The stylized heroes of Homer’s legendary Trojan war and the real soldiers of their own contemporary campaigns, the athletes at the Olympic games and the orators in political debates—all of these, whether they fought for survival or retribution or the common good, were also seeking honor from their peers for aretê. When the conversation returns to Meno’s initial question of whether virtue can be taught, Socrates introduces another manner of investigation, a method of “hypotheses,” by which he argues that virtue must be some kind of knowledge, and so it must be something that’s taught. (91a). Fine, Gail. Socrates: Shall I tell you the reason for your surprise, or do you know it? When reading several works by the same author, there tends to be a continuity of voice present. At first, Meno wants to deny that all aretai share some common nature, but he quickly becomes ambivalent about that. This is a doctrine that Plato may have learned from the Pythagoreans. We see the famous “Socratic Method,” in which Socrates refutes someone’s claim to knowledge by revealing that one of their claims is contradicted by others that they also believe to be true. Vlastos, Gregory. When Meno starts to recognize his difficulties, Socrates encourages him to practice with definitions about shape (75a) and gives him a series of paradigms or examples to practice with (73e-77a); later, he criticizes Meno for refusing to do so (79a). Hackett Publishing, 1980. The standard English translations of aretê are “excellence” and “virtue.” “Excellence” reminds us that the ancient concept applies to all of the above and even to some admirable qualities in nonhuman things, like the speed of a good horse, the sharpness of a good knife, and the fertility of good farmland. We see Socrates reduce Meno, who begins by confidently assuming that he knows what virtue is, to a state of confusion–an unpleasant experience presumably common among those who engaged Socrates in debate. When Plato asks, "Does anyone know what a part of virtue is, without knowing the whole?" Much of ancient Greek literature shows that aretê was a central ideal and basic motivator throughout the culture. But more important is the fact that he legitimately helps the slave to work out the reasoning, and thereby see the way in which the unexpected answer was implied by other true beliefs that he already had. Socrates suggests that perhaps it could be correct belief instead. 'O yes—nothing easier: there is the virtue of a man, of a woman, of an old man, and of a … About the historical Socrates, much of what we think we know is drawn from what Plato wrote about him. Asked who could teach virtue, Anytus suggests that "any Athenian gentleman" should be able to do this by passing on what they have learned from preceding generations. In this whole inconclusive conversation, the most important Socratic proposal is that “virtue” (aretê in Greek) must be some kind of knowledge. But there is something wrong with the hypothesis that all and only knowledge is taught. Mark now the farther development. More specifically, significant relations of the Meno to other Platonic dialogues include the following. 'Then he cannot have met Gorgias when he was at Athens.' Rather, Socrates’ practice in the geometry lesson actually goes pretty well with his theory that there is no teaching, because his leading questions there require that the slave think through the deduction of the answer from what he already knew. Socrates does not object to this theory of moral education (instead he objects to other parts of Protagoras’ account), and elements of it are included in the system of education outlined by Socrates in Plato’s Republic. He too was wealthy, not in Meno’s old aristocratic way, but as heir to the successful tannery of a self-made businessman. To understand what Plato intends with his sketchy theory, we should compare the initial statement of the idea (81a-e), the alleged illustration of it (82a-85b), and the restatement of it after the illustration (85b-86b). Plato wrote Meno about 385 BCE, placing the events about 402 BCE, when Socrates was 67 years old, and about three years before he was executed for corrupting Athenian youth. Part Two: Is Some of Our Knowledge Innate? But while Plato’s treatment of Protagoras’ theory of education in the Protagoras is fairly sympathetic, the Meno’s general disparagement of sophistic teaching is explored at length in Socrates’ debates with individual sophists in Plato’s Euthydemus, Gorgias, Hippias Minor, and Hippias Major. The concept is closely linked to the idea of something fulfilling its purpose or function. Anytus is missing the point, but nevertheless, Socrates is, in fact, shoving this particular Athenian youth off his self-confident pedestal, which would definitely be construed in Anytus's eyes as a corrupting influence. Artists and intellectuals flocked to Athens, including the new kind of traveling teachers, called “sophists,” who are so disparaged in the last part of the Meno. This may strike a modern reader as rather odd, but the thinking behind it is probably something like this: Virtue is what makes possible the fulfillment of one's purpose. Thanks for watching! The definition should apply to all of the MANY. Their executions, expropriations, and expulsions earned them the hatred of most Athenians; later “the Thirty” became known as “the Thirty Tyrants.” The extremists among them first purged their more obvious enemies, then turned to the moderates who resisted their cruelty and wanted a broader oligarchy or restricted democracy that included the thousands in the middle class. and self-control: “rule yourself,” he says, “so that you may be free” (86d). At a number of points, Socrates draws attention to the kind of training and habits Meno has already received (70b, 76d, 82a). Socrates' response: The ability to rule men is only good if the rule is just. Socrates’ efforts to guide Meno throughout the dialogue indicate that achieving the wisdom that is virtue would require both the right kind of natural abilities and the right kind of training or practice—so that teaching can help if it is not mere verbal instruction but discussions that help a learner to discover the knowledge for himself. The Slave Boy Experiment in Plato's 'Meno', Summary and Analysis of Plato's 'Euthyphro', Plato and Aristotle on Women: Selected Quotes, An Introduction to Plato and His Philosophical Ideas, The 5 Great Schools of Ancient Greek Philosophy. He is the author or co-author of several books, including "Thinking Through Philosophy: An Introduction. The contemporary historian Xenophon (who also wrote Socratic dialogues) survived Cyrus’ failed campaign, and he wrote an account whose description of Meno resonates with Plato’s portrait here: ambitious yet lazy for the hard work of doing things properly, and motivated by desire for wealth and power while easily forgetting friendship and justice. “Socrates and the Unity of the Virtues.” The Journal of Ethics 1 (1996): 311-324. Meno's description of how he feels gives us some idea of the effect Socrates must have had on many people. But he agrees, reluctantly, to examine whether virtue is something that is taught by way of “hypotheses” about what sorts of things are taught, and about what sorts of things are good. Her proposed solution is that believings—when thought of more like actions—can have value in virtue of their motivations. He asks again whether virtue is something that is taught, and once again he wants to be taught about this just by being told (86c-d; compare 70a, 75b, 76a-b, 76d). Cambridge University Press, 1961. Meno's paradox: Either we know something or we don't. But supporters of a return to democracy soon rallied outside the city, defeating the Thirty’s army in May 403 B.C.E. Kind of definition that Socrates partly restates the “ theory of Knowledge. ” in Plato:! Only a virtue if it is a state of having learned ” is unusual striking! Of something fulfilling its purpose or function what we think we know is drawn what... Is supposed to reveal the essence of all, open up the task manager may! 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