Plato and Descartes on Confusion or the sense of not knowing Essay

January 21, 2022 by Essay Writer


Plato and Descartes contributed immensely to the subject of knowledge. Today, the epistemological themes derived by Descartes continue to drive the modern education. On the other hand, Plato’s thinking has influenced many modern philosophers in respect of the concept of knowledge and ignorance (Wilson 135).

Plato approached the concept of ignorance with an authoritative tone. He was categorical that the only good thing is knowledge whereas the evil one is ignorance. He asserted that the characteristic element of ignorance is self-satisfaction, wherein he who upholds it is neither wise nor good and has no discerning for that which he does not have or need.


In his first meditations, Rene Descartes ventures to explain his doubtfulness of the world around him. He argues that his believes have sharply deceived him before. He presupposes that perhaps he is currently dreaming or God is a deceiver. He asserted that for an individual to be knowledgeable, the subject under review must possess within itself absolute certainty (Wilson 135).

He shared a common thought with Plato that there is universal and objective truth that human beings should discern. In his argument, Descartes suggested that to get the requisite sample that demonstrated absolute truth and, which results in being knowledgeable, eternal doubt is necessary. This brings in the concept of his desire for not knowing.

According to him, Descartes asserts that the need to know enables him to find something free of doubt and, which constitutes knowledge (Wilson 155). This state converges to the idea f knowing through establishing absolute truth. Fundamentally, the idea of not knowing brings about a belief, which must be held in order to sustain the gap created by ignorance or confusion (Garber 58).

He suggested that doubting everything paves the way for one to clear all possible beliefs. In his methodological doubt, Descartes sought to establish a single truth that could be used as the basis for testing all beliefs with a view to determine the ultimate truth.

Descartes held that the more knowledgeable one is, the more he or she discerns to know extensively. Using this statement, Descartes implies that not knowing is beneficial in letting a truth-seeking individual to obtain much knowledge of the single truth (Garber 58). Therefore, in his experience, Descartes believed that confusion or absolute lack of knowledge is necessary to spearhead the search for truth about objects within the context of the world.

He reflects that people are beings existing only as thinking things. This process takes place within the inner most worlds of senses and thoughts (Hall 35). The methodological doubt espoused by Descartes renders individuals to question their beliefs about their physical world. His argument has preoccupied the modern epistemological thought that yields informed inquiry into the objects and subjects within our interactive environment.

Plato’s conception of the world led to his distrust of its changing nature. He argued that no one could understand or know anything concerning the world (Garber 58).

In his quest to explore the notion of ignorance, he sought to distinguish different types of ignorance. Plato defined simple ignorance as the sheer lack of sufficient knowledge or information and double ignorance, which amounted to both lack of knowledge and delusion of beholding genuine knowledge.

However, Platonic philosophy holds that those who do not know, but have a genuine and deep desire for the lasting truth are capable of protesting the limiting features of ignorance. In his submission about knowledge, belief and ignorance, Plato posited that we could not know that which is not true since truth is a necessary condition for knowledge.

Knowledge according to Plato has elements of permanence and certainty as contrasted to relativity and transience. Plato treated knowledge as that which relates to real and infallible, and that one cannot know a falsehood (Hall 26). To be certain that one is knowledgeable, he or she must be void of opinion since an opinion is always mistaken.

Plato’s conceptualization of knowledge is that to know, one should be able to give a logical account of the object in question. In other words, the idea relating to knowledge must be able to identify the elements of nature and elevate them from the rest in all respects. This contrasts with Descartes’ notion, which relies on the idea that to be knowledgeable means to possess a clear and unique idea that forms the basis for gauging all other ideas that come thereafter (Hall 23).

Although Descartes begins with doubt to seek the ultimate truth about the existence of things, he abandons this particular world to embrace the self. Self-doubting and questioning enables one to discover himself in the same way Descartes did. Therefore, not knowing has the capacity to enlighten an ignorant person.

However, it is important to state that from an individual to overcome his state of ignorance he or she must have the will to seek the eternal truth (Descartes 156). He continued to expand his methodology to conclude that if you doubt or question, you develop the tendencies of shaking off the remnants of belief, which do not account for knowledge.

In his popular sentiment, Descartes asserted that, “I think, therefore I am.” This statement has the implication of priori-knowledge in which Descartes “beliefs” in the capacity of empirical forms to result in genuine knowledge. To doubt is an equivalent or connotes lack of pure knowledge about a given phenomenon (Descartes 156). The process of engaging one’s mind in constructive doubt ensures that he unearths the loose truths in order to gain the concrete rock or clay that defines truth.

Descartes believed in the omniscience of God. The epistemological discourses of Descartes have far-reaching elements of confusion. For instance, he supposes that had he without the knowledge about the truth of the existence of God, he would be subject to ignorance and not knowing (Falzon 22). This statement challenges his proof of the existence of God in his claim that there is a deceitful or God or being that endeavors to deceive him.

Since god denotes truth that is undoubted, it cannot be true that this set of truths purportedly deceives his mind. This confusion is somewhat a blessing in disguise since it calls upon him to begin imagining and actively thinking in order to arrive at a conclusive remark about knowledge.

He, in his methodological doubt presents the two sides of the coin by demonstrating the distinguished importance of having knowledge as contrasted to ignorance. In general, Plato contends that ignorance is born of a foolish man who cannot attain any good since goodness is the result of true knowledge held and practiced by an individual (Falzon 22).


The notion of not knowing in both Plato’s suppositions and Descartes’ converge to lay emphasis on the significant role played by ignorance to enlighten as well presenting its limiting sense to mankind. According to Plato, belief exhibited a lack of truth and the knowledge by the believer. Plato utilizes the posteriori –knowledge in understanding the elements of truth as contrasted to Descartes, who believed in the experimental truth.

Works Cited

Descartes, Rene. Meditations on First Philosophy. New York: NuVision Publications, LLC, 2007. Print.

Falzon, Christopher. Philosophy goes to the movies: an introduction to philosophy. New York: Routledge, 2002. Print.

Garber, Daniel. Descartes’ metaphysical physics. University of Chicago : University of Chicago Press, 1992. Print.

Hall, Robert. Plato. New York: Routledge, 2004. Print.

Wilson, Dauler. Descartes. New York: Routledge, 1982. Print.

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