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  ― 27 ―

Lecture 10 (7th October 1948)

(Any account of error assumes certain account of knowledge that is not erroneous, so no ground for “relativity of knowledge”.)

The reason why the question of error with the associated questions regarding appearance is evaded in the discussion lies in the assumption already mentioned with which the whole dialogue begins, namely that what we are looking for as knowledge is some type of cognition (the exercise of some faculty) which always gives us truth, which is certain and incapable of error, as against the recognition of the fact which I take to be part of empiricism that it is by the exercise of the very same faculty that we on the one hand know rightly and on the other hand make mistakes. Indeed whatever may have been Plato's precise view of the matter I take the actual outcome of the dialogue to be that if what we are seeking as knowledge is certainty then we cannot work out any theory of knowledge just as it is the outcomes of the Parmenides that if we set up anything ultimate or self-sustaining in the way of being we cannot work out any theory of being.

Realising apparently that there is a difference between the theory of Heraclitus and Protagoras, Socrates further examines the claim of the theory of universal motion to give an account of knowledge - the argument as presented by Burnet as follows.

“When we say everything moves what do we mean by moves? There are two forms of motion, first motion from place to place and second motion from state to state, in other words motion is either locomotion or alteration and if motion is universal it must include both. Since then everything not only moves its place but also alters its state we cannot ascribe any quality to what moves for what we call qualities are nothing but perpetual processes going on between what acts and what is acted upon and accordingly in the vewy moment of being named, the quality is gone.” (Thales to Plato, p. 245.)

(N.B. Sophistical character of the argument: if motion is universal it must include both, but view [?] in Heracliteanism.

Leaving aside the distinction in Heraclitean theory between persistence as involving equality of exchanges and change as involving inequality of exchanges we can advance at the outset a general criticism of the Socratic view here - namely that if a thing had to stay in order to be named - if whatever could be said to be known must be something abiding then the very expressions “motion”, “becoming”, “change”, “process” would be meaningless so that Socrates would not merely have to deny that everything is in motion but would have to deny that the words “change of state” could convey


  ― 28 ―
anything and this criticism emphasises again the importance of the Parmenides in opposition to the doctrine of the Phaedo - the doctrine of the secondary or derivative or incomplete being to what becomes or of process - the point being that unless we accord complete being to what becomes we can give no account of its distinction from or relation to what is but doesn't become, to the true being of the forms. And I would argue this is to deny being which doesn't become, to assert with Heraclitus that true being belongs to becoming or to process.

The next part of the argument against the view that “knowledge is sensation” is the argument from “common sensibles” - that is from things cognised by various senses or at least common to things cognised by various senses. In terms of senses we are said to see colours and hear sounds but if we are aware of anything common to a colour and a sound, this, it is argued, cannot be given by either seeing or hearing but must be due to some other faculty, something we might call “thought” so that there is knowledge other than sensible knowledge and therefore knowledge cannot be identified with sensation. Such characters are same, being, other, like and unlike, also unity and number, odd and even also aesthetic and ethical predicates good and bad, fair and foul. For example, we say sound and colour both are or colour is other than sound or is the same as itself. As Burnet puts it “not one of these common properties has any specific instrument by which it is apprehended as was the case with such properties as sweetness, hardness etc. - it seems rather that in these cases the soul is its own instrument and acts by itself”. Here we have a distinction between sensible qualities ( [?]) known by means of bodily affections and the apprehension of common qualities by means of comparisons and reflections, processes which take place within the soul itself. (As Burnet remarks here we have the beginning of a theory of categories in place of a theory of form.) These categories are recognised by the soul without the help of sense and are used by it to organise the manifold of sense and this kind of cognition leads us to reject the hypothesis that knowledge is sensation and to consider that knowledge resides in the activity of the soul when it is concerned with what is, with being and truth which cannot be apprehended by the affections of the body - that activity is called judgment and the second part of the dialogue is concerned with whether knowledge can be identified [?] with judgment. (i.e., modification of the term used for “opinion” in the Republic.)

It should be noted (cf., Phaedo) that the particulars are not supposed to be known by the body but to be known by the soul through the body or using the body but the forms are known by the soul in itself or using


  ― 29 ―
its own resources and here also the soul would seem to be what knows anything whatever, but if that is so what it knows by means of would seem to be unimportant, would not seem to imply different kinds of knowing since in each case the soul is concerned with something external to itself. It doesn't matter whether the soul is knowing Forms, properties, categories, sounds or colours and it doesn't matter what instruments it is using, we don't have any ground for making a distinction among cognitions as such.

Now if we take what is called an act of comparison or reflection, take the judgment “Sound is not colour”, then whatever is acquainted with that fact knows difference or otherness, knows sound and knows colour. If it were one act of mind that knew sound and another that knew colour and a third that knew otherness or difference there would be nothing to know the fact that sound is not colour.

But in point of fact we don't merely know differences between sound and colour and so on, we know differences within sound and within colour - we know in what are called seeing and hearing not simple sensations or data but complex situations and it is only because we do that any further coordination - any knowledge of additional connections and distinctions - is possible. The very admission that some objects have likeness and unlikeness to one another is an admission that they are complex - that they have not a single quality X but many qualities - in fact what we are said to see by means of our eyes is not colour by itself but coloured things, things having colour or being of this or that coloured kind, i.e., situations or propositions and that is why we can connect what we see with what we touch, why we can say the thing I touch is the thing I see and this is opposed to the view that we recognise one and only one type of quality by means of a given sense, the point being that when we use our eyes we can make certain discriminations better than we can make others (particularly discriminations of colour) but we still see a thing as having a variety of characteristics not just as being coloured and this means that sense knowledge itself is what Plato is here calling judgment - that is knowledge of propositions, so that the occurrence of judgment does nothing to show that there is any type of knowledge other than sense knowledge.




  ― 30 ―
Question why ethical and aesthetic characters included in “common sensibles”. Suggests they are comparisons; Socrates ethical judgments essentially comparative. N.B. Phaedo [?] any quality - question of more or less?

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