The Contemplative Knowledge in the Philosophy of Plato

Document Type : Original Article



Plato seeks for a special knowledge that leads human being to the moral virtues and happiness, but his epistemology ends in a negative conclusion at times. It only indicates that knowledge can neither be attained by dialectic nor by any other method pertinent to vocabulary and language, it is also unattainable while the soul is imprisoned in the body. Plato’s solution to this epistemological problem is contemplation (θεωρία). In his middle dialogues, Plato proposes three principal ways of contemplation each of which could be reached by a kind of transcendence. The most important contemplation – described in the Phaedrus- is the one which discarnate soul can achieve through ascending to the realm of divinity. This contemplation is possible for the soul which has already achieved a certain extent of knowledge and has eliminated the mundane concerns with the help of moral virtues. The second way is the contemplation of Beauty as described in the Symposium and the third way is the foregoing contemplation in the allegory of the cave in the Republic VII. In addition to these three ways, there is a hint of contemplation in dream in the Republic IX. It appears that the second and the third and the contemplation in dream depend on the foregoing contemplation in Phaedrus, since they will be obtained in this world and any kind of obtaining knowledge is the recollection of contemplation which the separate soul has gained before its reincarnation (ἀνάμνησις).