Professor of Philosophy
New York University
It is widely assumed that when Plato talks about epistêmê he is talking about the very same thing contemporary epistemologists have in mind when they talk about knowledge. Recently that assumption has come under attack: much of what Plato says about epistêmê - that it requires an explanatory account, or a grasp of definitions or essences or first principles, or that it cannot be transmitted by testimony - makes much more sense if we interpret it instead as what philosophers nowadays call ‘understanding.’ Should we conclude that Plato’s epistemology is not about knowledge at all? Or, as some have argued, that he confused knowledge with understanding? Furthermore, how should we go about settling such questions - what would count as evidence that Plato was, or was not, talking about knowledge? I propose an answer to these questions on which Plato’s general concept of epistêmê is very like our general concept of knowledge, while his detailed, substantive theory of epistêmê differs radically from the contemporary theory of knowledge due primarily to features of his metaphysics.