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History of Philosophy II

Plato and Aristotle


Michal Zvarík

The coursebook presents Plato and Aristotle as the two most significant and groundbreaking thinkers of European thought from the era of classical Greek philosophy. The author provides prefatory orientation in the labyrinth of their complex thought and sketches their metaphysics, problems of knowledge and ethics. He departs from the fact that both thinkers are similar in striving to overcome problems of their period by localizing the human being into a hierarchical order of beings, which obliges in questions of the possibility of knowledge as well as of the right conduct.
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4. Anamnésis and Knowledge


We begin the outline of Plato’s thinking with the issue of recollection, anamnesis, which is a key concept of his theory of knowledge. For the first time we meet anamnésis in Plato in his dialogue Meno. The starting point for the clarification of recollection is the situation of Aporia to which Socrates introduces Meno, since he cannot answer the question, what is efficiency? Aporia has an important meaning here. This is not a sign of Socrates’s sophistic superiority. To one who finds himself in aporiahis ignorance becomes apparent, or it turns out that their opinion (doxa) was only seemingly correct. Therefore the uncovering of contradictions in our thinking is of particular importance for it shows opinions as preju ← 29 | 30 → dices that prevent us from searching for what is true and correct. Or in other words, if our opinion affirms what we know is true, we do not need to search and consider whether it is really so. Uncovering contradictions in opinions can relieve us from the negative effects of the opinion.

In the case of Meno the unveiling of contradictions in his attitudes, developed into the loss of speech. For in his discovered ignorance he is made as a fossil and this is why in a famous part of the dialogue he compares Socrates to a sea ray. For that fish fossilises its victims as Socrates causes silence and fossilisation uncovering the reputed knowledge. Meno says:

“Indeed, if a joke is in order, you...

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