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“Not Knowing”: Plato’s Cave and Descartes’s Meditations Essay

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Updated: Jan 15th, 2022

In the age of information knowledge is a real valuable power. The famous idea – Time is Money – got today another formulation – Knowledge is Money. Knowledge is your key to the best job and to all opportunities which our life provides. But let’s take a look at the opposite side. What if knowledge is not that good? Sometimes it can be fruitful do not get new information, just to stay in a habitual world of knowledge. Descartes and Plato consider that the sense of “not knowing” is founded in nature of interaction of humans into society.

New information can be fraught with the threats. Moreover, it is difficult to understand, what exactly the truth is. In the first chapter, entitled Concerning Those Things That Can Be Called into Doubt, Descartes formulates a principle of radical doubt of all intellectual processes into mind. The philosopher says, let us assume that we are asleep and all of these particular things such as opening of eyes, head movement, drawing of hands – all this is not authentic, and in addition, perhaps, we don’t really have such hands, and all over the body. Maybe it is just an illusion (Wilson, p. 12).

Descartes’ ultimate aims, however, are constructive. And it is not the way of “the sceptics, who doubt only for the sake of doubting” (Newman). An example of bulldozer to show us a constructive way of the method of Doubt: “Bulldozers are typically used for destructive ends, as are sceptical doubts. Descartes’ methodical innovation is to employ demolition for constructive ends” (Newman). In this way Descartes uses sceptical doubts to test the firmness of people to develop the base of Knowledge.

Descartes believes in existence of the God, who created everything, including Descartes, but he can’t be sure that everything was created in a way, which Descartes sees. He demands, what if there is no earth, no sky, no length, shape or size, and no place, but all this exists only in imagination.

Plato also discusses a way of getting information, but, vice versa, he thinks about the reason why people behave like they are prisoners of the cave. Who are they? If they are prisoners, they must be released. They will get the freedom to contemplate the whole world and to imagine freely. But the point is that they were not forced to stay in darkness. Now they see only offset shadows, games of fire on the wall in front of the Cave: “The partitions puppet-handlers set in front of the human beings and over which they show the puppets” (Bloom, p. 193). And they can’t see something else, their heads are motionless, their legs and necks are fixed. This fire is the pure Knowledge. But people can see only its shadows. They chose this way because it is more safe and easy to see only the shadows, not the flame. If they were free, they will start to imagine. And every social phenomenon they will explain from a position of superstitions. And again it is also an illusion of knowledge, as Descartes supposed. Educated in the spirit of ignorance, they will take a lot of things for granted. They will look at the world through the prism, the barrier that stands in their minds. “If they were able to discuss things with one another, don’t you believe they would hold that they are naming these things going by before them that they see?” (Bloom, p. 194). From this point of view, both philosophers look into the same way. Imagination plays a big part in our perception of the world. Plato considers this position in a negative way. People would like to stay in darkness, instead of suffer from “bright light”. Descartes, on the contrary, makes an assumption of existence of some malevolent powerful genius. And this evil genius plays with our beliefs and knowledge, and everything can be just lie. But Descartes accepts this lie. He created an idea of self-consciousness as a main power to get knowledge. Plato, and other antique philosophers, doesn’t consider it. Plato investigates human consciousness in terms of its social cooperation.

Descartes supposes that we can’t trust so many sciences such as anatomy, chemistry, mathematics, physics, physiology, astronomy. And no one can seriously wish to contribute significantly to all of them (Wilson, p. 13). And only arithmetic, geometry and subjects like these, which deal only with general things, which are abstracted of whether they really exist in nature or not, contain something certain and indubitable. Because, for whether we are awake or asleep, two and three added together are five, and a square has no more than four sides, says Descartes (Wilson, p. 13).

Both philosophers reflect about the reasons of accepting or declining information. Plato consists that a closed mind is inborn, although, there is still a chance to open it. But Descartes thinks about other mystical force, which can confuse people. Well, Plato and Descartes just didn’t know about media. Probably, if they lived nowadays, they would change their opinion about knowledge, which is real or illusory, opened or hardly-comprehensible. And a redundancy of information also is a huge power, which confuses people to get the pure Knowledge.

Works Cited

  1. Bloom, Allan. The Republic of Plato. New York: Basic BookBs, 1991. Web.
  2. Newman, Lex. Descartes’ Epistemology. US: The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 2010. Web.
  3. Wilson, Catherine. Descartes’s Meditations: An Introduction. Cambridge: CambridgeUniversity Press, 2003. Web.
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IvyPanda. "“Not Knowing”: Plato’s Cave and Descartes’s Meditations." January 15, 2022. https://ivypanda.com/essays/not-knowing-platos-cave-and-descartess-meditations/.

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IvyPanda. 2022. "“Not Knowing”: Plato’s Cave and Descartes’s Meditations." January 15, 2022. https://ivypanda.com/essays/not-knowing-platos-cave-and-descartess-meditations/.

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IvyPanda. (2022) '“Not Knowing”: Plato’s Cave and Descartes’s Meditations'. 15 January.

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