Event Detail

Thu Apr 13, 2017
Howison Library, 4–6 PM
Philosophy Colloquium
Jessica Moss (New York University)
Is Plato’s Epistemology about Knowledge?

Abstract: It is widely assumed that when Plato talks about epistêmê he is talking about knowledge. Recently that assumption has come under attack: much of what Plato says about epistêmê - that it requires an explanatory account, or that it is exclusively of Forms, or that it cannot be transmitted by testimony - makes more sense if we interpret it instead as what philosophers nowadays call ‘understanding.’

Should we conclude that Plato’s epistemology is not about knowledge after all? Or, as some have argued, that he confused knowledge with understanding? And how should we go about settling such questions - what would count as evidence that Plato was, or was not, talking about knowledge?

I propose an answer to these questions by looking at the features Plato treats as characterizing a general concept of epistêmê, by contrast with a substantive theory. I conclude that his general concept of epistêmê is very like our general concept of knowledge; the radical features of his substantive theory are due primarily to features of his metaphysics rather than of his epistemology.