What is Truth - Comparison of Plato and Peirces Philosophy

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What is Truth?

For thousands of years, mankind has persistently pursued truth, knowledge, and understanding. For most, this pursuit is a driving force which usually doesn’t end until one finds a “truth” that is satisfying to him or her. Even then, however, one may choose to look for an alternate truth that may be even more satisfying to them. This pursuit does not always follow the same path for everyone as there are different ideas as to how truth is actually obtained and which is the best way to obtain it. Two individuals and great philosophers of their time, Plato and Charles Peirce, each had their own ideas on how truth and knowledge could be obtained.

One of the main differences between Plato’s and Peirce’s philosophies regarding truth is that Plato believed truth is founded in knowledge while Peirce believed knowledge could never be obtained. Plato believed that everyone possesses knowledge and the realization of this knowledge could be achieved through recollection. This was demonstrated in Plato’s Meno when Socrates presented the “square of double size” question to the slave boy. Socrates did not teach the slave boy how to get the answer, he merely asked the boy a series of questions and the boy came to the right answer through recollection. In this way, the boy already possessed the knowledge to answer the question correctly. With this philosophy, truth is past-oriented. Past experiences and universal knowledge is the key to truth.

Plato also had the philosophy of dyadic intuitionism. Intuition, Plato believed, is the basis of knowledge. Logical progressions need not be made to determine relationships and discover truth. Plato was closer to the side of the “Realm of Being” as opposed to the “Realm of Becoming”. The ‘Realm of Being” is eternal, involves recollection and acquisition of knowledge, and consists of a more optimistic view of truth.

Peirce, on the other hand, believed that true knowledge could never be obtained. He believed that truth was future oriented. Peirce’s preferred method of pursuing truth was the scientific method. This method consists of forming a hypothesis and trying to disprove the hypothesis through practical evidence. Although Peirce thought the scientific method was the best approach to search for truth, he believed that it could only be used to disprove a hypothesis, and that nothing could be proven for certain. It is through this idea that his belief that knowledge can never be obtained is founded.

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