All Learning is Just Recollection- Excerpts From “Selected Dialogues of Plato”

The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing- Socrates

If you don’t know anything, how can you enquire about something of that which you don’t know? If you don’t know anything, and you enquire to learn about something, how can you be sure the information you are learning is true, when you have no prior knowledge of what you are enquiring about?

‘Meno’ 

Socrates: … And now I know not what virtue is, and you seem to be in the same case, although you did once perhaps know before you touched me. However, I have no objection to join with you in the enquiry.

Meno: And how will you enquire, Socrates, into that which you do not know? What will you put forth as the subject of enquiry? And if you find what you want, how will you ever know that this is thing which you did not know?

The soul, being immortal and everlasting, sees the beginning, and the end. It is the soul that holds all knowledge pertaining to your life cycle.

“The soul, then, as being immortal, and having been born again many times, and having seen all things that exist, whether in this world or in the world below, has knowledge of them all; and it is no wonder that she should be able to call to remembrance all that she ever knew about virtue, and about everything; for as all nature is akin, and the soul has learned all things, there is no difficulty in her eliciting or as men say learning, out of a single recollection all the rest, if a man is strenuous and does not faint; for all enquiry and all learning is but recollection.” (Socrates, 171).

For a simple visualization, I will include a demonstration by Socrates. Socrates will be using one of Meno’s slaves to prove that what he says is true, per Meno’s request. Keep in mind, this slave is ignorant to geometry.

SocratesTell me, boy, do you know that a figure like this is a square?

Boy: I do.

Socrates: And you know that a square has these for lines equal?

Boy: Certainly.

Socrates: And these lines which I have drawn through the middle of the square are also equal?

Boy: Certainly.

Socrates: And if one side of the figure be of two feet, and the other side be of two feet, how much will the whole be? Let me explain: if in one direction the space was of two feet, and in the other direction of one foot, the whole bound would be of two feet taken once?

Boy: Yes.

Socrates: But since this side is also of two feet, there are twice two feet?

Boy: There are.

Socrates: Then the square is of twice two feet?

Boy: Yes.

Socrates: And how many are twice two feet? Count and tell me.

Boy: Four, Socrates.

Socrates: And might there not be another square twice as large as this, and having like this the lines equal?

Boy: Yes.

Socrates: And of how many feet will that be?

Boy: Of eight feet.

meno_square

The conversation continues to where Socrates led the boy to accurately tell the length of a line on the side of a double square. The point of this illustration was to prove to Meno that Socrates is not teaching the boy anything, but rather asking questions. The boy claims to have ‘spontaneously recovered’ knowledge, and must have came from the past life.

The universe is within you. You can learn anything you want. It is just a matter of recollection. “What’s important here is to realize that Plato believes that knowledge of the Forms can be drawn out of all of us by the process of education; and the better our education, the better our ability to recognize the Forms in the world.” (Watson).

Plato, P., Jowett, B., & Pelliccia, H. (2000). The selected dialogues of Plato: The Benjamin Jowett translation. New York: Modern Library.

(n.d.). Retrieved May 4, 2018, from http://stevewatson.info/courses/IntroductionToPhilosophy/lectures/plato_on_knowledge.htm

 

 

 

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