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Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy, Volume 51$
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Victor Caston

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780198795797

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: February 2017

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198795797.001.0001

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Understanding Epistēmē in Plato’s Republic

Understanding Epistēmē in Plato’s Republic

Chapter:
(p.41) Understanding Epistēmē in Plato’s Republic
Source:
Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy, Volume 51
Author(s):

Whitney Schwab

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198795797.003.0002

This paper reconstructs the conception of epistēmē advanced in Plato’s Republic and defends the claim that epistēmē of perceptibles is impossible from two long-standing objections: that it is philosophically implausible and that it undermines Socrates’ argument that philosophers should rule. The paper argues that epistēmē consists in grasping how a fact either is a fact about or is grounded in facts about natures. It was thus natural for Socrates to rule out epistēmē of perceptibles, since the fact (as he sees it) that predicates apply to perceptibles only in certain circumstances plausibly entails that facts about perceptibles are not appropriately grounded in facts about natures. Nevertheless, philosophers’ opinions (doxai) concerning perceptibles are authoritative because they are informed by their epistēmē of intelligibles (in an analogous way, it is here suggested, to how doctors’ medical opinions concerning particular matters of health are authoritative because they are informed by their understanding of health).

Keywords:   epistēmē, doxa, knowledge, understanding, opinion, expertise, authority, Two-Worlds, epistemology, Plato’s Republic

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