Things Can be Otherwise – Session 2

The Theory of Knowledge

Key Vocabulary:

  • Epistemology – the their of knowledge
  • Metaphysics – the nature of reality
  • Mimesis – imitation, representation
  • Techné – doing things well/ technical
  • Nihilist – nihilism is denial of any higher source/ truths such as ‘God’
  • Empirical World – appearance of reality
  • Dialectic – argument

In this session we explored what knowledge is and also explored Plato’s and Nietzsche’s theories into knowledge.

Knowledge as the representation or a grasp of how things are.

Knowledge can broken down into three categories….

  1. To know how to ride a bike (bodily tactic knowledge).
  2. To know by acquaintance Berlin (somewhere you have been or something you own i.e. iPhone etc.)
  3. To know by description the factors leading up to the events of 9/11.

Discussion of Plato’s theory then took place. Plato was a philosopher in Classical Greece who lived in 5th century B.C. His epistemology is supported by his metaphysics. He is an essentialist, meaning knowledge of the forms – seeing things in their reality, their essence. With Plato, truth is singular: the Forms and the Form of the Good. It is like the simile of the cave; the cave is the reality but there is a higher reality which we can’t see, Republic 514a-520d.

‘The sun, I think you will agree, not only makes the things we visible, but causes the process of generation, growth and nourishment, without itself being such a process.’  Plato, Republic, 509b.

Plato also believed that Art deceives, it imitates as the artist copies the shadows in the cave (referencing back to the cave simile). It is the thought that people might mistake the copy for the reality: Art tricks the eye. It is understood that Plato looks at a singular form form for knowledge.

SOCRATES: The art of representation is therefore a long way removed from the truth. Republic, 597e-598b.

However, working with appearance only gives opinion.

IGNORANCE ______________ OPINION ______________ KNOWLEDGE

‘Since knowledge is related to what is, and ignorance, necessarily, to what is not, we shall have to find out whether to what lies between them there corresponds something between ignorance and knowledge…’ Plato, Republic, 477a.

Opinion looks at the appearance but knowledge looks at the function.

Nietzsche on the other hand was a nihilist and so had very different views to Plato. He was a German Philosopher born in 1844. He helped to define the Modern era and the idea that knowledge does not come from a  singular form and denied the idea of any higher source/ truths such as God.

Also unlike Plato, for Nietzsche Art was a means to display something within the world. It was a person’s interpretation of what they perceive in the world.

‘A painter without hands who wished to express in song the picture before his mind, would by means of this substitution of spheres, still reveal more about the essence of things than does the empirical world.’ On Truth and Lie, 69.

As ideas stretch through time, they can inform our thinking today, however, ideas can change and alter the way we may perceive something, such as these two opposing theories. To put it simply; Nietzsche looks at forces whereas Plato looks at forms. I personally agree more with Nietzsche. I believe that knowledge can be drawn from different forces, I believe Art is a representation of something within the world and communicates knowledge through description. However, I do also believe in God and can understand Plato’s perspective and theory, but I do not think that knowledge comes from a singular form as I believe there are different forms of knowledge that can be acquired through different methods; art being one of them.

Key Points:

  • Knowledge is always theorised – given different points of view.
  • Knowledge can be more than one thing – it can be two things depending on Plato and Nietzsche.




Author: marislathamgraphics

I am a student at Cardiff Metropolitan University studying BA Hons Graphic Communication.

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