talked about the concept of being and becoming. Plato had always maintained that objects in the physical world cannot be used as a form of knowledge because they are in a persistent state of becoming. However, this is different from Aristotle who argued that the objects already are. The rationale he used is that the objects do not need to be because they do not have an origin from something else (Lloyd, 2012). They simply are as they are; which means that they are always in the state of being. They do not need any other process to be. Aristotle was in conflict with Plato when he argued that to be and the concept of being requires that an object emanates from something. Therefore, his accounts of change are in direct conflict with the theory of forms as reported by Plato. For instance, Lloyd says, "For even in those kinds [of animals] that are not attractive to the senses, yet to the intellect the craftsmanship of nature provides extraordinary pleasures (Lloyd, 2012)." The statement is a direct disagreement with the example Plato provided about beauty. It says that beauty is not a trusted form because the sense may perceive it differently from the intellect, which means that it can change.

On the concept of motion, Aristotle employed physics and argued that an object's speed is in direct proportion to its weight. In this case, he opined that motion is subject to the concept of change. It is all dependent on the different circumstances at the time. Aspects such as weight and density can change the motion of an object. The argument can be trusted because it is premised on the simple evidence as provided by physics and the laws of motion. Moreover, he explained that bodies tend to gravitate towards their natural conditions. The same makes more sense than the theory of forms as facilitated by Plato. For instance, if one places a rock on the surface of water, it will sink because this is not its natural environment. However, the same rock will rest well on land. Hence, this situation leads one to understand the universe as being a dense weight. Aristotle explained that motion is all dependent on aspects like weight that facilitate the act of either rising or falling. Given this assertion, one can believe that the earth must be heavy for it to be located at the center. The same can be attributed towards oceans that are located at the center with the earth. However, aspects like air are high (they do not sink) because they are light. The analogy is very useful in illustrating change and motion when talking about knowledge of the universe.


Lloyd, G. E. R. (2012). Early greek science: Thales to Aristotle. Random House.

Zeyl, D. J. (2000). Timaeus (Vol. 9). Hackett Publishing.

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