Aristotle’s “Knowing How” and Plato’s “Knowing That” Essay

September 8, 2022 by Essay Writer

Ryle’s Views

Gilbert Ryle, a British philosopher who worked at Oxford University, considers the concept of knowledge in two dimensions such as “knowing how” and “knowing that”. The actions that include mental concepts and the description of how to bring them to their completion, as a rule, refer to “knowing how” (Fridland 708). For example, knowledge of how to play the guitar or how to speak German may be noted. Stating that a person “knows how” means to assert that he or she is capable of particular actions, and his or her behavior in this sense is moral as it follows certain rules.

In order to make sure of knowledge existing in the context of “knowing how”, one does not need to assume certain hidden processes and events related to the inner layer of consciousness. It is considered that a person knows how to read German or play the guitar in case his or her actions coincide with those that are expected from reading or playing. For some purposes, for example, didactic ones, one can formulate “knowing that”, which can be understood as a theoretical type of information about action planning and implementation. Therefore, Ryle believes that there is a fundamental difference between the identified knowledge dimensions.

Main body

Aristotle’s knowledge serves as a moment in which the stratification of existence is reflected. In this perspective, it is built by Aristotle in terms of the distinction between possession and use/action. The goal of Aristotle is knowledge in action and real knowing, which merge in the higher stratum of existence – the active mind (Ross 22). In his works, Aristotle integrates ideas from separate fields to the world of phenomena and considers them to be formed, through which sensory and obtainable objects are shaped per se. The philosopher subjects his study to nature, earth, and objects, systematizing data obtained about them and formulating general laws based on logical proofs as well as conclusions.

In his turn, Plato views knowledge, truth, and beauty in the supersensible world as opposed to Aristotle. Plato contrasts ideas to the world of phenomena: things – to a phantom and fragmented reflection of truth. Plato is the philosopher of the ideal, and Aristotle is a realist yet he does not deny the ideal or oppose concepts of reality. Indeed, ideas are not opposed to the world, but they are realized in it as the essence of things cannot be detached from knowing how to explore them. Plato considers ideas in the form of entities distinguished from phenomena that form an original reality, while he strives to rise above nature and bases the core of his views on the supersensible matter (Zeyl 52). For Plato, knowledge of the world consists of penetrating into the idea that determines every individual thing. When a person is able to understand and “know that” this is a particularly beautiful thing, he or she will know the beauty of many things. Understanding the very essence of a beautiful material body, a person will understand ideas, namely, their meaning.

Reflective Engagement

In my point of view, Aristotle’s “knowing how” reflects the essence of moral knowledge. It should be emphasized that Aristotle considers true knowledge to be different from the common attitudes of the majority of people. While he precisely specifies the distinction between practical life and knowledge, this theorist creates close relationships between philosophy and experienced knowledge. Thus, philosophy is divided by Aristotle into theoretical and practical. The task of theoretical philosophy, in his view, is, to sum up, the experience data under the unity of the concept and to derive from the general truths particular issues (Hughes 87). Aristotle never claimed that matter is primary in relation to the idea as he has plenty of statements in the opposite sense. Nevertheless, the main tendency coincides with positivism: Aristotle, in contrast to Plato, is interested not so much in the inner essence of being but in the fundamental principle of the world as such in the interrelationship of various things and concepts with each other. Likewise, positivists, he does not strive in-depth yet decomposes knowledge into parts.

The above approach seems to fit the concept of moral knowledge the best, which can be understood as beliefs and expressions shaping one’s attitude towards the objective reality. Aristotle recognizes the reality of the world of phenomena. All his polemic against Plato’s philosophy is based on the fact that ideas that are in a smart place outside of reality do not explain things or fill them, but only double and repeat them. In fact, ideas as living forces may be defined by every movement, development, and life in general, as can be observed in Aristotle’s philosophy. Taking into account the fact that the views of the above philosopher are associated with the detailed exploration of the concepts that are also known as ideas, it becomes evident that this approach provides more opportunities to ensure moral knowledge. Thus, it becomes evident that knowledge can be rejected, verified, and reconsidered in terms of actions led by “knowing how” and contributing to moral knowledge.

Works Cited

Fridland, Ellen. “Knowing‐How: Problems and Considerations.” European Journal of Philosophy, vol. 23, no. 3, 2015, pp. 703-727.

Hughes, Gerard. Routledge Philosophy Guidebook to Aristotle on Ethics. Routledge, 2013.

Ross, David W. Nichomachean Ethics. Aristotle. Kitchener, 1999.

Zeyl, Donald J. Plato. Gorgias. Hackett, 1987.

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