In dialogues like Cratylus and Theatatus, it seems to me that Plato paints a very skeptical picture of our capacity to know or articulate knowledge. In Cratylus he doubts the possibility of language to ever be flawless, to ever be perfectly isomorphic to its referents, and to ever be rid of conventionalism. In Theatatus he fails to arrive at a definition of knowledge, rejecting knowledge as being true opinion or even being true opinion with an account.

Given these, I am left wondering how Plato justifies our knowledge of the forms. If he can't come up with a general definition for knowledge how does he know we actually have knowledge in the instance of the forms? And does he believe our knowledge of the forms to be direct, bypassing any linguistic or symbolic medium?

I have so far been fascinated by Plato's insight and am keen to develop an understanding of him, so any insight would be appreciated.

  • Theaetetus 201 c-d and Meno 97a-98b are usually interpreted as defining knowledge as justified true belief. As for the forms, we have innate knowledge of them by anamnesis, which is indeed pre-linguistic.
    – Conifold
    Apr 9, 2020 at 21:32
  • @Conifold But Socrates proceeds to cast aside the JTB paradigm in Theaetetus 209-210a. Though I can see how the Meno section would support it.
    – Joa
    Apr 9, 2020 at 22:35
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    On the standard reading of Theaetetus, what Plato does in 201-210 is not cast out JTB, but cast out all versions of JTB other than his own, see SEP, Plato on Knowledge in the Theaetetus
    – Conifold
    Apr 9, 2020 at 23:13
  • Hintikka's Knowledge and its Objects in Plato seems to have demonstrated convincingly enough that generally speaking Knowledge and Belief for Plato are different faculties and they do not have the same objects. JTB is a recent invention and it has been projected back in order to gain respectability (there was a recent discussion here of the JTB myth).
    – sand1
    Apr 10, 2020 at 8:50
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    @sand1 Dutant in Legend of the Justified True Belief Analysis also suggests that the ascription of JTB to Plato and "tradition" was inspired by Gettier's 1963 paper. But the current orthodoxy still interprets Theaetetus and Meno as endorsing it. It is easy to disprove that the "tradition" adhered to JTB, what Plato himself meant is murkier, even though this reading of him was most certainly motivated by Gettier.
    – Conifold
    Apr 10, 2020 at 9:25


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