METAPHYSICS AND EPISTEMOLOGY FOR A FREE SOCIETY: THE VIEWS OF MENGER, MISES & RAND
Metaphysics is an area of philosophy concerned with what there is in the universe (ontology) and the nature of what exists. Epistemology is a related area . Dec 20, Metaphysics is the branch of philosophy that studies the nature of the universe as a totality. Epistemology is concerned with the relationship. In general, epistemology and ontology are distinct branches of study. The metaphysics in this tradition is materialistic, the method is epistemology and the.
The criteria and the properties which differentiate Forms and particulars are related to their respective ways of being, but mutability, extendedness, etc. Still, the deficiency of the sensible is aptly viewed in terms of its way of being, i. The deficiency of the sensible is its deficient way of being. Lacking any essence, it can only fail to Be.
This notion of deficiency has a long pedigree. In one sense it is a new way of cashing out the idea that Forms and particulars are different kinds or types of entities. The very same property, Beauty, is related, via Being, to the Form Beauty Itself that is related to the sensible particular via Partaking. The beauty of Helen is not itself deficient, her way of having it is. And since beauty does not characterize Beauty, there is no case to be made that Beauty Itself could be a paradigmatically beautiful object.
It would appear, then, that only Forms are definable, since essence is not predicated of particulars. But it is not so simple. Based on the Phaedo's account of Being and Participating cf. Principles I and II, suprawe can conclude that: Each Form, F, Is its essence, Y. Furthermore, since the Phaedo asserts that particulars are what they are in virtue of the Form's being what it Is, it follows that If P has Y, then P has something which Is Y.
The motivation for this claim is our understanding of the thesis at c that Beauty Itself alone Is beautiful and that other things acquire their beauty in virtue of partaking in what Is beautiful. The traditional and obvious way to parse this claim is to allow that it is the Form Itself which the particular has, for it seems that only the Form whose essence is Y, Is Y.
But if this is true, then if, as the Identity view maintains, the Form and its essence are identical, it follows that the essence must also be predicable of the particular. In which case it seems that the particulars do have essences, albeit via Partaking, for they have something which is identical with an essence. Form-copies, the-large-in-Socrates, the hot-in-fire, and such, provide a way out of this predicament. There is no consensus as to whether they are bona fide members of the ontology of the Phaedo bff.
Many have argued that the so-called form-copies are nothing more than the Forms conceived of as inherent in, or immanent in, particulars, the particularization of the Form, or Forms as they function in the participation relation. They differ from their parent Form in that they are singular or unit-properties, whereas the Form is general and abstract. The relation of the form-copy to the particular is a real problem.
The crucial issue is whether form-copies are dependent on particulars, especially whether their claim to be individual or unit-properties is only as good as the company they keep. Part of the difficulty results from the metaphor Plato's uses throughout the last stage of the Final Argument in the Phaedo.
The soul, because it cannot perish, must therefore withdraw.
Which of the two possibilities developed in the military metaphor does Plato envisage for form-copies: It is a struggle to understand just what the military metaphors amount to, but if the form-copies perish at the approach of their opposite, this suggests that form-copies are dependent on the particulars to which they belong.
Conversely, if they are able to withdraw, they are in some sense independent from the particulars.
In this fashion they are akin to individual souls, since neither souls nor form-copies will be dependent for their existence on the particular to which they temporarily belong. But even if they withdraw and thus exist apart from the particulars, their individuality seems to be determined by the company they keep, e. However, if form-copies are thus dependent on particulars, there is a problem with respect to the nature of particulars lurking in the Phaedo.
For it seems that particulars have all of their properties in virtue of participating in the relevant Forms. Particulars, then, are ultimately to be identified in terms of the properties they have, namely their form-copies. But if these form-copies, in turn, are themselves individuated by the particulars whose form-copies they are, we are confronted with a circle.
Plato may be able to avoid this circle of individuation by not making form-copies depend on particulars for either their being or their individuation.
If their status as individuals is primitive, form-copies will not be individuated by the particulars to which they belong. In this respect they are like the individual souls, which, since they pre-exist and postdate the particulars they inhabit, are not and cannot be individuated by them. A form-copy is, in the strict sense, a simple individual, incapable of possessing anything besides the essence of the Form of which it is a copy. Finally, they are not dependent on particulars, even for their individuation, because they can withdraw when necessary and thus continue to be what they are when the particular has perished.
They can be said to perish, but only in the sense that the particular to which they temporarily attach can itself perish or change.
Were they dependent on the particular, form-copies would in fact perish. The reason they survive is that a form-copy Is what it is. In so far as anything Is what it is, it cannot cease to be, i. In this respect, too, they are like souls. Both souls and form-copies are then individuals in their own rights, apart from any particulars in which they inhere. Form-copies belong to particulars and derive or emanate, to borrow a neo-Platonic term, from Forms.
Form-copies allow Plato to respond to a threat posed by the metaphysics of Forms: If particulars are nothing in their own right, and in the absence of both matter and form-copies, then particulars are merely bundles of Forms;[ 20 ] but if they are bundles, then two particulars composed of the same Forms would be indiscernible and identical. If we admit form-copies, particulars are not bundles of Forms. Particulars will be bundles of form-copies.
And unlike a Form, which would seem to have to be numerically the same in each particular, the form-copies will differ from one another since they are distinct individual property-instances, not universals. However, while the particulars are no longer identical, this still allows that two bundles of form-copies could be indiscernible, since the form-copies of any one Form differ, it seems, solo numero. Helen's form-copy of Beauty cannot differ in quality from Andromache's, but their form-copies are distinct.
If we allow that Helen and Andromache are presumed to be distinct particulars in virtue of their matter, we can further distinguish the particulars and the form-copies, i. Here again, then, the assumption of the material particular is relevant.
When Plato recognizes that he has yet to account for matter, and thus the individuation of particulars, he has to compose the Timaeus.
Particulars, then, have the properties they have because they have Form-copies derived from the Forms, which Are those properties. And when they inhere in the material particular, the particular has a definite, determinate property instance of Largeness or Beauty. The particular is assumed to be a combination of matter and form-copies and in some cases, soul. All the form-copies can be lost, for the particular has no essential properties or essence, and so too the soul can be lost.
In fact, since Plato seems to think that the body also dissipates, the particular can totally disappear. Not so the Form, which Is what it is, an auto kath auto being, precisely in that its essence is predicated via Being of it, and it is the only Form of which that essence is predicated.
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A particular, x, is what it is in virtue of Partaking. What makes x beautiful, for instance, is its having something which Is beautiful. This something can either be a Form or form-copy, for these alone Are beautiful. It might seem, however, that the qualitative aspect of property possession is being explained in terms of items that are not qualified or characterized in the appropriate manner.
This would be the result were Partaking analyzed in terms of, or reduced to, the relationship of Being. But in the middle period at least, Partaking is itself a primitive relation alongside Being. Moreover, at this juncture the participating subject is assumed to be a material particular, whose material nature goes without analysis. The primitive relation of Partaking, along with the effects of matter, are thus responsible for the characterization of the particulars: The form-copy is not responsible for the concrete, determinate character of her beauty.
Her being a material object, and her having of the form-copy cause her to be so characterized. That her determinate character is the character of Beauty, on the other hand, is due to the form-copy that she has, and this form-copy, in turn, causes her to be beautiful in virtue of being a form-copy of Beauty Itself.
In this respect, Plato sustains the Socratic notion that Forms are logical causes. The Form, Beauty Itself, makes possible the fact that Helen is beautiful, in so far as a form-copy of Beauty is something she has.
Since she has all of her properties in this fashion, and since we seem to be able to identify her, and any particular, only through descriptions that refer to her properties, form-copies and their respective Forms are responsible for our epistemic access to particulars. Introduction to Plato's Epistemology Epistemology, for Plato, is best thought of as the account of what knowledge is.
A reader who has some familiarity with philosophy since Descartes may well think that epistemology must address the question whether there is any knowledge. Plato never considers the global skeptical challenge.
He assumes that there is knowledge, or at least that it is possible, and he inquires into the conditions that make it possible. These conditions, broadly conceived, concern, on the one hand, the rational capacities of humans, or more accurately souls, and, on the other hand, the objects of knowledge. With respect to objects, Forms certainly are objects of knowledge. However, there is much dispute as to whether anything in the material world is a suitable object.
The physical world is an image, an imperfect world of change. Many passages in the Phaedo and, most dramatically, the Republic's great metaphors of Sun, Line and Cave, imply that Plato is a skeptic about knowledge of the physical, sensible world.
Humans can have only beliefs about it. But many recoil at the prospect that Plato is such a skeptic. Citing the thrust of other discussions, these readers argue that while all knowledge for Plato must be based, in some sense, on Forms, one who knows Forms can also acquire knowledge of the physical world see Fine ; Concerns about the inherent intelligibility, or lack thereof, of the physical world, prompt Plato to propose the doctrine of recollection, i. If Forms are the basic objects of knowledge, and Forms are not in the physical world, then we must have acquired that knowledge at some point prior to our commerce with that world.
But metaphysical issues about the simplicity of Forms also affect how we are to conceive of knowledge in these middle period works. If Forms are simple, then it seems that knowledge is intuitive or acquaintance-like: The central books of the Republic suggest such a picture.
On the other hand, the many passages in which Plato declares that in order to know a Form one must be able to give its definition suggest both that Forms are related to one another, e. Gorgias a, a2—3, Republic b. These passages seem to imply that perhaps knowledge is some form of justified true belief.
A critical question then is how one obtains the appropriate kind of justification to tie down or convert a belief into knowledge. Thus we have four broad notions to explore in Plato's middle period epistemology: The Meno The Meno is probably a transitional work, bridging the Socratic and the middle period dialogues.
While the first third of the Meno is concerned with ethical questions, what is virtue and is virtue teachable, the last two-thirds address themselves to epistemological details generated from the thesis that virtue is knowledge. Here we find for the first time mention of recollection, which Socrates proposes as a solution to a paradox of inquiry put forward by Meno.Metaphysics and Epistemology
The paradox is this 80d-e: For anything, F, either one knows F or one does not know F. If one knows F, then one cannot inquire about F. If one does not know F, then one cannot inquire about F. Therefore, for all F, one cannot inquire about F. In his famous question and answer with a slave about how to find the diagonal of a given square, Socrates argues that latent within the slave is an understanding of how to determine the diagonal 81—86b. The slave has various beliefs, some false and some true, about the way to discover the length of the diagonal.
What is needed is only a set of prompts, here a set of questions, to elicit from the boy the knowledge that is latent within him. Socrates contends that he is leading the slave to recollect what he already knows. In the subsequent stages of the argument, Socrates distinguishes the sense in which a person can be said to merely have a belief about something into which one might inquirefrom the sense in which he can be said to know the same thing 97ff.
For instance, suppose that Jones has looked at a map and determined how to drive from New York City to Chicago though he has not done so: On the other hand, suppose that Smith has actually driven numerous times from NYC to Chicago by getting on 80 and heading west.
Plato's Middle Period Metaphysics and Epistemology (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
Both Jones and Smith have the same belief about how to get from NYC to Chicago and both will get there by acting on their belief. But only Smith has knowledge of the road, whereas Jones has a true belief. The truth of the belief is then not at issue. Rather, Smith has something more, some kind of justification, here based on experience, that distinguishes her from Jones: Jones has only a true belief about how to get there; Smith actually knows.
Thus in the Meno, we have perhaps the first attempt to offer a justified true belief account of knowledge: Knowledge is a true belief tied down with an account aitias logismos, 98a. The Meno, then, with its discussion of recollection, knowledge and belief sets the stage for the middle Platonic epistemology.
Recollection in the Phaedo The Phaedo's discussion of recollection begins with a remark by Cebes in support of the claim that our souls preexist their incarceration in the body: According to this, we must at some previous time have learned what we now recollect. Part of the solution to the problem of who recollects will hinge on how we understand the claim that learning is nothing other than recollection.
On the broad reading, recollection concerns the application of concepts in all thought see, most recently, Bedu-Addo That is, since learning is a dynamic process whose termini are roughly our first thoughts and talk about the world, on the one hand, and knowledge of Forms on the other, and since in thinking and talking about the world we must apply concepts, recollection is viewed as a doctrine of innate ideas whose effects are felt almost immediately in the conscious mind.
Those who would limit the kind of learning that is recollection isolate the last stage s of learning, namely those concerned with the move from beliefs about the properties of the material world to knowledge of Forms see, most recently, Scott ; BobonichCh. On this narrow reading Plato would have to offer an account of ordinary thought and talk, i. In sum, both readings agree that Plato is concerned to explain the distinctive capacity of humans to classify sense-perception under universals.
According to the broad reading, Plato thinks that this cannot be done unless one appeals to one's prior, latent knowledge of the Forms under which one ranges perceptions. According to the narrow reading, there is no need to appeal to prior knowledge of Forms to explain the ordinary classificatory activities of humans. Rather, prior knowledge of Forms is needed only to explain the philosophical understanding of Forms. Innate Forms thus need not contribute anything to the formation of concepts in ordinary thought and talk.
Precisely what the relation is between the concepts garnered from ordinary perception and used in ordinary thought and talk and the innate Forms or concepts used in philosophical thinking remains to be determined. Concepts are, roughly, the units or elements of thoughts.
In the Theaetetus ea dialogue written after the Republic and Phaedo, Plato contends that thought is the silent dialogue of the soul with itself. If we can read back from this dialogue to the epistemology of the middle period, concepts are conceptual analogues to the subjects and predicates of spoken statements: To debate whether there are ordinary versus philosophical concepts of [equality] thus invites consideration of how to distinguish concepts from one another.
Basic in the Phaedo is that we have knowledge of Equality; that we perceive sensible equal objects, that we compare these sensible equals with the Form, and that in order to do this we must have had prior knowledge of Equality. Now, one question is whether the same concept applies both to the Form and the particulars. Whereas we moderns often focus on synonymy to distinguish co-referential concepts, issues of reference dominate Plato's thoughts.
This privileging of reference over meaning with respect to what a concept is lends credence to the broad or innatist interpretation of what it is to acquire or even to have a concept. One has the concept from birth. One is not aware of having it. As you mature, learn to speak and make your way in the world, you may and in all likelihood will associate many beliefs or things with this concept, though still you might not think of it as a concept.
That is, nothing in Plato's account suggests that people need be aware of having a concept qua concept in order to have or even use concepts. Conversely, lacking the individuation condition for concepts provided by Forms and Innatism, the narrow reading must provide an account of how one acquires any concept. There is little in the primary or secondary literature to suggest how concepts are acquired.
One problem, then, with the narrow interpretation is its picture of ordinary concepts and their contents. Concepts are treated as hollow shells to be filled with varying beliefs or ideas, contents gleaned from conversations with one another or contact with the world. Into my concept of beauty goes pale skinned, into yours bright color, into a third, some other filling.
The problem is that if the concept itself is identified with its contents, then there is no reason to think that any of us have the same concept.
There are just too many different beliefs associated with a concept by different individuals to think that anyone could ever mean the same as another. Empiricism with respect to concept acquisition is liable to lead to private languages at best. Moreover, it would seem that our concept changes anytime we add or subtract from its contents.
Of course, the fact that there are philosophical objections to the narrow reading should not dictate that we reject it. The broad reading may also have problems. Indeed, Plato's account of Recollection, whatever it is, is liable to suffer difficulties. So what is the account? At the outset 73caSocrates places certain conditions on what is to count as recollection. If x reminds one of y, then one must have known y beforehand one must, in having any sense-perception of something xrecognize x and take y in mind think of y y must not be the object of the same knowledge as x.
Since recollection can be occasioned by objects that are similar and by objects that are dissimilar Simmias and a picture of Simmias versus Simmias and his lyrewhen the recollection is caused by similar things, one must also of necessity experience this: It is not clear how these conditions can be satisfied. In order to recollect Simmias upon seeing his picture, 1 I must have known Simmias beforehand and 2 I must be somehow cognizant of the picture and of Simmias.
The picture would not remind me of Simmias, it would just be thought of as a picture or as Simmias. But, recognizing the picture cannot involve recognizing Simmias, lest we already be thinking of Simmias y in thinking about the picture x: There must then be a way of cognizing the picture apart from what it is a picture of.
Condition 3 is more transparent when we consider recollection from unlikes: Condition 4 then spells out the peculiar way in which recollection from likes occurs; e.
We recognize this perhaps because we recognize that it is an image and that images always are deficient with respect to what they are images of. But we need not be thinking of the very thing the image is an image of in order to recognize these facts. The argument to this point is a preliminary sketch of recollection. The next stage attempts to prove that one can and must recollect Forms, since only with that proof will Socrates have demonstrated the pre-existence of the soul.
Plato's Middle Period Metaphysics and Epistemology
So Plato turns to showing that we cannot have acquired knowledge of the Form Equality from perceptual encounters. But 2, 3 and 4, when applied to the example of the equal sticks, appear to land the doctrine in difficulties.
For it seems that if, according to 4, we need to be comparing the equal sticks to the Form of Equality, then we need to be aware of the Form in thinking of the sticks. But if we must be aware of the Form even to think about the equal sticks then we must already have the Form in mind in conducting the comparison. It is a strange philosophical symbiosis from which a magnificent and new organism emerges. We know that the goal of metaphysics is to somehow develop an all-encompassing hypothesis as to what the ultimate nature of the universe is and reality itself.
The human mind being the way it is, will not accept any of the possibilities unearthed by metaphysical questioning unless it is in part rationalized by epistemic inquiry. For example, the old question about the tree falling in the woods, would it still make sound if no one was there to hear it? Well science and its epistemic thirst for knowledge has solved that question by revealing the existence of sound waves, which would be there regardless of the emptiness of the woods.
On the surface epistemology seems to have solved the question but the fact is metaphysically speaking it has not been solved at all because the question was about the nature of reality itself, and whether or not the reality of the tree falling would even exist if there was no one to experience it.
Would the universe simply withdraw the portion itself that was not being experienced by anyone? In particular, epistemology focuses on how we come to acquire knowledge and what types of limits there are to our knowledge.
In other words, how do we know what is true? You might believe something that is appealing to you, but it's quite another thing to feel that you are justified in believing this.
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Epistemology deals with how we know that what we believe is true and justified. Perhaps you believe that there is some intuition inside you that tells you that you are human, that you are not just a programmed computer. You might also point to your experience of the world, giving different examples of where you have more in common with a person than a machine. Most likely you would mention both your intuition and your experience to help you justify why you think you are human.
There have been philosophers who believe that your intuition that you are human is a valid form of knowledge, while others would disagree. Others believe that what is true must be determined by experience, like what can be scientifically proven. Why is epistemology interesting to philosophers?
One reason is that it helps us to more thoroughly define what is true and even question if we can know that something is definitely, absolutely true. A different branch of philosophy deals with a related question: