Meno Outline (Philos. 201)

Ancient Greek Philosophy

Philosophy 201, Fall 1996 Meno Outline

Part I. What is Virtue?

70a Question: Can virtue be taught?

71b Socrates: Must know what virtue IS before knowing its qualities. What IS virtue?

71e-72a Definition A: A plurality of examples.

72b-73d Socrates' rejection: bee and swarm analogy.

73d Definition 1: to be able to rule over men.

Refutation (elenchus): requires ruling justly; justice is a "part" of virtue.

Analogies with colors and shapes.

77b Definition 2: (a) desiring fine things and (b) being able to acquire them.

77c-78b Refutation of (a): Everyone desires fine things.

78b-79b Refutation of (b): requres revision into "being able to acquire them justly"; but since justice is a part of virtue, this means the definition explains what virtue is by referring to a part of itself.

Interlude: Knowledge as Recollection; True Opinion

80a Metaphor: Socrates numbs people, like a torpedo fish. Meno feels numb.

80d Menošs paradox (the paradox of inquiry): how can you inquire into something if you know nothing about it?

81a-82a Socrates' response: Knowledge is recollection.

82b Illustration of recollection with the slave boy.

84a-c The slave boy benefits from knowing what he's ignorant about. 85e-86a Conclusion of the illustration: the boy has true opinion, not knowledge.

Part 2: Can Virtue Be Taught?

86d Can virtue be taught? (We'll inquire not what virtue IS but what it's LIKE.)

86e The method of hypothesis: If virtue is x, then it can be taught. x=knowledge.

89d-e Examination of the hypothesis: Is virtue knowledge? If so, there are teachers and pupils of it.

89e-96c Elenchus (with Anytus): There are no teachers and pupils of virtue.

97a-98a An alternative to saying virtue is knowledge: virtue is true opinion. (a) True opinion needs to be tied down to be knowledge. (b) Still, true opinion is as valuable as knowledge, if it's reliable.

98c Then virtuous people must have true opinion as a divine gift.

99b-e Since virtue is not knowledge, it cannot be taught.

Conclusion: Socrates says that we still have not investigated what virtue IS.

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