Plato on the Traditional Definition of Knowledge

Jose Lourenco Pereira da Silva


In Plato’s dialogues, Socrates often contrasts opinion
(doxa) with knowledge (episteme), as a fallible form of cognition
against an infallible one. He seems to suggest that by attaching
to a true opinion a ‘calculation of cause’ or some sort
of account, we can convert it into knowledge. Many scholars
and epistemologists have taken this suggestion as evidence that
the traditional definition of knowledge as justified true belief
traces back to Plato. In this paper, I claim that it is inaccurate to
suppose that Plato foresaw the tripartite analysis of knowledge
of the Contemporary Epistemology. Focusing on the theory
of recollection and the distinction between true opinion and
knowledge in the Meno, I intent to show that the two-world
metaphysics implies the treatment of opinion and knowledge
as cognitions which are essentially different and mutually irreducible.
Also, since Socrates was mainly concerned with the
notion of knowledge as knowing what (is) which requires an
apprehension of essences or Forms, he did not pay particular
attention to the knowing that. As a result, Socrates did not
argue to establish the conditions of justification to be given
propositionally in order for a belief becomes knowledge.


episteme; doxa; Plato; Epistemology


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