Imaginary Plato-Style Dialogue between Socrates and Descartes
Write an imaginary Plato-style dialogue between Socrates and Descartes. The subject should be the role
of God in human knowledge. Assume that Socrates speaks for Plato. Hint: Plato does not give a big role
to God (or the gods) while Descartes does. This piece should be about 1000 words.
Socrates: Hello, Rene. How have you woken up this morning? The morning seems cold and
chilly, not like it was yesterday.
Descartes: Hi Socrates, my morning is fine. However, the chilly weather does not favor me as I
am suffering from a fever. I want to go and see a physician for some medicine. Well, this
reminds me of how much God has endowed humans with vast resource of knowledge in all
fields. Hey Socrates, how could the lives of humans be on earth without the intervention of God
to provide us with the knowledge and wisdom of handling challenges that we encounter in life
such as illnesses?
Socrates: Well, friend. I agree with you that humans have a vast resource of knowledge. Indeed,
knowledge is a vital element in lives of humans. It offers the best way through which humans
can live satisfying lives. However, I do not agree with the idea that God has a role in human
knowledge. God’s wisdom and knowledge are supernatural and involves imaginary things,
which cannot be perceived by the human eye. On the other hand, human knowledge is based on
ideas and things that can be observed (Aquinas, 1981). Therefore, there is no connection between
the knowledge that humans possess and God’s role in it.
Descartes: Oh! That sounds sad. How can a person live without acknowledging the significant
role that God plays in the lives of humans including the provision of knowledge? When we are
born, each one of us is often endowed with a specific knowledge in a given area (Aquinas, 1981).
IMAGINARY PLATO-STYLE DIALOGUE 3
As we grow up, God opens our minds and gives us the strength to discover and exploit the
wisdom and knowledge, which he gave us at the time of birth. Thus, many individuals manage to
use this knowledge and wisdom in various fields such as medicine, engineering, and finance
Socrates: My friend, I do not see any connection between the ways of God and that of humans
in terms of knowledge and wisdom. Humans deal with physical objects that can be touched.
Besides, the solutions to human problems have been obtained from sources that can be seen and
touched. On the other side, God’s knowledge is based on a high form of illusion that exists
within the minds of those who profess to believe in such knowledge.
Descartes: There, you get it wrong again friend. There exists a robust connection between the
knowledge that humans possess and God. God is a spirit and his ways are not known to humans.
Moreover, God’s ways cannot be comprehended by humans (Aquinas, 1981). Thus, the
knowledge that comes from God is manifested in the lives of humans through the difficulties or
impossibilities that humans solve. As such, the knowledge that humans have is a perfect
representation of God’s knowledge at the simplest level of form.
Socrates: Still, I do not agree with your opinion. Human knowledge is gained from a long period
of encounter with various objects and events in life. For instance, several discoveries that have
been made in the field of medicine are attributed to a long period of hard work and dedication on
the part of the discoverers. As such, human knowledge is derived from one’s mind since such
ideas exists innately and latently in the human mind (Aquinas, 1981). Given that God has
supernatural potentials, I do not think that it could take humans such a long period to come up
with such discoveries if human knowledge comes from God.
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Descartes: Well, I think you need to understand three events that are involved in the lives of
humans I relation to knowledge. First, you need to know that the soul can manage to comprehend
corporeal things when united with the body. Second, you need to know order and mode of
understanding (Aquinas, 1981). Lastly, you need to comprehend what human intellect knows in
immaterial things. Understanding these three elements are vital in revealing the role that God
plays in human knowledge.
Socrates: Okay, I request that you elaborate the three elements for me.
Descartes: All right friend. You should know that the soul recognizes bodies via intellect by
means of knowledge, which is universal, immaterial, and necessary. However, it is only God
who has the ability to comprehend all things. Besides, the cognitive mind possesses the ability to
develop principles of comprehending concepts of sensation. Therefore, individual objects of
human knowledge are not acquired from platonic forms but from God’s mind. In relation to this,
intellectual knowledge or wisdom is established by a conjunction of active intellect and passive
senses (Aquinas, 1981). As such, it is difficult for the intellect to comprehend anything in the
absence of mental images. Therefore, the intellect understands or comprehends by means of
abstracting from mental images, which enables it to attain some understanding of immaterial
things. On the contrary, the human understanding of events is not similar to the mental images or
phantasms. In addition, contingent events or objects are recognized by the intellect only.
Although God has the power to know events of the future, humans have the understanding of
causes and effects as result of the soul’s intervention (Aquinas, 1981). In the real sense, human’s
soul comes from God which helps in revealing the role of God in human knowledge.
Socrates: Thank you friend. You have provided me with a detailed information on what I did not
know. Have a nice day.
IMAGINARY PLATO-STYLE DIALOGUE 5
Descartes: Welcome and have a nice day too.
Aquinas, T. (1981). Summa Theologica of St Thomas Aquinas. Louisville, Kentucky:
Westminster John Knox Press.