Knowledge and Method in Plato's Early and Middle Dialogues

Dissertation, Cornell University (1991)

Jyl Gentzler
Amherst College
The view that there is a break in doctrine between the epistemology expressed in Plato's early/transitional and in his middle dialogues has been influential. In particular, it has been held that Plato's early dialogues are relatively innocent of epistemological concerns, but that to the extent that they are committed to any theory of epistemic justification, it is coherentist. In the middle dialogues, many suggest, Plato adopts some version of foundationalism. I argue that this interpretation of Plato's development is mistaken. ;Plato never explicitly describes the conditions that he places on knowledge in the early and transitional dialogues and the passages in which he describes knowledge in the middle dialogues are cryptic. Nevertheless, Plato provides examples of various methods for acquiring and testing for knowledge. These methods provide a fruitful piece of evidence in favor of my interpretation over others. ;The best way to acquire knowledge, Plato suggests, is to engage in the sort of questioning that one finds in the early and transitional dialogues. This method for acquiring knowledge is never rejected in the dialogues that I examine. Applications of this method serve the purpose of rendering one's belief-set systematically coherent. ;On the basis of my examination of this method, I argue that the development reflected in Plato's early through middle dialogues consists of a filling of the gaps in, rather than of a rejection of, his former views. Specifically, throughout these dialogues, beliefs count as knowledge when they are true and cohere with a sufficiently comprehensive and coherent body of beliefs. Foundations play no role in Plato's epistemology. ;Plato's belief that the Socratic method of inquiry will allow one to achieve knowledge commits him to the view that coherence is evidence of truth. The Theory of Recollection articulated in the Meno and Phaedo provides the basis for a defense of this view
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 51,756
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Commentary on Gentzler 1.Predrag Cicovacki - 1994 - Proceedings of the Boston Area Colloquium of Ancient Philosophy 10 (1):296-311.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Plato's Moral Psychology.Andrew Crawford Houston - 1986 - Dissertation, Cornell University
Desire and Understanding in Plato's Philosophy of Education.Glenn Scott Rawson - 1997 - Dissertation, The University of Texas at Austin
The Hypothetical Method in Plato's Middle Dialogues.Vassilios Karasmanis - 1987 - Dissertation, University of Oxford (United Kingdom)
Virtue, Wisdom, and the Art of Ruling in Plato.Alex John London - 1999 - Dissertation, University of Virginia


Added to PP index

Total views

Recent downloads (6 months)

How can I increase my downloads?


Sorry, there are not enough data points to plot this chart.

My notes