Sample Paper on Great Dialogues of Plate- Meno and Socrates

The dialogue opens with Meno asking Socrates about virtue. Whether it can be learnt and this particular discussion besides other basic questions regarding the meaning of virtue, inhabit the men’s thoughts in the whole text. In the discussion, Socrates tries to scrutinize the concept on virtue by questioning Meno’s understanding of the term and at the end of the discussion, it is clear neither Socrates nor Meno understands what virtue is. Socrates and Meno go through a series of definition of virtue, each of which is suggested by Meno and looses sense after criticism by Socrates. Socrates seems to be engaging Meno so that he can further his curiosity on the knowledge on human philosophy.

At the beginning of the conversion, Meno seeks to know from Socrates if it is possible to teach Virtue to which Socrates responded by stating that he was unaware of the meaning of virtue by saying that he is in the same fix himself. Meno replies by giving a response that was based on Gorgias (to whom he was a student) that virtue is different for people. Meno holds to the different roles played by different people in the society as virtues. To the woman performing her domestic role and submitting to the husband is virtue as to a man who conducts his businesses in the town, helping his friends and hurting those who are his enemies.

Socrates objects this thought and takes Meno through an argument that makes him understand that virtues is not based on one’s sex or gender roles. He asks Meno whether health, size and strength are one thing in a man and another in a woman. Socrates understanding is that virtue is the similar to all people and what is virtue to one person is virtue to another. For example, what is good or evil is the same whether to an old man or to a child and whether to a free man or slaves so that an evil act will not be good because opt was done by a child. Socrates thwarts Meno’s idea regarding virtue as an aspiration to do good things and the ability to do them by highlighting a problem that is brought by this. According to Socrates, many people do not substantiate evil and good and tend to mistake them interchangeably.

Other themes arise from the discussion. This include the idea that of the soul. Socrates tells Meno of the everlasting nature of the soul, and it knows everything and relies on recollection for its learning process and that virtue is a kind of wisdom (Weiss 2001). This concept is based on the argument that the soul has learning so many things before one is born and what we do is recollect that knowledge. Socrates explains this to Meno by using one of the Meno’s slave’s knowledge on geometry. Socrates explains the concepts on geometry and after agreeing with him, Meno gets convinced that knowledge on concepts is acquired before human being get life and we recollect it after coming in contact with it.

As the discussion ends, Socrates, Meno and Anytus arrive at the classics of Socratic aporia or confusion. They still do not understand what virtue entails but appreciate the fact that they are not conversant with its meaning. This makes Meno accuse Socrates of charging his victims as electricity does. Meno does not understand why Socrates questions something he himself does not have knowledge about. He tells Socrates that in case he gets the right response, he will not be able to realize it is the truth since he is not sure of what truth entails.

 

References

Weiss, R. (2001). Virtue in the cave: Moral inquiry in Plato’s Meno. New York: Oxford University Press.

Day J. M. (1994). Plato’s Meno in focus. Philosophy press