Plato's Epistemology: Being and Seeming

Jessica Moss

Plato's Epistemology: Being and Seeming presents an original interpretation of one of the central topics in Plato's work: epistemology. Jessica Moss argues that Plato's epistemology is radically different from our own. Going against the grain of recent scholarship, and drawing on ancient interpretations of Plato, Jessica Moss argues that Plato is not best understood as studying what we now call knowledge and belief. Instead, Moss proposes that the central players in his epistemology, episteme and doxa, are each essentially to be understood as cognition of a certain kind of object. Episteme is cognition of what Is - where this turns out to mean that it is a deep grasp of ultimate reality. Doxa is cognition of what seems - where this turns out to mean that it is atheoretical thought that mistakes images for reality. The book defends these characterizations by arguing that they explain important features of Plato's epistemology. In particular, it shows that they underlie and make sense of a view which was long attributed to Plato but has recently been deemed "outrageous": that there is no doxa of Forms, and no episteme of perceptibles. Finally, Moss contends that Plato's epistemology is so different from modern epistemology because it is motivated by his central ethical and metaphysical views. As the Cave allegory illustrates, he holds that the goal of life is to be in contact with genuine Being, and that the greatest obstacle to this goal is our tendency to rest content with appearances. Therefore, when Plato turns to epistemological investigations, the distinction he finds most salient is that between cognition of what Is and cognition of what seems.


Introduction: What is Plato's Epistemology About?
1 Motivating the Experiment
2 Objects-Based Epistemology
3 Episteme is of What Is
4 The Basic Conception of Episteme at Work
5 What is Episteme?
6 Doxa is of What Seems
7 The Basic Conception of Doxa at Work
8 What is Doxa?
9 Epistemology in the Earlier Dialogues
10 Epistemology in the Theaetetus
Conclusion: Plato's Ethical-cum-Metaphysical Epistemology


Jessica Moss is a Professor of Philosophy at NYU. She received her PhD from Princeton in 2004, and has held positions at the University of Pittsburgh and Balliol College, Oxford. She is the author of numerous articles on ethics, moral psychology, and epistemology in Plato and Aristotle, and of the book Aristotle on the Apparent Good: Perception, Phantasia, Thought, and Desire (Oxford, 2012).