What epistemic decisions can we come to from a reading of Plato ‘s duologue the Meno? Can it be said that Plato is contending a theory of cognition as justified true belief? If Plato is non claiming that cognition is justified true belief, so what is he claiming in the Meno? Which reading do you happen more plausible?
It is sometimes said that the best manner to read historical philosophers is to handle them as our coevalss. But before we do this, it is of import to inquire whether such an attack will falsify our apprehension of a philosopher by go throughing over elements that are excessively foreign to be easy assimilated to modern-day concerns. The inquiry of whether Plato postulates a theory of cognition as justified true belief in theMenois of this kind, given the centrality of this theory in recent epistemology.
Many bookmans [ 1 ] have argued that the reply to this inquiry is ‘no’ , showing Plato as holding provided an unmarked option to modern-day efforts to understand cognition. Recently, nevertheless, Fine [ 2 ] has argued in item for a nuanced, but loosely positive reply, harmonizing to which “Plato is engaged in a familiar epistemic enterprise” [ 3 ] . She helpfully suggests that the reading of Plato as claiming that cognition is justified true belief is dependent for its truth on the truth of three subordinate interpretive theses.
I ) Plato claims that cognition is a species of true belief
II ) Plato claims that justified true belief is necessary for cognition
III ) Plato claims that justified true belief is sufficient for cognition
In what follows I will seek to support each of these claims in bend against expostulations.
98a of theMenois the strongest grounds that Plato, in that duologue, thinks of cognition as a species of true belief. He has Socrates say:
“True sentiments excessively are a all right thing and wholly good in their effects so long as they stay with one, but they won’t volitionally stay long and alternatively run off from a person’s psyche, so they’re non deserving much until one ties them down by concluding out the account. And that is remembrance, Meno my friend, as we agreed earlier. And when they’ve been tied down, so for one thing they become points of cognition, and for another, permanent. And that’s what makes cognition more valuable than right sentiment, and the manner cognition differs from right sentiment is by being tied down” [ 4 ]
Since the metaphor of being “tied down” refers back to a comparing of true beliefs with Daedalus’ statues, and a statue which is tied down is a species of statue, the transition does connote that cognition is a species of true belief.
One manner this decision has been challenged, nevertheless, is by denying that Plato is interested in propositional cognition, as opposed to knowledge of things. Since lone propositional cognition can be a species of true belief, if Plato is chiefly interested in cognition of things, it is improbable that he proposes that cognition is a species of true belief. The fact that the illustration Plato uses throughout the relevant treatment of cognition and true belief is that of cognizing the manner to Larissa, i.e. non-propositional cognition, seems to back up this position.
Fine’s response bases itself on the fact, which she takes to be “generally agreed” [ 5 ] that Plato holds that cognition implies truth in the transition above. Although Plato does non state so straight, it would so be unusual for Plato to deny this. She so argues that the fact that cognition implies truth, for Plato, implies that Plato is concerned with propositional cognition. But this measure of her statement is instead less intuitive. For it seems at first sight that we can cognize a thing genuinely, every bit good as we can cognize a true proposition. Knowing a thing truly may be said to affect, for illustration, a true perceptual experience of it, or merely a echt perceptual experience, if we understand perceptual experience in a factive sense, such that to comprehend a thing implies the being of the thing.
Her ulterior remarks make her place clearer, nevertheless. She goes on to claim that, for Plato, cognition of things presupposes propositional cognition, so that it no longer makes sense to state that Plato is interested in cognition of thingsas opposed topropositional cognition. For illustration, she claims, “knowing the route to Larissa… requires cognizing that this, non that, is the way” [ 6 ] . Although this is a plausible philosophy, McDowell [ 7 ] seems right to state that Plato does non run with a clear differentiation between the two sorts of cognition. To this extent, hence, it may so be a small anachronic to construe Plato as offering an history of propositional cognition as a species of true belief. Equally long as we do non happen a clear alternate history in Plato’s work, nevertheless, this should non forestall us from believing of such an history every bit at least implicit in theMeno.
A 2nd expostulation to the position that Plato has such an history is the fact that, in the transition cited above, Socrates says that when they have been tied down, true beliefs “become” points of cognition. This might be thought to propose that the true beliefs undergo a procedure of transmutation, such that when they have become cognition, they are no longer true beliefs. Such a position additions support from a more general reading of Plato as keeping that belief and cognition are concerned with radically different things: belief is concerned with the universe of reasonable specifics, while cognition is concerned with the universe of pure signifiers.
But, in the first topographic point, this general reading is hard to keep in this context, where Socrates is clearly comparing true sentiment and cognition about the same thing, viz. the route to Larissa. And secondly, we need farther grounds before we interpret “become” as connoting that cognition is no longer true belief, since true belief could besides go cognition by holding something added to it: it is rather grammatical, for illustration, to state that true belief can go justified true belief.
Fine argues that in fact, what farther grounds there is supports the position that cognition is a species of true belief. For Socrates besides says, in the transition above, that “the manner cognition differs from right sentiment is by being tied down” ( 98a ) as if this were the chief difference between the two. All right claims that if cognition were non a species of true belief “this would be such an obvious farther difference between cognition and mere true belief that it would be surprising in the fortunes if Plato did non advert it” [ 8 ] . But this seems dubious. Plato may be taking it for granted that in contrasting true belief and cognition, he is connoting that cognition is non a species of true belief. After all, a contrast is normally between two different things, and non between two species of the same thing.
A more general ground for denying that Plato held cognition to be species of true belief in theMeno, is that Plato is in fact non concerned here with cognition at all, but something better translated as apprehension. Burnyeat [ 9 ] and Nehemas [ 10 ] argue in this manner on the footing of the fact that the supposed ‘knowledge’ is gained by binding down true beliefs with concluding refering account ( aitias logismos ) . Such concluding refering account is closer to what is now called apprehension than what is now called cognition. For illustration, it might look that I can cognize what clip a Television show is on without being able to explicate why it is on at that clip. Knowledge may be bit-by-bit, of stray propositions, whereas understanding involves seeing logical relationships between different propositions.
But here Fine makes two persuasive points in response. First, the word whose interlingual rendition is in inquiry here,episteme, is frequently best translated as ‘knowledge’ instead than ‘understanding’ in other contexts, and we can non establish our apprehension of this word on stray transitions. Second, the expostulation takes an overly narrow position of modern-day apprehensions of cognition. Fine points out that on some modern-day theories, knowledge exhibits merely the holistic theory and the intrinsic connexion to account that Burnyeat and Nehemas think characteristic of understanding as opposed to knowledge.
Although Fine’s response to this 3rd expostulation is compelling, her responses to the first two expostulations to the position that Plato takes cognition to be a species of true belief seemed to go forth affairs unsettled. But even if we can presume that Plato at least implicitly takes cognition to be a species of true belief, we are still far from the claim that he takes cognition to be justified true belief, i.e. that he takes justified true belief to be both necessary and sufficient for cognition.
In the transition cited above, we saw that Socrates implies that cognition is true belief tied down with concluding refering account. Burnyeat [ 11 ] suggests that the fact that there is no reference of justification here is adequate to demo that Plato thinks that justified true belief is non necessary for cognition. As All right notes, nevertheless, this does non follow, for it could be that the justification in inquiry involved the relevant logical thinking refering account. This would be a instead strong construct of justification, she admits, but a plausible one nevertheless.
Burnyeat besides points out that earlier in theMeno( 85b-d ) , Socrates denies that the slave, who we might credibly believe of as holding some justification for his freshly acquired geometrical beliefs, has knowledge. This seems to connote that justified true belief is non sufficient for cognition, and possibly even that it is non necessary for cognition.
But if Fine is right that Plato thinks justification involves concluding refering account [ 12 ] , so justification would come in grades, better or worse justifications matching to better and worse, or more or less complete accounts. Then, Socrates’ earlier duologue with the slave could be explained by the idea that although the slave has some justification for his geometrical beliefs, it is non a really good justification. In peculiar, it is non good plenty to be the sort of justification that is required for true belief to be knowledge. Thus a true belief that was justified in the right manner could still be both a necessary and a sufficient status for cognition.
A farther expostulation to the position that justified true belief is sufficient for cognition stems from Socrates’ claim that cognition is more stable than belief ( besides expressed in the metaphor of ‘tying down’ beliefs ) . This may be interpreted to intend that while true belief may be basically based on false beliefs, so that the find that these latter beliefs are false will take one to lose religion in the former beliefs, cognition can non be basically based on false beliefs. Now, Gettier, in a celebrated article [ 13 ] , used this as a premiss to reason that since justified true beliefs may be basically based on false beliefs, they can non represent cognition. So the fact that Plato besides holds this position about cognition, seems to propose that he besides does non believe that justified true belief is sufficient for cognition, and that he must desire to add some farther status in the analysis of cognition.
But in fact Gettier’s statement merely works on the premise thatjustifiedtrue belief may be basically based on false beliefs. If our construct of justification is strong plenty to govern out the possibility that justified beliefs could be basically based on false beliefs, so the fact that cognition can non be basically based on false beliefs does non connote that justified true belief is deficient for cognition. And Plato’s construct of justification as necessitating account, does look to be strong plenty in this manner.
So if we construe justification in a sufficiently rich manner, it does non look excessively anachronic to impute to Plato a theory of cognition as being justified true belief. But since there is no expressed reference of justification in theMeno, and since Plato seems to hold been ill-defined on the relation between propositional cognition and cognition of things, it may be best to see this theory of cognition as simply inexplicit, albeit merely below the surface, in this duologue.
Burnyeat, M.F. ( 1980 ) ‘Socrates and the Jury: Paradoxs in Plato’s Distinction Between Knowledge and True Belief’Proceedings of the Aristotelean Society,suppl. 54, 173-91
Day, J. ( 1993 )Plato’s Meno in Focus( London, Routledge )
Fine, G. ( 2004 ) ‘Knowledge and True Belief in theMeno’ in D. Sedley ( Ed. )Oxford Studies in Ancient PhilosophyTwenty-seven
Gettier, E. ( 1963 ) ‘Is Justified True Belief Knowledge? ’Analysis23 ( 1963 ) , 121-3
McDowell, J. ( 1973 )Plato:Theaetetus ( Oxford, Oxford University Press )
Nehemas, A. ( 1985 ) ‘Meno’s Paradox and Socrates as a Teacher’Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy, 3, 1-30