Plato’s and Aristotle’s Views on Knowledge

Last Updated: 25 Mar 2020
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Plato and Aristotle view knowledge and the process whereby it is obtained. They both point out that many epistemological concepts which they believe where knowledge comes from and what it is actually. Most of them have been astonished me in certain ways, but I found that rationalism and "wisdom consists in knowing the cause which made a material thing to be what it is" make the most sense to me regarding the nature of knowledge. As the following, we will discuss about why these two philosophical viewpoints are superior and the others are inferior.

Aristotle believes that sensory perception of material objects is knowledge and he says, "Our senses begin the process of finding the answer, because they are physically close to our minds. " However, sensations and feelings are very subjective, and the results of sensation vary from person to person and even within the same person, depending on the circumstances. What to one person is cold might be warm to another, one person may be more fatigued in the afternoon than in the morning, so that his or her perceptions may temporarily less accurate.

Therefore one cannot claim that sensations provide sure knowledge for human beings. | On the other hand, Aristotle sustains that the perceptions of the senses form the foundation which leads to true knowledge. The senses "give the most authoritative knowledge of particulars" (individual material objects). The senses, especially sight, "make us know and bring to light many differences between things. " The senses thus provide a foundation that will ensure that human knowledge is true or accurate.

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Back and forth, we have already discussed that sensations cannot provide true knowledge for humans because of subjectivity, as in this case, this is not necessarily that perceptions of senses form the foundation which leads to true knowledge for humans. Plato believes that innate knowledge of eternal Forms that exist separately from material objects is true knowledge because innate knowledge does not require that the mind interact with the external world in order to be apprehended. It is present in the mind at birth, for it is God given, and has always been resident in the mind.

Nevertheless, how does one know there is a God? For all we know, the existence of god cannot be proven by scientific methods, and this is for certain. In this case, how can humans get knowledge from god or gods? Therefore, innate knowledge should not be viewed as the origin of knowledge nor to help one to obtain true knowledge. For Aristotle's substance, it states that when one knows the substance (matter and form) or essential nature of a material object, one knows the first cause that made it to be what it is. This knowledge is true wisdom and is therefore true knowledge.

I felt this philosophical viewpoint when I first saw it; however, this knowledge begins in sensory perception. Stated in premise, sensations and feelings cannot assist individuals to acquire true knowledge. For this reason, I do not fall in this epistemological concept afterwards. Moreover, a syllogism also cannot help one to acquire human knowledge. To Aristotle, these universal ideas are self-evident. The mind, having received appropriate sensory input, immediately sees that they are true. Although premises are formed as the result of inductive reasoning, it is based on sensory perception.

Consequently, human beings cannot acquire knowledge by a syllogism. I personally fall with rationalism and wisdom lead us to attain knowledge. Plato and Aristotle both believe that thinking, defined as true opinion supported by rational explanation is true knowledge; however, Plato is a rationalist but Aristotle is not. Plato thinks that the external world can be obtained proceeding from the inside out. Thus, the foundation of true knowledge for the rationalists is that it originates in the faculty of reason. Furthermore, reason has the capacity to discover ideas or beliefs independently of the senses.

These ideas or beliefs are self-validating and therefore have the status of knowledge because the rational faculty, which has discovered them, is the most accurate of the means by which human beings obtain knowledge. In Plato's Theaetetus, he says, "Any one forms the true opinion of anything without rational explanation, you may say that his mind is truly exercised, but has no knowledge. " This is quite true that when one can state a true opinion supported by a rational explanation, one's opinion constitutes knowledge, since perceptions of senses are excluding in this case.

Moreover, a rational explanation does not contain any subjectivity, it is an objective entity for humans to understand true knowledge. For this reason, I fall with rationalism and believe it is a superior philosophical viewpoint about the nature of knowledge. Aristotle sustains that wisdom consists in knowing the cause which made a material thing to be what it is. For Aristotle, wise people know more than just what something is; they also know why it is what it is, or what causes it to be what it is.

People with wisdom, for instance, a master worker understand not only that fire is hot, but also know why it is hot. Those with experience only, who do not know why something works in a certain manner, cannot teach. Say physicians understand that there is a relationship between the medical condition of this class of patients and the ingredients in this particular drug. They are then motivated to learn why the drug works on these people, or what causes it to be more effective with this group of patients than with others.

In achieving this knowledge, one achieves wisdom. Once the physicians found out what causes the drug works, it will increase the confidence of other physicians to use it with similar patients of their own. If they just used it because it "works," they might be more hesitant. Knowing why it works makes them feel more certain that it will be helpful. Moreover, by understanding how the ingredients work, another researcher might find another use for the drug on a related but different medical infirmity.

Thus, the ability to teach something is important to one because it implies that the person who teaches has knowledge. In these cases, I believe wisdom is the ability to teach something to someone and it also contains a path for one to acquire true knowledge, therefore, it is also a superior philosophical viewpoint for individual to understand true knowledge. In my own life, I believe that one's knowledge is taught by parents, teachers, peers, and culture, and this is the reason for humans to have education.

Our knowledge is received from the earlier generation to the next generation and so on. When I was a kid, I did not know why I had acne at that time. Now I am a teen, I know that during adolescence, hormones called androgens become active and stimulate oil glands in one's skin, increasing oil production. This, in turn, clogs pores, causing pimples and blackheads. I am educated in school and I understand the causes of acne now. In this case, I have true knowledge about what acne is and the causes of it because I have the ability to teach someone about acne, and it constitutes wisdom.

This example fits in Aristotle's thought which wisdom consists in knowing the cause which made a material thing to be what it is, and therefore, the origin of knowledge. On the other hand, a study states that sunlight can prevent some types of cancer because vitamin D is manufactured in the skin when it is exposed to sunlight and it is this vitamin that may have a protective effect against certain cancers by preventing the overproduction of cells. In this case, a true opinion is supported by a rational explanation, and this study can help one to acquire knowledge because the study itself is knowledge.

In this essay, we have examined different epistemological concepts of Plato and Aristotle about what knowledge is and the process whereby it is obtained. Since sensations are subjective, many of their philosophical viewpoints have been objected. Rationalism and "wisdom consists in knowing the cause which made a material thing to be what it is" make the most sense to me because they are not perceived by sensations, and they can be observed in our daily lives. Those are the reasons that I found these two concepts are superior to others.

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Plato’s and Aristotle’s Views on Knowledge. (2017, Apr 24). Retrieved from

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