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Understanding and living of Plato and Descartes’

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  1. Introduction
  2. The nature of understanding
    1. Trusting of the senses
    2. Interpretation of allegory of the cave in 'The Republic'
  3. The nature of living
    1. Quality of life
    2. Living life in greater detail
  4. Comparisons
    1. Valid points of both the philosophers
    2. The weakness of Descartes' position
    3. Plato's different set of issues
  5. Descartes' edge over Plato
  6. Conclusion
  7. Works cited

Both Plato and Descartes have a lot to say about human nature. One aspect of the subject that stands out most for me are the discussions of how a person knows and understands things, or one might call it, "what is the nature of understanding?" Related to that is the subject of what a person is supposed to do based on what they know, which we might call the nature of living or correct conduct. Descartes is concerned to prove he exists, and in his second Meditation he gives the example of the ball of wax. He thinks he knows and understands it by its characteristics, but then it changes when exposed to heat, so what does he really know?

[...] Of course, this very left brain approach is also limited for exactly that reason: as noted above, it is very rational and risks not giving enough room or value to non-rational styles and approaches to solving problems or living in society. That's something we seem to be grappling with today, but it is also a shortcoming built into Descartes' philosophy. Still, between the two of them, Descartes can be "operationalized", so to speak, and therefore seems the more practical of the two. [...]

[...] By the same token, he draws a picture of a society and ways of being that seem, at the end of the day, not very likely to happen or achievable by just folks. Or, if achievable, then maybe by some elite group (like the "just" aristocrats, or the "unjust" men who fool people around them into thinking they're just) that might or might not really have a handle on all this Good and Truth and Enlightenment. It seems like Plato likes to put people in little boxes: people are types, and can act inside a certain framework, but beyond that he doesn't hold out hope for Joe Average to reach these heights he describes. [...]

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