Analysis Of Plato's And Socrate's Messages In Meno

One of Plato’s acclaimed “Five Dialogues” is comprised of a conversation the he had with Meno regarding virtue. When Socrates asked Meno what virtue means to him, he replied to him saying that the definition of virtue varies between different groups. For instance, he says that the virtue of a man pertains to managing public affairs, while that of a woman is overseeing the home. “There is a virtue for every action and every age, for every task of ours and every one of us — and, Socrates, the same is true for wickedness.” However, after this thorough explanation, Socrates was still not satisfied with his response, going on to ask if there was any overlap between the various categories of virtue, and to explain if there was. Meno remains unclear as to exactly what it is Socrates is trying to ask him. Socrates dives into criticizing by picking apart Meno’s response, posing “subunit” questions that really allowed one to ponder deep in the question that was being asked.

I believe that Socrates was looking for a more specific response that would require one to examine the issue from a different lens. For instance, when Socrates asked Meno about the nature of bees, he replied and said that bees do not differ from other bees (in being bees). While there are different forms of virtue, they each can overlap with each other (men and women can share the same virtues.) I believe that Socrates wanted Meno to look deeper into the web that is virtue and see how it intertwines with other ideas. In addition, Socrates implements analogies of shapes and colors to help Meno further understand the concept of virtue and its various categories. The term shape serves an umbrella to shade all of the examples that would fall under this general category. He used the same situation in the case of virtue. For example, courage, wisdom, and generosity are different forms of virtue that can all overlap.

In “Apology”, the god at Delphi declared that Socrates was the wisest of all. Socrates finds himself fighting for his life to defend himself against this accusation, as this was taking place at his trial that could sentence him to death. Being surprised that he was the wisest man (according to the oracle), Socrates decided to disprove this by going to several other individuals who were also noted for their wisdom, stating, “I went to those reputed wise, thinking that there, if anywhere, I could refute the Oracle and say this man is wiser than I…I thought he appeared wise to many people and especially to himself, but he was not. After consulting many others, Socrates believed that he was in fact wiser than all, because while they all possessed wisdom, their wisdom didn’t reach the level past “human excellence.” To Socrates, this meant that they all acknowledged their wisdom, which diminishes the title, replacing it with ignorance, while Socrates was never one to acknowledge himself as wise. Eventually, Socrates found himself agreeing with the oracles claim about him. In “Meno”, Socrates is compared to a “brand torpedo fish” by Meno. I believe that this is similar to the situation with the Delphi, as Socrates had an effect on everyone around him that made them rethink any of their previous ideologies, “numbing” their minds and tongues, including Meno and the other politicians and artists Socrates spoke to when trying to disprove his title of wisdom.

A paradox is posed regarding knowledge inquiry between Meno and Socrates. Socrates states in “Meno” that “a man cannot inquire either about what he knows or about what he does not know – for he cannot inquire about what he knows, because he knows it…” This statement opens up the question of knowing things you don’t actually know. However, I believe that you cannot know and not know something simultaneously. You can either know something and then eventually forget and not know about it anymore, or you cannot know about something, and then learn about it after. Socrates answers Meno’s confusion by introducing the concept of recollection, stating “As the soul is immortal…it is in no way surprising that it can recollect the things it knew before”. I believe that this response fairly adequate to clear Meno’s confusion regarding the matter.

In conclusion, although these philosophers were ridiculed and doubted for their beliefs at the time, it is those same beliefs and philosophies that form the crux of many ideologies today.    

16 December 2021
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