I wonder about Plato and, in particular, about his method of reaching the truth. One can suppose that the method is based on the practice of his dualistic philosophy, which would aim to free the soul from the body in order to bring it closer to the world of ideas, i.e., the realm of truth, but this says nothing about the method from a pragmatic point of view. From my readings, it seems to me that the answer is not clearly defined in Plato, notably because of his literary style, which is based on dialogues from which it is sometimes difficult to extract Plato's personal thought (Kraut, 2017).

Through my approach, it seemed important to me to consider the fact that truth, as a Platonic Idea, hardly detaches itself from other major ideas, such as the One, the Good, and the Beautiful. The search for truth thus appears as a path toward more perspective where converge in unity the knowledge of the truth, the good, and the beautiful, in other words, in the sense of enlightenment that encompasses moral philosophy, aesthetics, physical and metaphysical knowledge. This conclusion comes to me mainly from an analytical reading of the allegory of the cave (see Wheeler, 1997).

If this consideration sets enlightenment as the finality of Plato's philosophy, the question remains about how to achieve it, in the sense that coming out of the cave is not very explicit. Mainly interested in the question of truth, I have, therefore, tried to understand Plato's way of defining knowledge, which can be summarized as a Justified true belief (Chappell, 2019). The justification seems to me to be central to this definition, but the nature of the explanation required is not clear, and the pessimistic conclusion of the article suggests that we have learned nothing about what knowledge is. Wolfsdorf (2011) nevertheless tries to define it, relying on the Meno, such that a good explanation would appeal to the notion of cause in the broad sense (aetia), but, primarily according to the author, would also have metaphysical foundations. At this point, I fell into a vicious circle: how can the quest for knowledge as a presupposed path to enlightenment be built on metaphysical foundations, i.e., the end of the path? If I can understand the point, it is difficult for me to see it as a method, unless I lend to Plato, perhaps abusively, the fact that the path to enlightenment is not direct but an iterative process of trial and error, which leads to a certain convergence of thought and knowledge. But could this be Plato's opinion?

This is a first hypothesis. I imagine that for Plato, cultivating a taste for Good and Beautiful is also a path to converge towards the True. However, I am still in the dark as to what could summarize the precepts of his method. Most certainly, dialectics, education, Socratic maieutics, or even the concept of catharsis, although indirectly linked to the question of the True, can just as well find their place there. The following answer ( https://philosophy.stackexchange.com/a/3394/42664) is an interesting beginning of an answer, but it lacks references, and the original question is not especially oriented towards Plato's general method of searching for the truth.

So I come to my main question: can we summarize and frame Plato's thought, I insist in terms of method, to reach the truth? If the answer is no, what remain the central concepts and their interrelationships, even if they do not serve as a method, to reach enlightenment? You can also imagine the question: if Plato were to write a prospectus detailing and motivating his training program at the academy, what would he write?


Kraut, R.: Plato, in The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, edited by E. N. Zalta, Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University. [online] Available from: https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2017/entries/plato/ (Accessed 29 January 2020), 2017.

Wheeler, S. C.: Plato’s Enlightenment: The Good as the Sun, History of Philosophy Quarterly, 14(2), 171–188, 1997.

Chappell, S.-G.: Plato on Knowledge in the Theaetetus, in The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, edited by E. N. Zalta, Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University. [online] Available from: https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/win2019/entries/plato-theaetetus/ (Accessed 13 December 2019), 2019.

WOLFSDORF, D.: Plato’s Conception of Knowledge, The Classical World, 105(1), 57–75, 2011.


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