Philosophy: Plato’s Theaetetus Essay

1196 words - 5 pages

Plato’s Theaetetus is one of the most read and interpreted texts under the subject of philosophy. Within the dialect, many topics and questions are analyzed and brought to light. Leon Pearl is the author of Is Theaetetus Dreaming?, which discusses the positions taken on the topic of ‘dreaming’ and ‘being awake’, which is conferred about within the Theaetetus. Pearl critiques the question: “How can you determine whether at this moment we are sleeping and all our thoughts are a dream; or whether we are awake and talking to one another in the waking state” asked by Socrates within Plato’s Theaetetus (Pearl, p.108). Pearl first analyzes the question from the skeptic’s point of view and then proceeds to falsify the skeptic’s argument by his own interpretation, stating that “if a man is awake and believe that he is awake, then this constitutes a sufficient condition for his knowing the he is awake” (Pearl, p.108). Within Pearl’s argument, the conclusion at the end of section II becomes questionable when considering that knowledge and true belief have no distinction in the ‘awake state’ of mind.
At the end of Pearl’s section I, the skeptic concludes that, “it is not possible for Theaetetus to know that he is awake”, which is exactly what Pearl is trying to refute through the concepts of ‘waking’ and ‘dreaming’ in section II (Pearl, p. 109). Pearl first begins by considering how an observer would justify whether Theaetetus does or does not know that Theaetetus himself, is awake. Through this example he forms multiple premises, which lead him to form his final conclusion that based on “the ground that there can be no meaningful distinction betweens a man’s possessing the true belief that he is awake from his knowing it to be a fact”, “a man is awake and believes it, constitutes as a sufficient condition for his knowing that he is awake” (Pearl, p.110). He ends section II by telling the reader that for the “skeptic to be silenced”, he needs to state why there is no meaningful difference between true belief and knowledge in our ‘awake’ state, which he then proceeds to presents in section III (Pearl, p. 111).
Pearl’s mission in section III is to show “what causes a man to believe that he is awake constitutes a sufficient condition for his knowing that he is awake”, by considering the state of beliefs and memories when ‘dreaming and ‘being awake’ (Pearl, p. 111). Pearl’s first premise states that “our concept of ‘being awake’ involves not only that a man is aware of his surrounding but also that his thoughts are effected by beliefs and memories which are dormant when dreaming” (Pearl, p.108). He continues to say that when a person is dreaming, most of their memories and beliefs are “stored away in a cabinet of [their] mind” and become thought inoperative, but in some cases when a person is dreaming, “there are some [memories and beliefs] which are not [inoperative] and remain operative throughout the dream” (Pearl, p. 111). Pearl explains, “What causes a...

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