The theory of knowledge (epistemology) is “a branch of philosophy that investigates the origin, nature, methods, and limits of human knowledge.” According to Dictionary.com. Some philosophers are divided on this theory of knowledge, whether justified true belief is said to be considered knowledge or not. My goal in writing this paper is to examine the key similarities and differences between two of the most famous philosophers, Plato and Aristotle.
For Plato, knowledge is to remember. To search for knowledge is simply to remember what you already knew. This theory is based on Plato’s idea that the soul is immortal. If the soul is immortal then it retains all knowledge and only needs to be asked the right questions. So, when a new idea is learned formed, it is actually being remembered. Plato often helped explain himself through examples and stories. One of Plato’s well-known illustrations is his divided line. Plato divides human knowledge into four categories, differing in their level of clearness and truth. Visualize a line divided into two sections of unequal length. The top section correlates to knowledge, and is the realm of intellect. The bottom level correlates to opinion, and concerns the world of sensory experience. Plato says that the sections are “unequal” in length, but the conventional view is that the knowledge section is the longer one.
Another one of Plato’s illustrations is the allegory of the cave. In the allegory of the cave, Plato compares prisoners that are chained up in a cave with no way of seeing anything but what is in front of them to people who are untrained in the theory of forms. There is a constant fire burning and it creates shadows on the wall in front of the prisoners each time something walks by, but they can only see the shadow. Eventually one of the prisoners escapes and sees the world for what it actually is for example, the sun and the objects that created the shadows on the cave wall. There is more to the story, but the moral of the story comes from the beginning of the allegory of the cave, which is what I covered. The lesson in this story is that our senses are very deceiving. Marc Cohen, the author of https://faculty.washington.edu/smcohen/320/cave.htm states in his summary of the allegory of the cave, “Such prisoners would mistake appearance for reality.” The world accessible to our human senses is only a reflection of the actual world. Plato concludes that people begin to understand reality when they get out of their metaphorical cave.
In Plato’s simile of the sun, there is a constant comparison of the form of the good and what it does in the world to what the sun does in the world of sight. We cannot see without the sun. In this analogy, the sun = the good, eyes = mind, sight = knowing, and visible things = intelligible things. In addition to that, in the simile of the sun we have the physical, visible world where the sun is the source of sight, and we have the intelligible, knowable world, and in this world the form of the good does the job of the sun. The sun makes visible things visible, and the form of the good makes knowable things knowable.
Now that we’ve covered Plato, let’s dive into Aristotle. As we know, Plato and Aristotle had their differences, in fact, according to https://www.iep.utm.edu/aristotl/ Aristotle “famously rejected Plato’s theory of forms, which states that properties such as beauty are abstract universal entities that exist independent of the objects themselves. Instead, he argued that forms are intrinsic to the objects and cannot exist apart from them, and so must be studied in relation to them.”
Like Plato, Aristotle explained his beliefs through metaphors and analogies in addition to developing his outlook on the world and why things were the way that they were. Aristotle’s 10 categories were substance, quantity, quality, relatives, somewhere, sometime, being in a position, having, acting, and being acted upon. All of these were defined by Aristotle basically the same way we would define them today, with the deviation being substance. According to Aristotle, there were primary and secondary substances. A primary substance was an actual whole thing,