In the world we live in, deception plays an important role in why the everyday world is unexamined. Deception is “the act of causing someone to accept as true or valid what is false or invalid” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary). Both Plato and Rene Descartes, two well-known philosophers began the process of philosophizing due to deception. The process helps them to analyze the concept of knowledge and the things we overlook daily. Plato, during his time, explored how to justify knowledge using logos, while Descartes, in his times, used the ‘methological doubt’ and ‘logical possible’ to understand the concept of knowledge. Their approaches are similar in some ways but also different. In this paper, I will argue that deception only occurs if there is no logic behind something but, with logic there is the concept of knowledge.
Firstly, for Plato, the certainty of something only exists if one believes in it. According to Palmer, Plato analyzes how the concept of knowledge can be portrayed as it relates to one’s belief. ““P knows X” (where “P” is any person and “X” is any fact.” What must be the case before such a sentence could be true? First, it must be true that “P believes X.” You can’t claim that you know something if you also claim that you don’t believe it (Palmer 41). This declares that the knowledge we have is based on what we believe in and therefore, that which we believe in must be true. While Plato understands that belief plays an important role in knowledge, it is more complex than just a simple belief. He believes that not everything is worthy of being called ‘knowledge’. Having facts is more reliable than opinions or beliefs as it is more about the strength of an argument. However, Logos is the best way to justify what one believes in because it “designates a scientific or philosophical account of the world” (Palmer 9).
It is the source of logic which is used to justify the belief in knowledge. To further explain his concept of knowledge, his famous Smile of the Line helps readers to understand his idea of justification. Plato discusses ideas and thoughts that humans fail to observe daily. For example, his idea that a tree will last longer than the shadow and can exist without the shadow, but the shadow cannot exist without the tree. This identifies an example of the unexamined everyday world and Plato’s examination of it. On the other hand, Descartes is a rationalist and views knowledge as a reason. According to Palmer, “Rationalism sees the primary source of knowledge to be “reason,” usually understood as the application of logic, of mathematics, and, in some cases, innate ideas, or inborn knowledge” (Palmer 40). Descartes examines the concept of knowledge by using the technique called ‘Methological Doubt’. With this technique, he tries to discover the absolute certainty, which is the foundation of all knowledge. He also believes that whatever your belief is, it can be doubted, should be doubted, until a belief itself is undoubtable.
Secondly, while their approach is different in some aspect, Both Plato and Descartes use sense as a source of true knowledge. Both philosophers believe that all true knowledge must be a priori. Palmer’s definition of priori states, “a belief, proposition or argument is said to be a priori if its truth or falsify can be established independently of observation” (Palmer 40). Another similarity between Plato and Descartes is that they both examine the use of ‘logic’ to justify reason. Plato applies the concept of logos and Descartes utilize the concept of ‘logical possible’. However, their projects differ based on the different historical problems they experienced. “Plato lived at a time when the old aristocratic system of governing was collapsing in the face of the emergence of a new commercial class and an incipient democracy” (Palmer 51).
During this time period, greed and the thirst for power were taking over the values of courage, honor, loyalty and nobility. People thought about things in very different ways. Social and intellectual conditions were different. In contrast to Plato, Descartes faced problems as it relates to science and religion. Palmer states, “he was confronted by the opposition between religion and science. Descartes lived during a period that birthed new sciences” (Palmer 51). Due to the development of new sciences it sparked conflict with religion. For example, the discovery of the four moons orbiting Jupiter threatened the idea that God created the Garden of Eden and that it was the center of the universe and everything else radiated out of it. Both Plato and Descartes used different approach to explain the concept of knowledge but also shared similar ideas of the concept as well.
Thirdly, by bringing these back to my own experience, Plato’s method of belief and logic best suites me. Things that I believe in, I have an understanding of it to some extent, which gives me knowledge. Things I do not believe in, I cannot say I have knowledge of it, nor do I understand it. With logical thinking, it would help in escaping the evil genius. I would use logos as my rationalist method to achieve my goal. I will accept something as knowledge as long as there is a logical reason for it, and I can broaden my horizon of the concept. This will bring me to believe that the concept is true.
Overall, for something to be Knowledge, it must entail logic. Both Plato and Descartes demonstrate how logic is the most important component of knowledge. Also, in order for something to be accepted as knowledge, we have to believe that something is true based on the logic behind it. Without these components, people can very well deceived and informed, which is not something anyone would want.
- ‘Deception.’ Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, 2011. Web. 5 February 2019.
- Palmer, Donald. Does the Center Hold?: An Introduction to Western Philosophy. 7th ed., McGraw-Hill, 2016.