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Philosophy: The Perception of Truth

Can Truth be Known Based on the Writings of Aquinas and Plato?

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Philosophers have varying interpretations of the truth as human beings understand the meaning of the word. According to Aquinas, truth resides not in the human intellect but in things (Knight, 2017). This belief applies when the truth cannot be real until it is proven with facts. For instance, the stones beneath the earth’s surface can be perceived as unreal because they cannot be seen until the earth is exposed. Once revealed, these stones become truth because they can be seen and touched (Knight, 2017). However, the human intellect would not have perceived these stones as real because they were in a position that the human intellect could not interpret as true at the time.

Similarly, the idea that space and other planets exist cannot ultimately seem true in the human intellect until one sees the natural settings from space. Seeing these planets proves their existence, and it becomes inarguable that they truly exist. Aquinas postulates that God is truth based on the nature of his existence and actions (Knight, 2017). God judges all things and understands all intricacies of existence; hence his divine intellect is the truth.

On the other hand, Plato elaborates that the concept of truth is based on one’s perception of things and the illusion that is presented to emulate what may be termed as truth or not (Jowett, 2017). The analogy used in Allegory of the cave illustrates how the human intellect can be tricked into believing that something is true based on what they can see. Plato explained that the people who were imprisoned in the cave thought that the shadows in the cave were actual people because they were already used to seeing shadows, and they believed that it was the truth based on what their eyes showed them and their perception of the particular experience.

However, Plato continues and explains that things would certainly change if someone found out that they were prisoners in the cave and the true nature of the shadows. Such a person would pity the rest in the cave and no longer focus on the shadows because they understand the truth. It would be needless for such a person to convince the rest who have their truth that they have perceived things erroneously all along. Similarly, humans perceive their material existence as the truth, but as the analogy by Plato suggests, the human intellect is limited in terms of what is truly the truth. It is a phenomenon caused by the lack of sufficient knowledge and understanding of the universe.

Does either writer (or do both) sound like they are describing what we have termed cosmic or nomic truth?

Both Aquinas and Plato sound like they explain that cosmic and nomic truth may be true, but there is no certain way to determine it unless there is some supernatural intervention. The two philosophers argue that the perception of truth is highly determined by the intellectual interpretation of one’s surroundings based on what is exposed. Therefore, human beings interpret the world around them according to what they can see and touch (Jowett, 2017). However, there may be much that remains hidden, just like the cave dwellers thought they understood the world around them and interpreted it as the truth based on the limited information at their disposal.

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Jowett, B. (2017). The Allegory of the cave. Enhanced Media.

Knight, K. (2017). Summa Theologiae: Home. Web.

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