3: Seeking Wisdom

Lesson Objectives

Plato the teacher  points to the reality "up there," while Aristotle, his student, points to the only reality—"down here".

Key Terms

Allegory of the Cave
World of Becoming
World of Being
Ideal World/World of Forms
The Four Causes

  • Read, analyze, and critique philosophical texts
  • Articulate key conceptual distinctions between classical views of reality
  • Demonstrate knowledge of the Ideal World, the worlds of Being and Becoming, teleology, entelechy, and Aristotle’s Four Causes.

I. Metaphysics and Epistemology

  • A. Metaphysics - beyond physics
    • Is there a reality beyond our physical senses?
    • Meaning of life
    • Free will
    • Nature of the mind
    • The way things really are
  • B. Epistemology - the study of knowledge
    • Making a proper claim
    • What is truth?


Plato is dear to me; but dearer still is truth.

II. Plato’s Allegory of the Cave

  • A. Allegory illustrates
    • what knowledge does for the individual
    • how a knowledgeable individual is received by the masses
    • the difference between the world the uninitiated see and the world the critical thinker sees
  • B. Conclusions from the Allegory
    • The acquisition of knowledge causes pain
    • Philosophers who attempt to share knowledge have often been punished
      • the "ignorance is bliss" cliché
    • The critical thinker sees truth; the uninitiated see misunderstandings
  • C. How do we acquire knowledge?
    • Knowledge requires certainty
    • Therefore Plato intuits that knowledge is unchanging, eternal, and non-physical and must come from a place that is likewise:
      • Unchanging: does not change due to new circumstances
      • Eternal: does not age
      • Non-physical: isn't subject to the normal laws of physics

Allegory of the Cave

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III. Theory of the Forms

  • A. The world of Becoming (the everyday world of existence)
    • Use our senses to learn about this world
    • Constantly changing, evolving, and disappearing
    • The world of appearance
  • B. The world of Being (or, the higher world of ideas: literally, "the ideal world")
    • Use our reason to learn about this world
    • Unchanging, eternal
    • This is the realm of the true forms
  • C. Navigating the World of Becoming and the World of Being
    • The difference between the world of Becoming and the world of Being is vast
    • We discern the Forms through reason
    • Even though we live in the world of Becoming, we know about the world of Being
    • Plato reasons this means we have experienced this world in the past

IV. Aristotle’s Teleology

  • A. Differences from Plato
    • No World of Being/World of Becoming
    • This devalues the world of experience
    • This makes the world less worthy of serious study
    • This keeps people from genuine knowledge
  • B. Teleology (telos - end; logos - reason)
    • Everything has a goal, a reason for being
    • Achieving this goal is entelechy
    • The purpose of a knife is to cut. A good knife cuts well.
    • The purpose of a fire is to burn. A good fire burns hot and brightly.
    • The purpose of a person is to think. A good person learns.

Logic Week 3: Modus Tollens