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"Plato does not value experience enough" Discuss

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Introduction

"Plato does not value experience enough," Discuss. (10) Central to Plato's "Theory of Forms" is the belief that the world we see around us, and observe with our senses, is not the true world. He theorised that the abstract world of the Forms, and not the material and physical world we live in, is the highest form of reality. He felt that true knowledge could only be attained through reasoning, and never through experience. This would suggest that Plato did not value any experience of the physical world, as he believed that the senses were easily tricked, and so, as shown in his Allegory of the Cave, we could be fooled into thinking that the "Cave" of the physical world, is the ultimate reality. Experience is defined as, "the observing, encountering, or undergoing of things, generally as they occur in the course of time." This explains why Plato would dismiss experience as either useless or not to be trusted. He did not believe that, as humans, anything we "observe" through use of our senses, could be taken as definite fact, as demonstrated through his allegory. Many people however, would argue that with this viewpoint, saying Plato does not value experience enough. They could say that Plato's "Theory of the Forms" limits knowledge to those who can see the forms clearly, and, in essence, makes life meaningless and empty for those who cannot, through constraints of time, money, or intelligence, learn about them. ...read more.

Middle

One common argument to suggest that Plato should place more value in experience is that, as there is no way to prove the existence of the Forms, we should place more worth in the physical world around us, as we know for sure that at the very least, we have the illusion of a material world, and the illusion of experience. We should therefore, value what we can see around us, more than something which can never be proven to exist. People who accept this argument would definitely agree with the statement that "Plato does not value experience enough." Following on from the argument that Plato himself was affected by his experience of the death of his mentor, some may say that even his philosophies were greatly impacted by what he saw around him, by studying our world he concluded that there must be more to "reality" than what he saw. Without his experiences, he would not have been able to formulate his ideas, and therefore, it seems absurd for him to suggest that knowledge can only be attained through reasoning, and never through the senses, or via a combination of the two. I feel this argument definitely supports the idea that "Plato does not value experience enough." It could however be argued that Plato is right to place no value upon our sensory experiences, as it is not uncommon in the medical world ...read more.

Conclusion

Therefore, even if a sense is tricked, we can always rely on the others to confirm that what it is telling us is false, and so, that our senses as a collective, will always tell us the truth about what we are seeing around us. An empiricist would always agree that Plato does not place enough value on sensory experiences. Further to this argument, Empiricists may state that, through human history, senses have been wrong far less times than reasoning has. For example, without the sensory experience to back up their logic, people used to believe that the world was flat or dome-shaped. This "logic" actually conflicted with the evidence collected by people almost 3000 years previously, using astronomy, and their knowledge, (again through sensory evidence,) that the moon is spherical. An Empiricist would argue that although the senses can be tricked occasionally, they are never tricked as a collective, and they are far more reliable than reason ever could be when unsupported by evidence. They would therefore strongly agree with the statement that Plato does not place enough value on experience. In conclusion, I would agree that Plato does not place enough value on experience, as without it, logic would either be impossible, or meaningless. I also feel that an analysis of Plato's life is enough to prove the importance of experience. He was due to undertake in a life of politics before the death of his mentor, Socrates, but this sensory experience led him to his "discovery" of the Forms. ...read more.

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