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Doxa and Epistêmê as Modes of Acquaintance in Republic V Jan Szaif (University of California at Davis


The interpretation of Plato’s distinction between epistêmê and doxa is notoriously difficult. One of the reasons for this is that Plato has different uses for these two terms and often uses them in ways that are far removed from the meaning we moderns tend to connect with the concepts of knowledge and belief. The usual contemporary distinction between knowledge and (mere) true belief relates to the quality of the justification or evidence the true belief in question is based upon. This kind of perspective does occur in Plato. One of the targets of philosophical dialectic is to provide a foundation for our judgments about concrete actions, situations or rules that require the application of some general action-guiding concept like, for instance, ‘just’. The ability to know if a certain course of action, in a given situation, would be just presupposes, according to Plato, a clear and reliable grasp of what justice is — an understanding of justice which is true to its objective essence. Thus the grasp of such an essence (or eidos, Form) is viewed by Plato as a necessary prerequisite for a justified belief concerning the justice or injustice of a particular action, and he is ready to apply knowledge-words like eidenai or gnônai to judgments about particular actions in that perspective (e. g. Rep. 520C). But there are also contexts where he restricts knowability to the Forms as pure intellectual objects and classifies the whole realm of perceptible bodies together with their movements, changes and transient properties as things that are mere doxasta (i. e. merely objects of doxa, incapable of becoming objects of genuine knowledge/epistêmê). One important example for this can be found in Republic V, 476E ff., a passage that I will examine in this paper. Apparently it uses the ‘argument from opposites’ (which could also be called an ‘argument from context-relativity’) in a very questionable way by arguing from the co-presence of opposites in the case of natural and social instantiations of a Form to the conclusion that such instantiations don’t even allow for an unqualifiedly true judgment and thus cannot be objects of knowledge. Another striking example is the passage in Timaeus, 37B, which asserts that the world-soul achieves nous (insight) and epistêmê with respect to the intellectual realm (to logistikon), but with respect to the perceptible realm (to aisthêton) only doxa and pistis (the latter being a type of non-epistemic cognition with a higher degree of truthapproximation and reliability). Yet in the Timaeus-passage, truth and stability/reliability (to bebaion) are attributed to the doxai of the world-soul, as one would expect since the world-soul has direct cognitive access to everything that happens within ‘its body’, i.e.


the physical cosmos. So here it cannot be the lack of truth, and not even that of reliability, which separates doxa from epistêmê. So there seems to be an outright inconsistency in Plato’s ideas about knowing. On the one hand, he denies that there can be knowledge about particulars in the sensible world, on the other he affirms that the person who has grasped the essence of a certain property can also know with respect to a particular whether or not it exhibits this property. But this impression of a contradiction may subside if it turns out that he is using different, yet compatible concepts of knowledge that go along with different concepts of doxa. Such a solution seems certainly possible with regard to the Timaeuspassage. It has been a recurring theme in Plato scholarship during the last three decades that Plato’s concept of epistêmê, in many contexts, is a concept of understanding.1 Understanding can be taken as conceptual understanding or as scientific or theoretical understanding (explanation), but for Plato these are two sides of the same coin, because he conceives theoretical knowledge as the result of dialectic, and hence as the result of a systematic effort of working toward adequate concepts that are true to the underlying essences or Forms. He contends that the only fully rational ‘cosmos’ which can become totally transparent or fully understood is the realm of pure intellectual objects. The physical world does not allow for perfect understanding, because there is only partial and imperfect rationality in its structures and movements.2 Accordingly, the objectrange of perfect theoretical understanding is the world of pure intellectual entities, and the core of this understanding is one’s conceptual understanding which has been perfected through the elucidation of the Forms and their interrelations. So if one uses the words “epistêmê” and “doxa” as names for cognitive states that differ according to the level of insight or understanding they can provide, then Plato’s restriction of epistêmê to the realm of Forms is a consequence of his views on the insufficient rationality and cognitive accessibility of physical cosmos. This view is compatible with the claim that a person who has achieved adequate understanding of a certain concept or property and has a clear, non-deceptive perception of a particular situation or object, can recognize that this situation or object exhibits a certain property and can know this to be the case—in a different sense of knowing which does not imply full rational transparency of the object in all its properties and relations but only a wellfounded judgment that answers to some specific question regarding the object.

Cf. J. M. E. Moravcsik, “Understanding and Knowledge in Plato’s Philosophy”, Neue Hefte für Philosophie 15/16 (1979), 53-69; Julia Annas, An Introduction to Plato’s Republic, Oxford 1981; Myles Burnyeat, Aristotle on Understanding Knowledge, in E. Berti (ed.), Aristotle on Science. The “Posterior Analytics”, Padua 1981, 97-139. 2 Cf. Rep. 527D-530C, Tim. 47E ff.


The phenomenon of the co-presence of opposites does not pose a real challenge to the possibility of true and well-founded judgments about concrete instances. It is only supplemented. V. since it can always be dissolved by way of an analysis which either points to a difference in respect or reveals that the opposing properties or movements have two different bearers. Platons Begriff der Wahrheit. 436B-437A. 2nd ed. beauty with respect to a particular instance of beauty. IV. points out that there is no problem with a lack of truth when one or the other of the opposites is ascribed to the object in question. In both cases we have a true statement (129D2). 1998. Plato himself in Rep. is willing to confront again the social and natural reality). on the influence of practical and contemplative ends on Plato’s conception of knowledge. In the light of this. not pushed aside. The consequence would be. of the whole tendency of the Socratic quest for a reliable foundation of our practical judgments through the conceptual clarification of Forms. 520C) where the text clearly states that someone who has gained philosophical insight and returns to the ‘cave’ (i. Jan Szaif. The practical side of dialectic remains a major concern of Plato in the Republic and beyond. moreover. In a section of the introductory conversation of the Parmenides (129A-E). 307-315. 3 . this result would run afoul. will be able to recognize the exemplifications of the Forms in the ‘cave’ and will know what participates in what.3 Whereas the Timaeus passage is compatible with the 3 Cf. it seems.. the argument in Rep. by the contemplative ideal of knowledge that seeks fulfillment in a complete rational penetration of reality achievable only with respect to the ‘noetic’ cosmos of the Forms. Freiburg/München 1998. 163-168. It seems to commit the very mistake of inferring from the co-presence of opposites the impossibility of an unequivocally true ascription of. for instance. proves to be very puzzling. 476E ff.. The apparent co-presence of opposite determinations should not “disturb” us (436E). it seems. a well-known passage in the context of the simile of the Cave (Rep. it is also emphasized that in the case of particular objects the copresence of opposites does not pose any real philosophical problem since it is always possible to differentiate between the respects in which the opposites occur together.e. This result seems incompatible with. Thus they would also not be able to know if this or that particular instance is something beautiful or something large (given that truth is a necessary condition of knowledge). say. In this passage he elaborates the point that an object cannot exhibit opposite properties or movements except in different respects. that even people with an adequate conceptual understanding of beauty or largeness would not be able to apply these concepts to particular instances so as to produce true judgments. What is more. shows how to handle this. The text.

V. but will produce epistêmê once it has been “turned around” and refocused toward the realm of intellectual objects through the efforts of dialectic. There is another serious difficulty posed by the argument in Rep. VII (518A-519B) that the rational faculty (the “eye of the soul”) is one and that it can achieve only doxa-type competence as long as it remains focused on the physical and social world. I will come back to this point later. the Rep. (With respect to this turn of phrase one should bear in mind that the Greek word for truth—alêtheia—can be used to name ‘reality’ from the point of view that it can become an object or content of knowledge. First some remarks about the context of the argument that I am going to analyze: In 473CD. Socrates replies that the philosophers—the true ones (475E3)—are indeed ‘lovers of shows/sights’. Socrates has come out with his contention that philosophers should be the political rulers. and comment on the meaning of doxa and epistêmê in this context and their function as ‘powers’. That seems to contradict the affirmation later in Rep. V passage seems to go too far and to contravene the applicability of philosophical knowledge for practical purposes.) With this answer. Glaucon objects (475D1-E1) that this would enlarge the scope of philosophy so as to include the interests of people who want to watch each new theatrical show (philotheamones) or are fond of insignificant crafts and knacks (technudria). Socrates has hinted that the curiosity which is exhibited by the lovers of theatrical shows and unphilosophical crafts does not concern ‘the truth’ and thus cannot count as genuine love of wisdom or learning since wisdom and learning 4 . Thus only someone who loves all kinds of learning can count as a lover of wisdom/learning. namely the sight of truth (tês alêtheias philotheamones. My main contention will be that doxa and epistêmê should be construed here as different qualities of (conceptualized) acquaintance whose achievement or cognitive value is a function of the ontological quality of their objects. but of a specific kind of sight. V. 476E-480A. It distinguishes epistêmê and doxa as two different powers (dunameis) of the soul. Knowledge is always knowledge of some truth. In my subsequent remarks I will provide an analysis of the argument in Rep. He starts with an analysis of the meaning of the word “philosopher” as “lover of wisdom/learning”. E4). emphasizing that concepts of the form “lover of F” imply that the person is inclined to love and appreciate all types or instances of that which is F.possibility of true and well-founded judgments about concrete objects and situations. Socrates (whose persona serves as a personification of the ideal philosophical inquirer in the dialogue) wants to base the justification of this contention on an explanation of the true nature of philosophers (474B).

Culture and Society in Plato’s Republic. Spectacles of Truth in Classical Greek Philosophy: Theoria in its Cultural Context.—Note that the knowledge attributed to the knowing person includes the ability to discern the participants. Theatrical shows provide (amongst other things) examples of beauty (think of the musical and lyrical parts of the Greek drama). their kind of ‘learning’ cannot belong to the scope of a genuine love for truth and learning. Thus they will know (gignôskein) (476CD). the exploits of the ‘lovers of sights and sounds’. This is very different with philosophically educated people. as he tries to show. If. Cambridge 2004. W.4 His argumentation exploits the conceptual link between love of knowledge and love of truth (cf. The ‘lovers of sights and sounds’ will appreciate that each such performance gives them some new examples of beauty and thus enriches their experience of beauty. justice and virtue. ed. B. Peterson. the Doxaas-Dreaming-Analogy (DDA). So the possibility of some sort of knowledge with regard to objects in the sensible realm is affirmed here. theôria etc. they are similar to dreamers who take dream-images for real things. They acknowledge the existence of the many instances of beauty yet are unable to grasp “beauty itself”. by G. The latter will be able to discern the Form of beauty and the things that participate in it. see also A. don’t lead to acquaintance with the truth. 215-324. Myles Burnyeat. in: The Tanner Lectures on Human Values. Let us call the argument in 475E-476D. So in the background we perceive the recurrent Platonic theme that not poetry (or the arts in general) but only philosophy can truly educate. vol. and they will not confuse the Form and its participants. Salt Lake City 1999. The 4 Cf. says Socrates. 5 . 20. With this state of mind. They realize that a term like “beauty” denotes a Form and that the instantiations of beauty in the world of ‘becoming’ are only images of this.relate to truth. they mistake mere images for the real thing. yet as a corollary of the knowledge of the Form. and of other people similar to them. Nightingale. Yet Socrates points out that they are incapable of “seeing” and appreciating the “nature of the beautiful itself” (476B). They think that this will increase and deepen their understanding of beauty. About the vocabulary of thea. 485B-D). It characterizes the doxastic state of mind as a state of deception and the objects a person in this state is acquainted with as being deceptive or ‘untrue’ insofar as they (like dream images) conceal their nature as mere copies. They are in a state of mere doxa (opining) and subject to a fundamental error regarding the nature of reality. His ensuing discussion focuses on the ‘lovers of sights and sounds’ who are clearly enough identified as the lovers of the dramatic performances (475D5-8)— people who believe that those products of poetry are the best source for an understanding of beauty. Being unaware of the reality of the Form behind these instances. which I have just summarized.

87). (The word “dialectic” serves Plato. cit. “doxa and dunamis in Plato’s Republic. The core of this argument is a scheme of correlations between three cognitive states or ‘powers’ (dunameis) and three ontological categories. 1-81. Plato’s Reception of Parmenides. in J. 190-241. Peter Stemmer: “Das Kinderrätsel vom Eunuchen und der Fledermaus.6 Yet it would be wrong to reduce the function of this argument to its dialectical role as a refutation of the ‘lovers of sights and sounds’. 6 .” Philosophisches Jahrbuch 98 (1991). and it is intended as a gentle (476E1) refutation of their conviction that the kind of reality they acknowledge could be the basis of genuine knowledge..C. M. and is also a basic premise of Fine’s interpretation (loc. Dordrecht 1973. Platonic Studies. Therefore it is also no mere 5 There is a tremendous amount of literature on this text. From their point of view it is not a mistake to consider the many instances of beauty as the only reality the term “beautiful” stands for. 43-57. Moravcsik (ed.” Phronesis 41 (1996). roughly. Brit. La théorie platonicienne de la doxa. 103) Oxford 2000. 79-97. I won’t be able to discuss the conflicting views here in any detail.. 365-388. I will call this scheme CS and the argument based on it CSA. It is important to note that CS lays important groundwork for a whole sequence of arguments and similes that will follow in books VI and VII. Yvon Lafrance.” Phronesis 13 (1968). Julia Annas. Acad. London 1991. they won’t have to follow this argumentation. Princeton 1981. since the ‘lovers of sights and sounds’ don’t recognize the truth of this assumption. “Propositional as Objects? A Critique of Gail Fine on Knowledge and Belief in Republic V. cit..” Philosophisches Jahrbuch 92 (1985). Hestir. Oxford 1999. 325335. Montreal/Paris 1981. Nicholas Denyer: Language. Plato On Why Mathematics is Good for the Soul. “A Conception of Truth in Republic V. in S. as the name for whatever may be the appropriate argumentative method or methods of investigating our concepts and the underlying objective Forms. E. 46-67. Myles Burnyeat. 245-275. Knowledge and Belief in Republic V-VII. Cambridge 1990. Thought and Falsehood in Ancient Greek Philosophy. J. The subsequent argument (467E7-480A13)5 is addressed to a hypothetical representative of those ‘lovers of sights and sounds’. Gail Fine. Gosling. Important contributions include: R. Charles Kahn. 58-75. E. Allen. loc.. Everson (ed. Jaakko Hintikka. Gregory Vlastos.” Phronesis 26 (1981). cit.): Epistemology.B. Knowledge and its Objects in Plato. 311-332. “The Argument from Opposites in Republic V.) Mathematics and Necessity (Proc. “Platons Auffassung von Wissen und Meinung in Politiea V. Smiley (ed. 130. “Some Philosophical Uses of ‘to be’ in Plato. Francisco Gonzales. B. since only dialectic can make us aware of the reality of the Forms.. 85-115. E.” History of Philosophy Quaterly 17 (2000). 6 This was emphasized by Gosling loc. a refutation that does not rely on the acceptance of the theory of Forms.) DDA presupposes the truth of the theory of Forms. 119-130. 120 f.only way to overcome this deception is philosophy and its practice of dialectic. Now. John Palmer. 31-87. in T. 2nd ed.): Patterns in Plato’s Thought. Andreas Graeser. 105-134.” in Review of Metaphysics 15 (1961).

his two philosophically educated and sympathetic interlocutors. at first sight. can indeed stand without reliance on the theory of Forms. loc. The basic idea of this scheme (which obviously harks back to the three ‘ways’ distinguished by the Presocratic Parmenides7) can be represented in this table: CS Type of cognitive dunamis 2) doxa 3) ignorance (agnôsia) Object (relatum) of the cognitive dunamis what is and is not what in no way is [≡ a mere exemplification not the Form itself] [≡ ‘nothing’] 1) knowledge (gnôsis/epistêmê) what (perfectly/unqualifiedly) is [≡ a Form] Section (b). On this basis section (c). this might seem inconsistent with his professed aim of refuting the ‘lovers of sights and sounds’ without presupposing the theory of Forms. 478E7-479E9. But Socrates’ argumentation is at the same time also addressed to Glaucon and Adeimantos.accident that Socrates brings in the Forms at a certain point of his argumentation although. explains the concept of a power (dunamis) and tries to validate the claim that epistêmê and doxa. Section (d). directed against the ‘lovers of sights and sounds’. The ontological categories of things that perfectly are and of things that are-and-are-not will later (in section [d]) be equated with the Forms and their natural or social instantiations respectively. 467E7-477B9. qua cognitive powers. 478A6-E6. doxa. as a fallible cognitive state intermediate between knowledge and ignorance. The ontological categories he distinguishes are (1) that which (perfectly/unqualifiedly) is. 7 . We can break down CSA as follows: Section (a). explains what sorts of objects belong into the category of the things that are-and-are-not. The refutational part of his argument. and (3) that which is not at all (or in no way). The answer is that the things the ‘lovers of sights and 7 Cf. must relate to different ranges of objects and result in different cognitive achievements. For them Socrates connects the scheme CS with the theory of Forms as a starting-point for his subsequent more complex explanations concerning the relation of ontological categories and epistemic modes. sets out why we have to identify the objectsrange of doxa. and ignorance (agnôsia)— this last one rather being a specific form of absence of cognitive power.. 477B10-478A5. begins the exposition of CS. (2) that which is-and-is-not. John Palmer. on Plato’s use of Parmenides in CSA. with the things that are-and-are-not. (The corresponding cognitive ‘powers’ are knowledge (gnôsis/epistêmê). cit.

attributed absolutely. 479E10-480A13. then we can hope to reach a well-founded conclusion regarding the nature of the epistêmê and doxa as represented in this argument. In this case. essential to note that often Plato understands ‘being’. it also becomes clearer why the mix of being and notbeing is supposed to thwart epistemic cognition. I will first tackle the third question regarding the concept of being (and I will have to be rather ‘doctrinal’ because there is no room here for discussing Plato’s concept of being in detail). Thanks to this. Is that so also in the case of complete non-being and agnôsia? 2) What is the sense of “dunamis” here? 3) What is the sense of “to be” here. carries the argument to the conclusion that people like the ‘lovers of sights and sounds’ should be called philodoxoi (lovers of doxa) instead of philosophoi. according to the established usages in Ancient Greek. If the second term is a general term. the ontological characteristic of unrestricted being seems to function as a necessary condition for something’s being an object of epistêmê. we also speak of predicative being. If it is a singular term. It is. however. The “is” (esti) which is predicated “absolutely” could mean either existence or veridical ‘being the case’.” It is used for a copulative function in sentences of the form “A is B” (where “B” can be replaced either by a general or a singular term). acquires a more concrete meaning. A number of questions need to be raised with respect to CS. as equivalent to ‘being something’ such that the word “something” functions like a variable for general terms. and do the ontological categories define non-overlapping sets of objects? 4) In which sense is doxa said to be fallible and epistêmê infallible? If we answer all these questions. Predicative being is closely connected with veridical being. Being is attributed “absolutely” in a statement of the form “A is.sounds’ recognize as the only reality. Ad 3: It is helpful to distinguish between an absolute and a copulative use of “is” or “being” (esti. are things which are-and-are-not. the absolute use of “to be” indicates predicative being. because if 8 . The final section (e). 1) How can the nature of the correlations between the cognitive dunameis and their types of objects be spelled out in terms of necessary and sufficient conditions? For instance. viz. the many instances of the Forms. the statement expresses an identity relation. which had remained very vague up to this point. In the course of this explanation the talk of being versus beingand-not-being. einai/on).

” Phronesis 26 (1981).. the predicative or (more generally) copulative sense of “being” is to be understood. The many instantiations of this Form.). Accordingly. Also in the case of the negative limit concept of that which in no way is (=nothing) (477A3-4. “Some Philosophical Uses of ‘to be’ in Plato.9 The “is” in such a statement oscillates in a problematic way between predication and identity. this ontological description singles out the Form of the beautiful – the Beautiful-itself. For instance: “The Beautiful itself is not ugly.” Or: “The Beautiful itself is not perishable. 478B12-C4) we have to think of the copulative use: This pseudo-object is nothing or in no way. [loc. The Verb ‘To Be’ in Greek Philosophy: Some Remarks. cf. cit. Thus a veridical instance of being. 381-405.” Plato’s examples and comments (478E479D) suggest that a Form’s undiluted mode of being consists in the fact that the Form is what it is unequivocally. it is also the case that x is F.” Ancient Philosophy 24 (2004). idem. because it is and is not beautiful—or because it is both true and false to say of it that it is beautiful. but also the opposite of Fness. Hence. New York 1973. Section (d) tells us that this is an example of something which IS and IS NOT. 9 Cf. Plato on the Self-Predication of the Forms. not existential. Yet this cannot be the whole story. K. 1-20. the on in the sense of a state of affairs which obtains and can be known. passim. Munitz (ed. which are the example of things that ARE.]. since it perfectly excludes any contrary quality. in M. when Plato speaks of things that are and things that are-and-are-not. 7. 9 . in S. In some way or other they exemplify not just Fness..8 CSA is an example for the absolute use of “to be” and “not to be” for the indication of predicative being and not-being with a veridical connotation. Everson (ed. something which is beautiful and in no way is not beautiful. on the other hand. i. idem. (We might think of Helen being compared to some other. because there is no way to characterize ‘it’ predicatively. Language. —Of course this means that this talk of unrestricted being presupposes the possibility of the ‘self-predication’ of Forms. don’t perfectly exclude contrary qualities. can also be characterized in a negative way. more beautiful entity. Logic and Ontology. for a comprehensive survey and analysis of the positions on ‘self-predication’ in Plato. Charles Kahn.e. On the Theory of the Verb ‘To Be’. Platons Begriff der Wahrheit . Oxford 1991.e. can ‘unfold’ into an instance of predicative being (x being F). Lesley Brown. Take the example of an instance of beauty. without a mix with notbeing).). Szaif. “A Return to the Theory of the Verb be and the Concept of Being. 105-134.some x is F. For Plato. would be an example of a thing which unqualifiedly IS (i. Cambridge 1994. and 8 On the terminology of ‘being’ in Ancient Greek and in Plato in particular cf. John Malcolm. or viewed form some unfavorable perspective). But either way it is ‘copulative’. The Forms.

—For a comprehensive discussion of Platonic arguments for the existence of Forms cf. conceptualized as an instance of beauty. cit. as Helen. the argument reaches an even more radical analysis of the situation: Because the contrary characteristics cancel out each other and yet obtain somehow. “ambiguous” (cf. Nothing is large or small absolutely. In 479C3-5. but only from a certain perspective. other passages in his middle-period works articulate the thought that sensible objects in general and in all respects don’t qualify as objects of epistêmê (probably as a consequence of Plato’s views concerning the unity and imperishability of an object of epistêmê). as far as that goes. it eludes any firm cognitive hold. his argument is open for the possibility that the same object in perfectly determined and hence a ‘knowable’ in one respect. it is not possible to firmly conceive the thing in question as F or not F or both or neither. 10 To be sure. CSA exploits the phenomenon that in the case of properties that constitute pairs of opposites the ascriptions are often context-sensitive or ‘perspectival’. Aristotle’s Criticism of Plato’s Theory of Forms. Although it is not nothing at all. Gail Fine. 193-211. of beauty as instances of beauty. which does affect the status of individuative properties. Accordingly we can also say that ‘unrestricted being’ here stands for perfect determinateness. can be firmly represented as such. does allow for any sort of firm cognitive acquaintance. Annas. Yet ascriptions of descriptive contents like being human or being a finger are not perspectival in this way (523CD).e. loc. viz. in the end.. depending on what counts as small or large in the given context.) Thus the ontological status of perfect/unrestricted being (to pantelôs on) is based on the fact that such a thing is perfectly determined since the descriptive (or ‘eidetic’) content thanks to which it is determined is not qualified or cancelled out by the copresence of a contrary eidetic content. the two classes 10 11 Cf. all other objects that are F are also not F. Already the brief back reference in 485AB to the result of CSA has shifted to the antithesis between things that always are and things that are subject to coming-intobeing and passing-away. On Ideas. Hence.11 So. 479B11C5). (Note that we are talking here about instances. V can’t apply to such characteristics. as it were. say. polar contraries) for the simple reason that such individuative terms don’t have opposites. Therefore Plato’s argument in Rep. Also they can’t come in pairs of opposites (enantia. Oxford 1993.that is why their mode of being is indistinct and. The question is not if Helen. 10 . yet in another respect a mere doxaston. Do these ontological categories define exclusive sets of objects? An object might be perfectly determined in one respect and not so in another. To put it in a slightly more formal way: For any predicative content F or Fness: Only F-itself is unequivocally F (i. but if this instance of beauty. without any aspect of being not-F).

Thus we get the following two contentions. ii) For all cognitive states y: if y is an epistemic cognition. He also states that that which unqualifiedly IS is unqualifiedly knowable. Undiluted being is a necessary and sufficient condition of knowability and a necessary condition for becoming an object of somebody’s actual epistêmê: What about correlation (3)? Plato claims that that which IS NOT (anything at all) is completely unknowable (pantêi agnôston). it follows that all instances of knowledge are.e.of objects are meant to be exclusive. At the outset of his argument Plato introduces the correlations (1) and (3): With respect to (1). since only that which in no way is (something or other) will be completely inaccessible to any kind of cognition. The second is a claim about the kind of object the cognitive state of epistêmê requires. Of something which IS. Later it becomes clear that the argument presupposes that unqualified being is not only a sufficient. This statement is not free of ambiguity since can mean that being implies knowability (i.e. but of something which IS NOT anything at all. is both a necessary and a sufficient condition of knowability). it is also a necessary condition for it. there can be knowledge. Ad 1: Regarding the correlations in CS we have to differentiate between terms for cognitive states like “knowledge” (epistêmê) and terms for dispositional attributes like “knowable” (gnôston) which contain a modal component. there must be ignorance. but that doesn’t yet follow from the distinction between perspectival and non-perspectival being. is it possible that there be some epistemic cognition y which is of x. Plato hints at this asymmetry by adding an “ex anankês” in the case of agnôsia’s ‘being set over non-being’ (477A9. The first is a claim regarding the ‘knowability’ of the objects in the first ontological category. 478C3) which he doesn’t do in the other cases. Given that unqualified being is a necessary condition for knowability. he claims that if somebody knows something. but also a necessary condition for knowability. this must be something which IS (or unqualifiedly IS). Yet total lack of being is not only sufficient for a total lack of knowability. 478A6). but may also be taken to mean that being is logically equivalent to knowability (i. of which the first is meant to imply the second: i) For all objects x: If and only if x IS (unqualifiedly). each of them. then there is some object x. is a sufficient condition of knowability). for Socrates claims that knowledge is “set over that which is” and has the function to know of that-which-is which way it is (477B10 f. of some unqualified being or other. Thus we obtain the following claims: 11 . such that y is of x and x IS (unqualifiedly).

I can refer back to my introductory remarks. which is about the object of doxa. as that about which something is known or believed. no cognition at all) of x. It can be rephrased in this way: A: (1) ‘powers’ (dunameis) are the same in kind if and only if they relate to the same objects and achieve the same things. Both are characterized as different cognitive ‘powers’ which require a different type of object according to the ontological distinction between undiluted being and being mixed with not-being. Even the immediately preceding passage which contains DDA turned out to imply the possibility of knowledge with respect to concrete instantiations.) v) For all objects x: If and only if x is and is not. but with a different type of cognition and a different kind of cognitive accessibility of an object. (2) ‘Powers’ (dunameis) differ in 12 . May be a closer examination of the way in which Plato conceives epistêmê and doxa as ‘powers’ will provide us with an alternative. iv) For all cognitive states y: if there is some object x. is it necessary that there be ignorance (i.e. such that y is of x and x is and is not. is meant to be implied in the first claim about the cognitive accessibility of objects of that mixed kind. such that y is of x and x IS NOT (anything at all). vi) For all cognitive states y: if y is a doxastic cognition.iii) For all objects x: if and only x is not (anything at all). i. There is no way out of this conundrum if we construe the ‘objects’ of the cognitive states distinguished here as the referential objects of propositional cognition. The suggestion that epistêmê and doxa are two different cognitive ‘powers’ with different ranges of referential objects seems very strange to modern readers who are used to the evidential or justificatory distinction between knowledge and mere true belief. Ad 2: Plato’s argument in section (b) about ‘powers’ is built upon an assumption (A) about the general identity criterion for types of ‘power’ formulated in 477D2-5. Let us turn to correlation (2). is it possible that there be some doxastic cognition y which is of x. Thus we can attribute to Plato the following two claims which match the claims (i) and (ii) regarding epistêmê: (The second claim. then there is some object x. The same way as epistêmê correlates with that which IS. then y is a state of ignorance. doxa is said to correlate with that which IS AND IS NOT. Yet it also seems incompatible with remarks in other contexts in the Republic and elsewhere which affirm the possibility of (some sort of) knowledge with respect to concrete instantiations and of opinion with respect to Forms. Here we are not dealing with a total absence of cognition.e.

viz. A more sophisticated answer would identify the visible with. the audible with sounds. The premise that he needs in section (c) does not imply a stronger claim 13 . Now there is an additional complication. Of course the same person can be slapped and caressed. If we speak of the ability to slap and the ability to caress. Yet we may try to add some extra explanation to the argument that would justify the exclusion of the possibility that powers can achieve different things with respect to the same relata. Assumption (A) can make sense only if the object range is conceived of as intrinsically connected with the kind of function or achievement of the power in question. he does not give us any further indications as to how he wants us to use these examples. It is obviously not true in general that abilities or faculties define non-overlapping sets of objects.kind if and only if they relate to different kinds of objects and achieve different things. can be the same. hence. Can we suppose that something like this is going on here? The only illustrative examples he mentions are sight and hearing (477C3). For the text will argue from the premise that doxa has a different kind of achievement (and hence is a different kind of dunamis) to the conclusion that its objects must also be different from those of epistêmê. The easiest way of specifying their formal objects would be to call them the visible and the audible. The ‘material’ objects. Unfortunately. colors and shapes. but also materially distinct: as two non-overlapping sets of objects. but it is also crucial for the argument because the intended conclusion can be obtained only if this “and” is kept and not replaced by an “or”. and we don’t have to burden the argument here with such an extravagant assumption. their formal objects would be that which is capable of being slapped or that which is capable of being caressed. The examples Socrates gives in section (d) of CSA suggest that we are invited to consider the objects of doxa and epistêmê as not only formally. The “and” printed in italics in second first leg of (A) is the puzzling feature in this assumption. we would also obtain non-overlapping sets of objects. activity or effect. This means that Plato does not acknowledge the possibility of two dunameis achieving different things with regard to the same kind of object. Later metaphysical terminology developed the concept of a ‘formal’ object: A formal object is the type object of a faculty. But there is still the difference of the formal objects as defined by the kind of power or ability. But this is rather an exception. If we link the faculties of sight and hearing to colors and shapes or sounds respectively. But why should that possibility be excluded? This certainly looks question-begging and thus represents a very questionable move in this argument. ability or power that matches its defining function. say. Forms on one side and transient or mixed instances on the other. This inference would not be possible if we had an “or” instead of an “and” in the second leg of (A).

If we construe doxa and epistêmê as tpyes of propositional cognition.(loc. Defenders of the view that the objects which epistêmê and doxa are set over. loc. but not the beautiful itself (476C2-3). where the text specifies the objects of doxa as “ta tôn pollôn polla nomima kalou te peri kai tôn allôn”: “the many nomima of the multitude with respect to what is beautiful et cetera”. supported by Gail Fine and others12. 92). knowledge is of true propositional contents (or existing states of affairs) while opinion is of true or false propositional contents.13 The alternative is to read this distinction as one between types of object-cognition or acquaintance. So the nomima are the things acknowledged by them. this is a consequence of the ontological chorismos between the Forms and their physical and social instantiations.. the Theaetetus in particular providing ample 12 13 Cf. whereas opinion does not.. That they are also materially distinct and even exclusive sets of objects. we have to understand how their formal objects are characterized. In the present context. they acknowledge nothing else than the many instances beauty which are and are not beautiful. The usage which relates the nominal constructions “doxa tinos” and “epistêmê tinos” (knowledge of something) or the verbal constructions “doxazein ti” and “gnonai/eidenai ti” (knowing something) to objects instead of propositional contents is well established for Plato. Gosling.. if we want to get clear about as what kind of power doxa and epistêmê are conceived here. Now.). Fine. Yet “ nomimon” can also denote that which is an object of belief or acknowledgement. This would allow for a fairly straightforward answer to the question how these two types relate to two formally distinct object-ranges: Since knowledge implies truth. then their formal objects (the ‘opinable’ and the ‘knowable’) would have to be identified as propositional contents or as propositionally structured states of affairs. a thesis which is not argued for in this passage. Fine. Knowledge and Belief . then. but more vaguely indicates the respect: ‘In respect of beauty.than that the object-ranges of doxa and epistêmê are formally distinct. are propositions refer to 479D4. cit. In this case. Unfortunately this solution. for instance. does not square with the way the objects of knowledge and opinion are described in section (d)—not as propositional contents (like that Helen is beautiful) but as Forms and as physical or social instantiations of a Form (like beautiful things). cit. the “peri” after “nomima” does not mean “about” so as to point to an object of reference of a belief (that which the belief is about). There are basically two possibilities. the word “nomimon” harks back to what was said about the ‘lovers of sights and sounds’ in the preceding passage DDA: that they “acknowledge (nomizei) many beautiful things”.. cit.’ 14 . translates “nomima” as “beliefs” (loc.

even if not all forms are definable according to Plato.evidence for that. However we construe this phrase. This kind of acquaintance would be the achievement of a progress in conceptual understanding as aimed at by philosophical dialectic. Some formulation like that could even be used with respect to some strictly non-propositional knowledge-byacquaintance as conceived by Russell. But since “to on” (“that which is”) functions here also as the object of “gnônai”. 357 f. Although the word-order is slightly different. 15 This is the way Cornford and G.— The ambiguity is not removed by the parallel formulation in 477B10-11. Isn’t this stating that the knowledge in question knows “with respect to that-which-is. Szaif.14 But does that also tally with the way he describes the achievement of epistêmê and doxa in CSA? The claim that we are dealing here with types of object-cognition is easier to establish with respect to the concept of epistêmê. we can infer that he has in mind the kind of acquaintance with a Form that reveals the essence that can be ascribed to the Form—if his distinction is indeed about modes of acquaintance. Reeve) translate it. there is no incoherence in describing the epistemic acquaintance with a Form Fitself such that it implies that one knows what this Form is like. Platonic theory of objectcognition with respect to Forms should not be construed in this Russellian manner anyway. If somebody is acquainted with the color red. how it is”.15 Yet this point is not really decisive.D. the syntactical structure is the same. and the reason indicated for this is that such a mode of being allows for a firm and stable cognitive grasp (pagiôs noêsai..). Platons Begriff der Wahrheit .M. this Greek phrase is actually somewhat ambiguous between an objectual and a propositional construal: It can certainly be construed in the way just cited.).. Oxford 1963. Yet one can object that the achievement of epistêmê is paraphrased as “to on gnônai hôs echei ” (478A6). and wouldn’t this knowing how it is (or what it is like) be an instance of propositional knowledge? Now. 15 . Since his examples for perfect beings are Forms (the Beautiful itself etc. some at least are. The type of object that corresponds to epistêmê (or gnônai) is said to exhibit unrestricted. Structural Semantics. A general grammatical analysis for the verbs of knowing is provided by John Lyons.(loc. And in their case it is possible to reproduce the content of one’s acquaintance 14 For the possibility of a non-propositional construction doxazein cf. unqualified being-F. the more adequate translation seems to be “knowing that-which-is as it is”.A Grube (revised by C. 479C4). Moreover. they can certainly be said to know ‘what red is like’. cit. An Analysis of Part of the Vocabulary of Plato.C. To begin with. although the content of this knowledge is not expressible in a proposition.

If. The formal object of doxa is characterized by its mode of equivocal being which cannot be determined as being either F or not-F or both or neither (479C3-5). But this is of course the point Plato wants to drive home. g. To be sure. the cognitive achievement of the activity of doxazein is a certain kind of conceptualized representation of an object which is not unequivocally F. But it 16 . But while the grasp of some perfect being like the beautiful itself as beautiful/beauty is stable. it follows that we have to construe doxa as acquaintance with natural or social instantiations of a definitional formula (with some qualifications though—I will come back to this point at the end of my paper). since doxa is described as being of such instantiations. as it were. What then is the characteristic achievement (the ho apergazetai) of doxa with respect to this type of object? Plato says no more than that doxa’s activity is doxazein (478A8) and that it takes place with respect to what is-and-is-not. This does not give us any additional information since the meaning of the verb doxazein depends on how we are supposed to understand the achievement of doxa. or if we see it from a different aspect). it does not seem much of an ‘achievement’ at all. say. while in the mixed ontological case the object eludes this representation as being F since it manifests itself both as F and as not-F. 478C13-14). as being F. is this representation fully warranted. in the light of this.—If this is the ‘achievement’ of doxa. This cognitive mode has no real value. Thus we can say that. The clue we are looking for may lie in the connection between doxa and changing appearance highlighted in section (d). it is granted that we are dealing here with a classification of modes of object-cognition or acquaintance. So it is possible to construe epistêmê as a mode of acquaintance or objectcognition. An object of doxa appears. the conceptual representation of a doxastic instance is unstable as this object can also appear ugly (e. B2. Its representational truth is equivocal and transient the same way as the instantiated being which it represents is equivocal and transient. 479A7. rather a lack of a cognitive achievement. if we change the context and compare it to something much more beautiful. There is more ‘light’ in doxa than in agnôsia (cf. which is the cognitive state in which nothing is presented to the mind—just a total lack of cognition. beautiful and is. a black screen. complete darkness. so that the acquaintance with such an object can provide only an unstable appearance (phainesthai. according to CSA. It is a mode of representation of being which falls short of its object and is unstable because its object lacks genuine being. Both types of cognitive grasp represent their object as being F. it is better than total agnôsia. but only when the object is unqualifiedly F. 4). not a firm and stable intellectual grasp (noêsai). hence. conceived of as beautiful.

the argument in Rep. In other words: They won’t base their judgment on the simple and deceptive appearance of the thing as being F. and they will specify the relevant respects in which the case in question qualifies as an exemplification of (derived) being-F . At this point I want to add some more general remarks as to why Plato bothers to distinguish epistêmê and doxa as two levels of acquaintance with being-F. if epistêmê is conceived as perfected conceptual understanding. So what is the point of doxa as a deficient mode of conceptual understanding for an epistemological theory focused on the idea of the possibility of firm and objective conceptual understanding? Let’s take up again the point about context-relativity and imagine a little example of our own. more amiable philosopher might come to the aide of the lover of sights and submit: “Well. presenting a certain mode of being to the mind and then canceling it out it again. with respect to her looks and as a human being. Annas. Theirs will be a differentiated judgment whose main cognitive basis is acquaintance with the Form itself. they will not simply represent them as being or not being F. I think that this interpretational strategy of construing epistêmê and doxa as two kinds of acquaintance with things that are or appear F. If lover of beautiful sights stands in front of a painting of Helen and exclaims: “She is beautiful!”. V presupposes a certain understanding of knowledge and tries to develop a concept of doxa as its counterpart. they are already on the way to becoming aware of the distinction between Forms and mixed instances.. 17 .is only. is the only way to provide a reading which stands in agreement with the text and does not lead into the absurd consequence that it is impossible to form an opinion about a Form or that one cannot know anything about concrete objects. a flickering light. cit. a mix of light and darkness. Another.16 Now. an uncompromising Platonist in their company would of course retort that this is nothing compared to the beauty of a geometrical construction. loc. rooted in the adequate and firm cognitive grasp of the essence or Form denoted by the concept-word in question. When philosophers (as conceived in the Republic) assess presumed participants of ‘F-itself’ in the physical and social world. They will distinguish between the underived being-F or the Form and the derived being-F that is based on ‘participation’ in F-itself. 193. This more sophisticated judgment is immune against the argument from context-relativity because it specifies the relevant context or respect and thus 16 Cf.” If the lover of sights buys that. it is certainly fair to say that she is extraordinarily beautiful. then we ought to expect that doxa stands for some deficient mode of conceptual understanding. As Julia Annas has rightly pointed out. as it were.

qualifies the attribution of the property in the appropriate way. (This refers us back to the ‘lovers and sights and sounds’. or largeness. they will first cite such examples (types or tokens). which are inspired by an ethical and pedagogical idea according to which the objectivation of our leading concepts is of paramount significance for the realization of human happiness. It is easy to show how. Genuine conceptual understanding would have to have the character of a firm and stable acquaintance with a descriptive content and should not be subject to changes according to context and perspective. it turns out that their appearance of being-F is not clear at all because a change of context will turn the appearance into its contrary. So from the point of view of a theory of conceptual progress. one needs to discuss this mode of acquaintance because it is the basis of our insufficient conceptual understanding before the onset of philosophical investigation. It has analyzed the appearance by situating it in its context. This is the theme of DDA. Only the person who is acquainted with the Form itself and has a clear representation of it in his soul will be 18 . When Socrates scrutinizes such examples presumed to be ‘clear’ instances of something which is F. He will try to make his interlocutors realize that they lack genuine understanding of the property or value in question as long as they rely solely on their acquaintance with socially accepted examples. or what beauty is. Yet the instantiations in the physical and social world cannot provide this because their mode of being is context-relative and unstable. on their acquaintance with what they see as uncontroversial or outstanding examples. CSA fits into the context of the central books of the Republic. the poets as well lack insight into the real nature of the values in question and thus cannot provide any reliable guidance. Yet people who haven’t yet opened themselves to the impact of Socratic dialectic. Yet he will grant that their deficient understanding is more than total ignorance (agnôsia).) Yet like the orators and politicians. from this point of view. poetic productions play a significant role for the Greeks in providing such socially accepted examples. When Socrates asks someone to explain what justice is. They are in an intermediate state which is not knowledge but at least provides some starting-points in the quest for real understanding. because it is examples of that kind which their understanding of the concepts in question is based upon. This kind of realization of context-dependence is the first step toward understanding why the universal content denoted by the concept-word cannot be identical with any of these derived instances or their sum. It does more than just articulate a mode of appearance. This is the theme of CSA. In the case of value-concepts. justice. Genuine conceptual understanding requires that one become aware of the existence of Forms and of the derivative character of determinations in the physical and social world. will rely for their understanding of concepts like beauty.

The word “dunamis” is used in many different ways by Plato. while later on.competent to judge upon and produce things that instantiate the Form in the physical and social world. But they may quite as well go wrong. the concealment of the underlying reality of the Forms. also someone with perfected conceptual understanding can go wrong if their information about the details of the situation is insufficient.e. In my introductory remarks I mentioned the problem that CSA distinguishes epistêmê and doxa as two different powers (dunameis) of the soul. VII. may be lucky enough to hit upon a right answer here and there. the insufficiency as models or standards for judgment and production) together provide the basis for the subsequent epistemological and pedagogical discussions in books VI and VII about how we can advance toward a genuinely true conceptual representation of reality and value. This is the theme of the passage that immediately follows upon CSA (484A-D). It provides the epistemological justification for the contention that the philosophers alone are entitled to rule over a human commonwealth. but has been active all along if with respect to the inappropriate kind of objects. In that sense. In the passage in Rep. not having grasped the essence of justice. 518A-519B. i. His examples of sight and hearing are misleading in that respect because they are faculties. in Rep. genuine conceptual knowledge is infallible. The epistemic acquaintance. 19 . he stresses that the rational dunamis of the soul (the “eye of the soul”) is just one and that it is not implanted into our soul by philosophical or scientific education. VII “dunamis” means a faculty. is likely to have a wider scope. V that sets out CSA. People whose understanding of justice is based solely on their acquaintance with supposedly clear instances of justice and who try to extrapolate from these to new situations with the help of similarities and analogies. Yet the remark in 477E that doxa is apt to fail while epistêmê isn’t. In a way. It seems to characterize the doxastic state of mind in general. Yet in the text in Rep. the answer can be very simple: Since the doxastic representation is not true without qualification.e. the instability of appearance. on the other hand. Ad 4) As to the remaining question in which sense epistêmê is infallible and doxa fallible I can now confine myself to some brief comments. But the cause of their error does not lie in their knowledge of the Form. To be sure. These three aspects of the description of the doxastic state of mind and its objects (i. the cognitive condition that we are in as long as we have not gained an objective foundation for our concepts and rely on examples instead. The lack of adequate and reliable concepts is a the source of mistaken judgements. it is crucial not to interpret “dunamis” as “faculty”. provides a firm and stable representation which is true of its object without any restriction and cannot turn into something false. it cannot be called infallible. indeed the rational faculty of the soul.

there is a clear thematic sequence that links CSA with this passage in Rep. 72-324 (see also idem. Szaif. Rep. Der Wahrheitsbegriff in der klassischen Antike“. Berlin/ New York 2006. The imagery of the Sun is then integrated into the much more complex imagery of the Cave.. belongs to Socrates’ comments about the meaning of the Cave. VII which emphasizes the unity of the rational faculty. Platons Begriff . even though it has not been enlightened by philosophy. the one rational faculty can and does produce doxa-type cognition.). he hinted at the 17 18 Cf. Apeiron 37 (2004). 20 .(loc. VII passage. should not count as genuine interest in knowledge. 5-37. describing them as different achievements of the intellectual faculty (represented as an analogon to the visual faculty) that correlate with the ontological quality of the object of acquaintance such that only an object which exhibits “truth and being” allows for epistêmê.” Elenchos. as described in CSA. Two recent interesting attempts at elucidating the role of alêtheia in the simile of the Sun (which is pivotal for our understanding the role of this concept in the Republic) are Franco Ferrari. idem (eds. When Socrates started his reasoning as to why the kind of ‘learning’ which is provided by theatrical performances or minor crafts. in M. VII. There are several striking passages in books VI and VII that situate this sort competence at the level of doxa. Enders.. E. VII. “La causalità del bene nella Repubblica di Platone.17 So. So all this. 1-32. Only epistemic cognition is able to present an object to the mind that allows for a firm and unequivocal grasp. I want to conclude with some general remarks on the concepts of truth and knowledge18 (as acquaintance with Forms) and about the problem of the assertibility of knowledge in order to shed some more light on the background of CSA. Furthermore. Socrates grants that the rational faculty. “Plato and the Split Personality of Ontological Alêtheia”. Doxa does not achieve that. 516E-517A. 493A-C. B. cit. The rational faculty of the soul. can achieve a high degree of shrewdness and sharpness of mind with respect to these. The Sun follows up on the description of epistêmê and doxa as different cognitive states and powers. can produce cognitive states with different levels of cognitive ‘power’ or ‘force’. from the point of view of Rep. but without real understanding regarding the basic ethical concepts that should lead one’s pursuit of private and public happiness. 488C-E. 518A-519B.). is a product of the rational core of the soul when it is in a deficient condition. This is a kind of competence which is based on experience and socially transmitted ideas. 22 (2001). when it applies itself to the objects and processes of the social or natural world.In the Rep. Hestir. makes it quite clear that also doxa. 109-150. Der philosophische Wahrheitsbegriff in seiner Geschichte. 517D. which is metaphorically named as ‘eye of the soul’.). taken together. On the relation between Plato’s concept of truth and his epistemology cf. and the passage in Rep.

Phd.). This usage is also incorporated into the three central similes of the Republic (cf.19 and that the main goal of the whole curriculum of mathematical and philosophical subjects for the future philosopher-rulers. Rep. 84A8. 212A5. 183-209.20 The concept of ‘truth’ at play here is to a large extent determined by the basic epistemological and metaphysical idea of Plato’s. 21 Cf. van Ackeren (ed. 248C3-4. which is knowledge of the Form the Just). 519B4. alêtheia is understood as reality which can become known. Phdr. 249D5. cognition of the Forms. E2-3. Die Aletheia in Platons Tugendlehre. 511E. knowledge is supposed to be “of the truth” (tês alêtheias. 527B9. V (DDA) 19 Cf. viz. Parm. On this topic. g. Platon Verstehen. knowledge of justice. 526B2-3. Plato has adjusted his talk of truth to the purposes of his epistemology and ontology of Forms. As he points out in his discussion of the theory of Forms in the Parmenides. Perspektiven der Forschung. 489E-490D. cf. the first of the two arguments in Rep. but the different Forms as the objects of the different kinds of epistêmê (e. 508D46. calling the philosophers ‘lovers of the sight of the truth’ (475E). Jan Szaif. A very important factor. Rep. 21 The Parmenides-passage is an example for that because it treats alêtheia as the generic object of generic epistêmê. 510A9. 535 DE. is to let the students become acquainted with ‘the truth’. Symp. Rep. 247D4. though only implicitly. 134A). Rep. for Plato’s understanding of the term ‘truth’ is his tendency to see truth as the relatum of knowledge (epistêmê). 485A-487A. In a similar manner. ta alêthê) to name the whole realm of Forms. At the same time. In this turn of phrase. 730C ff. Since Plato conceives epistêmê primarily as conceptual clarification on the basis of a specific type of object-cognition. 20 E. and he implied that the kind of experience such performances and crafts can provide is irrelevant for the achievement of knowledge because it can grant no acquaintance with ‘the truth’.). the idea that real knowledge and understanding must be based on an objective clarification of our concepts and that this can be achieved only by becoming acquainted with the underlying objective essences or Forms. D6-7). 525C5-6. Darmstadt 2004. in this connection. 21 . Rather he uses the phrase ‘the truth’ (or interchangeably “that which is true”. the crucial end of their cognitive ascent. 515C2.connection between the concepts of knowledge and truth. (see also Legg. Rep. his remark also points forward to one of the central thematic lines that can be followed books VI and VII: The idea that the orientation toward truth and genuine being is the defining characteristic of a philosophical pre-disposition and a philosophical life. viz. g. the corresponding concept of alêtheia as knowable reality is not conceived as the counterpart of assertoric truth (which would be something like facts or existing states of affairs). in M.

On the other hand. 484CD. the Forms. to a specific ontological category of objects. It is the kind of knowledge Plato’s Socrates aims at when he discusses questions like “What is beauty?”. while the being of the instances we are first familiar with. Soph. Phd. into Forms. Crat. e. Yet in the context of Plato’s theory of Forms. 439AB. Yet this meaning does not yet get Plato’s full philosophical attention in the Republic. Now. This concept of truth is adjusted to the purposes of his metaphysical epistemology of acquaintance with Forms. not faulted by the admixture of contrary properties. knowledge is first and foremost knowledge-what23. In CSA. not of propositions. That is why the passage in the Parmenides breaks down truth (alêtheia). 212A (see also Rep.. 67AB explicitly asserts the conceptual connection between truth and purity (to eilikrines). i. Symp. which he does frequently in the books VI and VII. cit. loc. does this mean that the truth which can become known is not assertible at all? For Plato.) Now. Plato speaks of ‘knowing that-whatis as it is. Cf. moreover. the essence itself. 240A). ‘truth’ does not only function as the notion for knowable reality. is particularly prominent in 510A. 22 . 479D5. Yet in the case of a Form knowing the thing as it is is knowing what it is. Also the idea of the Form’s pure and undiluted being-what-it-is. 192. the grasp of essences. it is also a methodological 22 The association between the term “true” (in its attributive meaning) and the idea of the Form as an ‘original’ (the thing ‘itself’) of which certain other things are mere ‘copies’. Annas. only a copy of that which is the only ‘true F’. 23 Cf. the grasp of such an essence is typically described by Plato as a kind of acquaintance (witness the pervasive use of visual metaphors in passages that describe the cognitive ascent to the Forms). as the generic object of knowledge. V. we are also supposed to understand that only the Forms are what they are in a not-derivative way. When Plato identifies the Forms with the ‘the truth’ (hê alêtheia) or ‘that which is true’ (ta alêthê).identifies ‘the truth’ with the Forms by identifying the ability to see or contemplate ‘the truth’ with the ability ‘see’ the Forms. which has the meaning of assertoric truth—a concept that he can’t renounce if he wants to uphold the applicability of the knowledge of Forms to concrete objects in the sensible word.22 These very specific aspects of ontological truth restrict the application of this term to objects and. is supposed be an aspect of the truth of the Forms. is only derivative. if the truth that can become the content of the epistemic representation is a set of intellectual objects. 533A. (It needs to be mentioned that beside this theoretically loaded concept of truth there is also a much more down-to-earth usage of “true” in the Republic and elsewhere . 520C. (The linguistic basis for these connotations of the word “true” is the attributive use of “true”). the use of “eilikrinôs” in Rep.

I want to end by summarizing what I see as three defining characteristics of Plato’s concept of epistêmê that are in the background of the arguments in Rep.principle of dialectical enquiry that it should try to provide a definition of the Form in question. V. this object-cognition is primarily a kind of knowledge-what and as such the foundation for a perfected conceptual understanding which is adequate in virtue of being true to the Forms. knowledge is conceived primarily as a type of object-cognition or acquaintance. with Forms as objects. Otherwise philosophical instruction would be easy and could consist in memorizing definitional formulae. doxa is understood as a developmental stage of conceptual understanding in which a person has nothing but derivative instantiations to rely upon— 24 This is a point that I have not touched upon at all in this paper. (Yet see Jan Szaif. It is the reason why in Plato knowledge as conceptual understanding based on acquaintance with the Forms connects with knowledge as systematic understanding. in an informative way. unanalyzable Forms. is a reified essence such that the content of which the Form is supposed to be the one and only pure instantiation can be ascribed to the Form itself (the so-called ‘self-predication’ of the Form). Yet such an assertion in which the unanalyzable content is predicated of itself. In contrast to this. the question what it is can be answered with an informative definitional statement. this kind of object-cognition connects (in ways that need further investigation) with the ability to assert and rationally defend statements about the Form in question (and ultimately about the whole network of Forms24). The ways in which dialectic can establish knowledge of and acquaintance with Forms. this becomes more transparent in Plato’s later dialogues. can also be asserted of the Form. Thirdly. Yet how it connects with assertibility. Yet even here it seems that this propositional articulation is somehow secondary to the familiarity with the Form which cannot be established simply by learning a definitional formula. In the case of analyzable Forms. Thus this propositional formulation would certainly be secondary to the pre-propositional acquaintance with the Form and not be able to express the truth which has become known. So this type of acquaintance cannot be totally disconnected from assertibility. a definition that can be asserted and defended in an argumentative exchange. would have no more information value regarding the content of this Form than a tautology. “Platon über Wahrheit und Kohärenz. in Plato. This is the minimum of assertibility which is fulfilled even by simple.” Archiv für Geschichte der Philosophie 82 (2000). on the role of the systematicity of dialectical knowledge in the Republic) 23 . Therefore the content which is that as which the Form becomes known. Secondly. are not the topic of this paper though. 119-148. This is definitely not Plato’s position. First. seems to be a rather complex issue in Plato. A Form.

the one pure and faultless instance of being-F—clinging instead to examples in the natural or social world which are accepted by the multitude without a sufficient rational foundation.instantiations of F-itself whose being-F is context-depended and transient. These derivative instantiations will turn out not to provide a reliable basis if someone in this condition is confronted with the question what it is to be an F. the original itself behind the transient images. they will not stand up to the dialectical test. 24 . Not being acquainted with that which is ‘true’—viz.