The Concept of Truth according to Descartes and Plato


The Concept of Truth according to Descartes and Plato


            Descartes outlines that the concept of truth must be absolute. As one states” I know this is right”, he or she must be certain of the statement. In his study of philosophy he notes about the former belief’s,” that I ought not the less carefully to withhold belief from what is not entirely certain and indubitable, than from what is manifestly false, it will be sufficient to justify the rejection of the whole if I shall find in each some ground for doubt.” Each belief shall only be sufficiently stated as true if there are no doubts that would lead to its falsification.  Descartes asserts that any truth, pertaining any element in the world shall be scrutinizing through analysis of its foundation,” but, as the removal from below of the foundation necessarily involves the downfall of the whole edifice, I will at once approach the criticism of the principles on which all my former beliefs rested.” Descartes states that all the perception of truth based on the senses can be deceiving and thus not trustworthy. Still, he states that there are many elements of truth that are absolute. For example, I am sitting in this place.

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             Concerning Knowledge, Descartes states that understanding what is truth through searching its foundation brings about the concept of knowledge.” even in that knowledge ( cognition ) which I hold to be of all others the most certain and evident.” The concept of knowledge according to Descartes brings certainty through elimination of all kinds of doubts. Also, he asserts that Knowledge comes through thinking.  The stating of things as they are; light, noise is simply perception and as he states,” what in me is properly called perceiving (sentire), which is nothing else than thinking”. The mind births knowledge.


             Plato outlines that reason that comes from thinking brings out the truth about things.  He gives an example of geometry students who place imaginary angles and the hypothesis of ideals that one is supposed to believe in. However, he states that the real ideals lies in the actual circle and squares. All through the reasons being sought for truth can only be perceived through the eyes of the mind as he states,” but they are really seeking to behold the things themselves, which can only be seen with the eye of the mind? That is true.” Truth can only be achieved through an analysis of several hypotheses and rising beyond them through an aspect of reason.

             Plato perceives knowledge as hard to attain in arts as it requires more than senses to come to an understanding. “knowledge and being, which the science of dialectic contemplates, are clearer than the notions of the arts, as they are termed, which proceed from hypotheses only: these are also contemplated by the understanding, and not by the senses: yet, because they start from hypotheses and do not ascend to a principle, those who contemplate them appear to you not to exercise the higher reason upon them.” Plato states that reason is conceived through the four aspects of the soul, reason, emotions and desires.  Absolute truth in all the three parts brings forth meaning giving reason to believe the existence of things. He gives an example of prisoners in a cave, their perception of things would only be determined through the things they see. Gradually, they will perceive the fire, shadows, sun and moon and ultimately the light in the whole world. He compares it to knowledge, “and of truth and understanding in the other.”  The truth in one particular item leads to opening up of one’s mind leading to the development of knowledge.

               Contrasting and Comparing opinions on truth and knowledge


Descartes asserts that the concept of truth comes from a thorough analysis of the foundation of any belief. Any past knowledge or concept is rendered false until he affirms there is no single element of doubt within it. “It will be sufficient to justify the rejection of the whole if I shall find in each some ground for doubt.” On the contrary, Plato brings forth the concept of truth as an assertion of reason. Just like scientists bring forth hypothesis to create an ideal, it requires one to go beyond the ideals to attain reason to make the hypothesis true.

Interestingly, both Descartes and Plato bring about thinking as instrumental in attaining knowledge. Descartes asserts that through thinking the mind conceives knowledge on the certainty of a belief.  The mind scrutinizes every foundation of an element to get to its truth. Plato, state that an understanding (knowledge) only comes forth as someone goes beyond the senses.  An absoluteness in truth concerning the, desires, emotions, and senses births knowledge. Therefore, the two philosophers present an ideal of truth as being a foundation for generation of knowledge. Through presentation of reason to believe a hypothesis or meaning beyond the senses, knowledge is created.

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