Tuesday, May 15, 2012

I Remember It All: A Critique of Plato's Doctrine of Recollection

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I Remember It All


Platos doctrine of recollection states that rather than “learning” in the common sense, what is in reality occurring when people think, and eventually find an answer or solution to a problem, is that they are “recollecting” concepts they already knew. It is, in Plato’s view, recovery from amnesia developed through the process of recycling of “souls.” Plato’s Meno is logically inconsistent. If knowledge is “justified true belief,” as Plato defines it, then the acquisition of knowledge is the subjective formation and justification of belief rather than the objective recollection of absolute knowledge, as Plato proposed in the Doctrine of Recollection. It is important to note here that subjective belief systems can be justified by a “logos” and remain nonetheless subjective, which explains the radical divergence of organized religions. The logical consequence of Plato’s definition of knowledge is Postmodernism “Facts are merely interpretations,” as stated by Nietzsche, inasmuch as different perspectives, such as empiricism and rationalism, often give rise to incompatible, though equally true, beliefs.


Newton equated force with mass multiplied by acceleration and proceeded to define gravity as a force. As Newton’s theory of a gravitational force underwent the scientific process of induction and falsification, it was soon widely held to be a “justified true belief” (i.e., general knowledge) and knowledgeable scientists thereafter adhered to the idea of gravity as a force. It was not until Einstein proposed the Theories of Relativity that this “general knowledge” was disproved. Indeed, the popular misconception of gravity as a force still pervades Academia. Gravity is more accurately defined as the curvature of the geometry of space-time and certainly not a force. The purpose of this historical example is to elucidate the problems inherent to Plato’s definition of knowledge. Newton’s proposition was recognized, justifiably, as a true belief and was only later superseded by a more accurate belief. Did Newton’s soul not have the innate knowledge that Einstein’s did? If Newton did indeed have the knowledge, why was recollection different? Why was Newton’s gravitational theory “recollected” by the Scientific Community if it wasn’t completely correct? The underlying reality is that these two radically different perspectives gave rise to different truths. It should be noted that Newton’s ideas about physics were considerably useful and only incorrect with extremely precise measurements. The conclusion drawn by these statements results in a falsification of Plato’s Doctrine of Recollection in view of the fact that discovery of these truths were attained through the medium of abstract reasoning rather than a “recollection” of innate knowledge.




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