How do we know?

If one does not know what something is, can one know anything about it? The answer depends on your definition of “know what something is”. If by “know what something” is you mean to know something as it is in itself than I am very skeptical about your ability to do that. If however, by “know what something is” you mean that you are aware of it, conscious of its presence, and sure of its existence though you may not know it as it exists in itself than my response is most hopeful. I am very skeptical about Man’s ability to know things (any things) as they are in themselves. This however does not lead me to believe that I do not know anything about anything. Consider even the subject of this reading, Meno.

Socrates manages to convince Meno, and most likely the reader too, that they do not know what virtue is as well as they thought they did. He might even convince them that they do not know what virtue is at all. But he cannot ever convince them that they do not know anything about virtue. How can it be shown that they know something about virtue? Namely because they talk about virtue, describe its effects, and can articulate when someone is acting virtuous or is not. Certainly there are somethings that I know not what they are and consequently I know nothing about them. But all the same there are a great many things that although I do not know what they are I know something about them. Of course I must acknowledge that I do not believe I am using the word “know” in the same way that Socrates is. But that is because there are different meanings and understandings of what it means to know. Socrates wishes to focus on the highest form of knowing, that is knowing something as it is in itself. In that regard I agree with him that there seems little hope of ever reaching that place. But there is a kind of knowing that conforms itself to my perceptions and becomes apparent to me. I may not know it in itself but I know its effects, some of its qualities, and I know the part of that thing which conforms to my perceptions.

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