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Plato’s Theory of Knowledge is very interesting. H

e expresses this theorywith three approaches: his allegory of The Cave, his metaphor of the
Divided Line and his doctrine The Forms. Each theory is interconnected; one
could not be without the other. Here we will explore how one relates to the
other. In The Cave, Plato describes a vision of shackled prisoners seated
in a dark cave facing the wall. Chained also by their necks, the prisoners
can only look forward and see only shadows, These shadows are produced by
men, with shapes of objects or men, walking in front of a fire behind the
prisoners. Plato states that for the prisoners, reality is only the mere
shadows thrown onto the wall. Another vision is releasing a prisoner from
his chains, how his movements are difficult, his eye adjustment painful and
suggestions of the effects of returning to the cave. The Cave suggests to
us that Plato saw most of humanity living in “the cave”, in the dark, and
that the vision of knowledge and the “conversion” to that knowledge was
salvation from darkness. He put it this way, “the conversion of the soul is
not to put the power of sight in the soul’s eye, which already has it, but
to insure that, insisted of looking in the wrong direction it is turned the
way it ought to be.” Plato’s two worlds: the dark, the cave, and the bright
were his way of rejecting the Sophists, who found “true knowledge”
impossible because of constant change. Plato believed there was a ” true
Idea of Justice”. The Cave showed us this quite dramatically. The Divided
Line visualizes the levels of knowledge in a more systematic way. Plato
states there are four stages of knowledge development: Imagining, Belief,
Thinking, and Perfect Intelligence. Imagining is at the lowest level of
this developmental ladder. Imagining, here in Plato’s world, is not taken
at its conventional level but of appearances seen as “true reality”. Plato
considered shadows, art and poetry, especially rhetoric, deceptive
illusions, what you see is not necessarily what you get. With poetry and
rhetoric you may be able to read the words but you may not understand the
“real” meaning. For example, take, again, the shadow. If you know a shadow
is something “real” then you are beyond the state of imagination which
implies that a person is “unaware of observation and amounts to illusion
and ignorance”. Belief is the next stage of developing knowledge. Plato
goes with the idea that seeing really is not always believing we have a
strong conviction for what we see but not with absolute certainty. This
stage is more advanced than imagining because it’s based more firmly on
reality. But just because we can actually see the object and not just it’s
shadow doesn’t mean we know all there is to know about the object. In the
next stage, Thinking, we leave the “visible world” and move into the
“intelligible world” which, Plato claims, is seen mostly in scientists. It
stands for the power of the mind to take properties from a visible object
and applying them. Thinking is the “visible” object but also the
hypotheses, “A truth which is taken as self-evident but which depends upon
some higher truth”. Plato wants us to see all things as they really are so
we can see that all is inter-connected. But thinking still doesn’t give us
all the information we crave and we still ask “why?” For Plato the last
stage of developing knowledge, Perfect Intelligence, represents “the mind
as it completely releases from sensible objects” and is directly related to
his doctrine of Forms. In this stage, hypotheses is no longer present
because of its limitations. Plato summarized the Divided Line with “now you
may take, a corresponding to the four sections, these four states of mind,
intelligence for the highest, thinking for the second, belief for the third
and for the last imagining. These you may arrange in terms as the terms in
a proportion, assigning to each a degree of clearness and certainty
corresponding to the measure in which their object pose a reality”. When
discussing the Divided Line, The Forms are the highest levels of “reality”.

Plato concludes here that the “real world” is not what we see but what we
understand or feel in a “intelligible world” because it is made up of
eternal Forms. The Forms take on the explanation of existence. They are
“changeless, eternal, and nonmaterial essences or patterns of which the
actual visible objects we see are only poor