We are reading the Meno as the first assignment for Epistemology. For those of you who don’t know what Meno is, it’s a Platonic Dialogue and Epistemology is a branch of Philosophy that concerns with knowledge. It deals with questions like:
What is knowledge?
How do we get knowledge?
How is knowledge passed on?
What can we know and how can we know it or to what extent can we know it?
The first lecture on Meno and our instructor took us into the same old platonic forms. Again, for those who don’t know about Plato’s forms, here is a picture that might help.
Plato had chairs in mind and so many different kinds of them. He thought there were blue, green, dirty, clean, big, broken, fancy and many other kinds of chairs in the world and somehow the human mind can perceive them all as chairs even though they have different structures. There is something common in all those chairs that makes them all chairs.
Similarly, there are so many different languages in the world. So ‘how are you?’ and ‘kya haal hai?’ are actually different but my brain can perceive them as one. This is only possible if there is something common between them. Only that would allow me to perceive them as the same.
Hence, Plato gave this idea of a perfect realm with perfect forms. So all these chair have the same meaning to you because there is a perfect chair in the ideal realm. The chairs you see in the world are just reflections of that perfect chair; so the truth lies above. And also, these reflections will degrade but the perfect chair remains perfect in its ideal form, somewhere in another world.
Ironically, this has nothing to do with the Meno but that’s how philosophy lectures are. One minute you are here and then you are just somewhere else.
Having said that, let us move on to the questions that were raised in class today.
1. How does the perfect realm explain inventions? Is there an iPad in the perfect realm for all the images of iPads that there are on earth? How long has that iPad been there in the world of ideal forms. If it has always been there why was it not being reflected before the 21st Century. What caused it’s reflection?
2. Similarly, how do you explain some of the immaterial objects that never make it to the physical world. For instance, the unicorns are in our head so we have an idea. It could be a perfect idea but they are no reflections of it in the material world. I wonder why. What about elves, centaurs, fairies, etc?
Hopefully, we will get our answers someday. For now, there are only questions.