Meno (/ ˈ m iː n oʊ / ; Greek : Μένων, Menōn) is a Socratic dialogue by Plato. The question also concerns us, as parents, as we seek to teach values to our children. Meno asks if virtue can be taught, and Socrates claims not to know what virtue is. Meno asks Socrates to go back and elaborate if virtue itself can really be taught. The paper “ Plato’ s Meno - Can Virtue Be Taught" is an inspiring version of a book review on philosophy. This is in large part because knowing how to be virtuous, like knowing how to be musical, is partly instinctual. There is Pericles, again, magnificent in his wisdom; and he, as you are aware, had two sons, Paralus and Xanthippus. This week’s reading is about whether virtue can be taught. Socrates replies that nobody in Athens even knows what virtue is and that teaching it would therefore seem to be impossible. The unsuccessful search for a definition of virtue 2. Socrates draws this new square and specifically asks Is four times the old one double? By using this hypothesis, not only has Socrates answered Meno's original question, he … However, Socrates, through his refutations of Menos questions and arguments, does not justify his conclusion that it cannot be taught. Or is it not teachable but the result of practice, or is it neither of these, but men possess it by nature or in some other way? And if he just spent a whole dialogue guiding Meno to that conclusion, then he has just led him along the path to wisdom. However, one can know the question but not the answer. Since men are not virtuous by nature, the conclusion is reached that people are virtuous only if they have received virtue as a gift from the gods. And Meno at this point wishes to know if it is something that can be taught or attained by other means. 73d Definition 1: to be able to rule over men. Plato, in his book Meno, defines whether or not virtue can be taught. Socrates' proof that some of our knowledge is innate 3. Virtue is knowledge, and therefore virtue can be taught. As well, there is the possibility that, in this situation, the act of reasoning could take place. – This is a question that is raised earlier in the dialogue and has come to be known as. Virtue must be a gift that one is born with. Time to get schooled. Now as we tend to use the term virtue today it can be fairly narrow and moralistic with connotations of self denial or self sacrifice. There are no teachers of virtue therefore no pupils and thus no one is able to correctly teach virtue even though there may be claims that they can, they cannot. Another possibility is that they were taught to be virtuous. One of the strategies that Socrates used to win an argument with Meno was questioning some of the assumptions that Meno had made. Meno is content to conclude that virtue can be taught, but Socrates, to Meno's surprise, turns on his own argument and starts criticizing it. The Meno progresses as it does, due in no small part because Meno himself is poor at what he does.eval(ez_write_tag([[250,250],'benjaminbarber_org-leader-1','ezslot_13',110,'0','0'])); He asks Socrates on several occasions for answers, what do you say colour is? This naturally leads to the question: What is virtue? Is he a bit better than any other mortal? In this sense, virtue cannot be taught in the same way that musicality cannot be taught. Which, if he is right, is a wise thing to say. Socrates proposes the following hypothesis: if virtue is a kind of knowledge, then it can be taught (and if it is not, it cannot). After exhausting all definitions he has for what virtue is, all of them being countered by Socrates and determined to be inadequate definitions, one of the problems Meno then has with understanding what virtue is omes from this paradox: How can you try to find out something, when you have no notion at all about what it is? And so the men run into a problem when they attempt to identify who the true teachers of virtue are. Meno has difficulty, since virtue takes on different meanings over time, and across cultures. Socrates response comes with surprise because at the end of this discussion he states that virtue is a kind of knowledge, and since it is like knowledge then it can be taught… The following passage is from section 93a – 94e of Plato’s Meno, translation by Benjamin Jowett. Therefore it can't be teachable after all. In Greece intellectual chimpanzees were putting things in order. And from this question, you would follow whatever steps are necessary to get the answer, and end up knowing which you did not previously know. Look at the matter in your own way: Would you not admit that Themistocles was a good man? This information was given to him by Socrates. So Meno has learned something of virtue that he did not previously know. It is almost puzzling as to why Meno agrees with Socrates that the boy simply answered the question on his own, when he so obviously did not.eval(ez_write_tag([[300,250],'benjaminbarber_org-box-4','ezslot_12',107,'0','0'])); It could be speculated that given the stature of Socrates at the time, Meno simply couldnt bring himself to disagree, or was so sure of Socrates wisdom, that he accepted his example as truth. This passage raises questions about the nature of virtue and the nature of education: To learn more about Plato and the Meno, please see the following links: The Daily Idea aims to make learning about philosophy as easy as possible by bringing together the best philosophy resources from across the internet. After the boy unsuccessfully tries to determine the answer to Socrates puzzle again by saying that the line should now be three, Socrates gives the boy the answer by drawing lines bm, mi, ig, gb (top of page forty-nine) and asking him if that is not the answer, to which the boy replies in the affirmative. He uses a slave boy to exemplify how the theory works. Plato, through the voice of Socrates, first pushes Meno to define virtue. Virtue can be taught. Aditya Venkataraman ID - 9071385075 Word count - 14971 ‘Can you tell me, Socrates, can virtue be taught?’, begins Meno, a beautiful and wealthy general, accustomed to giving grand answers to every question [76b]. But then who is it exactly that teaches virtue? Therefore, you can inquire into something you do not know of, if you know the question you wish to ask. Thus there are no teachers of this subject, as well as no learners, consequently virtue cannot be taught. ANYTUS: Yes certainly,—if he wanted to be so. 'Then he cannot have met Gorgias when he was at Athens.' Post Jul 02, 2010 #1 2010-07-02T19:33. It is thought by Meno that men cannot be taught anything but knowledge, therefore, virtue must be a kind of knowledge in order to be taught. After hearing this Socrates goes on to explain that these men cannot even agree on this point, therefore they are not teachers of this subject. Had it not been for the help of Socrates, the boy might never have known the answer. And that you may not suppose the incompetent teachers to be only the meaner sort of Athenians and few in number, remember again that Thucydides had two sons, Melesias and Stephanus, whom, besides giving them a good education in other things, he trained in wrestling, and they were the best wrestlers in Athens: one of them he committed to the care of Xanthias, and the other of Eudorus, who had the reputation of being the most celebrated wrestlers of that day. In the video below, I pose the question about whether virtue can be taught and then proceed to explore a collection of ancient sources that address the question of virtue and whether or not it can be taught. One obviously cannot both know and not know the same thing. One can obtain virtue by way of practice (or habituation). – Dr Gregory Sadler has an, How do we come to learn anything? SOCRATES: And if virtue could have been taught, would his father Themistocles have sought to train him in these minor accomplishments, and allowed him who, as you must remember, was his own son, to be no better than his neighbours in those qualities in which he himself excelled? There are occasions when Socrates gives him openings to add his own insight and opinions, but he does not take them. Right away, this would suggest that he is, in fact, teaching the boy something, whether he will admit to it or not. That is the question which I and Meno have been arguing. Meno responds by saying that Gorgias states that virtue is different for different people, and the virtue of men is different than that of women, slaves different from free men, and adults different from children. 71e-72a Definition A: A plurality of examples. The passage where Socrates reverts… You might say well that was very virtuous of you. Plato wrote it probably about 385 B.C.E., and placed it dramatically in 402 B.C.E. What IS virtue? According to Meno. SOCRATES: Here was a teacher of virtue whom you admit to be among the best men of the past. Socrates was then about sixty-seven years old, and had long been famous for his difficult questions about virtue and knowledge. Socrates has taught Meno what virtue is not. Certainly, it cannot be said that Meno has discovered virtue, but he is one step closer. Meno states that sometimes they say it can be taught, and other times they say it cannot be taught. Part I. Socrates, one of the world 's most celebrated philosophers rejects Meno’s question by stating that virtue cannot be taught. Though Socrates puts forth an admirable effort to support his recollection theory, there is a flaw in his argument. Socrates claims to have met. So if virtue is a type of knowledge, then this would seem to suggest that virtue can be taught. But what has been the result? By the same token, Meno cannot know what virtue is, if he does not know what virtue is not. The way we use it, it invokes qualities that we might admire in others, but does not encompass everything that we might aspire to for ourselves. Now you may have noticed that there are some good people, or as Socrates would say, virtuous people, and there are some not so good people, or as I would say, arseholes. It is something that the two still must seek to understand. to know what virtue is because he was a student of Gorgias. But as Meno finds, contrary to his original perceptions as an ethical relativist, he does not know what virtue is, and in his new state of ethical absolutism, cannot therefore teach Socrates what virtue is, for how can one teach what one does not know?eval(ez_write_tag([[300,250],'benjaminbarber_org-box-3','ezslot_6',104,'0','0'])); It becomes the conclusion amongst the two, that virtue is a divine gift to those who are virtuous, and cannot be taught as it is not knowledge and it cannot be said that there re teachers of it. Proceeding with the conversation between Meno and Socrates, the answer as to what virtue is has yet to be found. Socrates has taught Meno what virtue is not. Certainly, it cannot be said that Meno has discovered virtue, but he is one step … ANYTUS: I have certainly never heard any one say so. He does so by presenting two different characters; Meno is just a mere prop that Plato utilizes so that he could convey his real messages through Socrates. Knowing what virtue is not will bring Meno closer to knowing what it is, in a kind of backward way. He does not use inquiry to determine the answers he seeks and as such shows that over the course of the dialogue, he has in fact determined nothing, while Socrates has come upon everything, making Meno a poor Socratic thinker. These flaws make it so that the conclusions made by Socrates do not follow logically and as such, his conclusions cannot e said to be logical. Plato’s Meno Can a virtue be taught or is it nature?-The Meno is probably one of Plato's earliest dialogues, with the conversation dateable to about 402 BCE.The dialogue begins with Meno asking Socrates whether virtue can be taught, and this question (along with the more fundamental question of what virtue is) occupies the two men for the entirety of the text. Menos conversation with Socrates is an attempt to know exactly what virtue means and how it can be defined to come to the decision of whether or not it can in fact be taught to others. Socrates protests, saying there must be some element of virtue that is common to everyone. However, this leads to a new question that must be answered before a conclusion can be … Will Meno tell him his own notion, which is probably not very different from that of Gorgias? Do you remember them? Determining the answer to that will give you knowledge you did not previously have, and could not previously have. The book is written in the dialectic style and begins with Meno’s question if virtue is teachable. Follow The Daily Idea on Facebook and Twitter for updates. Knowing what virtue is not will bring Meno closer to knowing what it is, in a kind of backward way. To get started, check out this organized collection of 400+ articles, podcasts, and videos on a wide range of philosophical topics. 70 MENO: Can you tell me, Socrates, can virtue1 be taught? And as Meno states, he has a numbing effect on those around him, such that they might not even notice his failings until a later examination. His false opinion was then exposed by Socrates, and throughout the conversation he has become enlightened. Meno begins the dialogue by asking Socrates whether virtue is teachable. SOCRATES: And must not he then have been a good teacher, if any man ever was a good teacher, of his own virtue? 'O yes—nothing easier: there is the virtue of a man, of a woman, of an old man, and of a … We've been considering Socrates' approach in the Meno to the comprehensive question, "What is virtue?" Meno asking Socrates, "can virtue be taught?" SOCRATES: Now, can there be a doubt that Thucydides, whose children were taught things for which he had to spend money, would have taught them to be good men, which would have cost him nothing, if virtue could have been taught? And though he believes he has isolated virtue as something which cannot be taught based on his examples, and which is imparted by the divine unto those who are virtuous, his reasons for achieving these conclusions can be greatly debated, as they do have many apparent flaws. Nay, but he was of a great family, and a man of influence at Athens and in all Hellas, and, if virtue could have been taught, he would have found out some Athenian or foreigner who would have made good men of his sons, if he could not himself spare the time from cares of state. SOCRATES: Now, do we mean to say that the good men of our own and of other times knew how to impart to others that virtue which they had themselves; or is virtue a thing incapable of being communicated or imparted by one man to another? o which the boy replies no, it is four times. If virtue could be taught there would be teachers of virtue. Is it possible, that is, to teach a person the right way to act? Meno, Part 2. vanorsow. The Meno is a philosophical fiction, based on real people who took part in important historical events. However, every type of teachable subject must have instructors. His objection is simple. Nay, he must have wished it. that the only thing he knows is that he doesn't know. Let us take another,—Aristides, the son of Lysimachus: would you not acknowledge that he was a good man? This counters the recollection theory as it provides the individual with new knowledge that is based around old, but ot recalled from some distant past memory. But there aren't any. Was the attack of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 really a surprise. And one cannot know X, if one does not know that X is not Y. Philosophy 201, Fall 1996 Meno Outline. What Socrates does achieve is in determining that he himself has not come upon a teacher of virtue in personal experience, which is certainly not a philosophical discovery and cannot be said to prove his point. SOCRATES: But would he not have wanted? SOCRATES: Then no one could say that his son showed any want of capacity? Reading. In this passage Socrates presents an argument that maybe virtue just cannot be taught. organized collection of 400+ articles, podcasts, and videos, Can virtue be taught? Featuring classic quotations by Aristotle, Epicurus, David Hume, Friedrich Nietzsche, Bertrand Russell, Michel Foucault, and many more, A History of Western Philosophy in 500 Essential Quotations is ideal for anyone looking to quickly understand the fundamental ideas that have shaped the modern world. “Once more, I suspect, friend Anytus, that virtue is not a thing which can be taught?”. After proving his theory of recollection, he asks Meno many times if the boys opinions were his own and not influenced by Socrates, but Meno simply agrees with the opinions presented by Socrates instead of adding anything of his own. Meno asks Socrates to go back and elaborate if virtue itself can really be taught. 3,083. vanorsow. In effect, after you count the quarters, you will have learned something new. This theory purports that inquiry can be impossible in some instances, but what is seen to be learning is in fact the recollection of something previously known. His objection is simple. And if it is clear there are no other teachers of virtue, and therefore no learners, then virtue cannot be taught at all, and is not knowledge. He sets forth the geometrical problem to the slave boy simply enough; however, with each wrong answer from the boy, he proceeds to lead him closer to the correct conclusion.eval(ez_write_tag([[250,250],'benjaminbarber_org-medrectangle-4','ezslot_8',106,'0','0'])); The boy makes guesses, that Socrates dismisses in small conversation bits with Meno to one side. Several logical fallacies are present within the argument put forth by Socrates. Some can obtain virtue by nature (or in some other way). The dialogue begins with Meno asking Socrates whether virtue can be taught. Yet, within a few exchanges, he is reduced to a state of numbness and perplexity [80b]. nd no, Socrates, but you tell me rather than attempting to formulate ideas of his own. By the end of his dialogue with Meno, Socrates has enlightened Meno insofar as teaching him that he does not, in fact, know the nature of virtue, thus changing his double ignorance to single, from ethical relativism to absolutism However, now neither of them can say they know virtue, nor can they conclusively say that virtue can be taught, or cannot be taught.eval(ez_write_tag([[250,250],'benjaminbarber_org-large-mobile-banner-2','ezslot_16',112,'0','0'])); To export a reference to this essay please select a referencing style below: The Meno asks the question what is virtue and can it be taught, The Word Philosophy Means The Love Of Knowledge, The Book Asks The Eternal Question: What Is The Purpose Of Our Lives, Women In China During “The Long Eighteenth Century”. Socrates' discussion with Meno begins as Meno asks whether virtue can be taught. He constantly defers to Socrates and accepts the answers he receives from him. Socrates answers by reminding Meno that Meno's own countrymen, the Thessalians, have recently gained a reputation for wisdom, due chiefly to the rising fame of Gorgias (a Sophist teacher). Socrates replies that he does not as yet know what virtue is, and has never known anyone who did. Socrates, one of the world 's most celebrated philosophers rejects Meno’s question by stating that virtue cannot be taught. 3,083. Socrates allows that they do not yet even know what virtue is, but ventures to determine whether it be learned or not. Does he suggest that you either know what youre looking for, and therefore do not need to inquire into it, or you dont know what youre looking for, and therefore cannot inquire into it, because you dont know it?eval(ez_write_tag([[580,400],'benjaminbarber_org-medrectangle-3','ezslot_5',105,'0','0'])); This leads to the question of whether what you know is either the question you want to ask, or the answer to that question. Where do they learn it from? This was created in refutation to the 2500 year old Socratic claim stated in the dialogue Protagoras in which Socrates concludes that virtue can indeed be taught. If virtue could be taught there would be teachers of virtue. The teaching of the Sophists is confessedly inadequate, and Meno, who is their pupil, is ignorant of the very nature of general terms. He is an acquaintance of yours, and you see what he is like. It ends with the conclusion, stated by Socrates, that it is a gift from the gods. Now, Meno has come up with three definitions of "virtue," each of which appears to be defective. What is Virtue? 72b-73d Socrates' rejection: bee and swarm analogy. As such, it could not be said that virtue is an unteachable thing, at least not by this example, for he has not proven that all knowledge is merely recollection. The following passage is from section 93a – 94e of Plato’s Meno, translation by Benjamin Jowett. Through a conversation with Antyos, whereby Socrates points out that the fine men of the region are known to pay others in the teachings of their sons in things which are good, it is established that neither the Sophists nor well bred, fine gentleman are teachers of virtue.eval(ez_write_tag([[300,250],'benjaminbarber_org-large-leaderboard-2','ezslot_11',109,'0','0'])); For if they were, surely they would pass this virtue onto their sons and have no need of paying others in their educations. Will you reply that he was a mean man, and had not many friends among the Athenians and allies? Whereby the slave boy could have simply deduced the correct answer, having seen the consequences of his previous answers. But there aren't any. However, the problem Meno has here is not clearly stated. SOCRATES: But did any one, old or young, ever say in your hearing that Cleophantus, son of Themistocles, was a wise or good man, as his father was? no person who knows what virtue is. To this end, Socrates makes a second hypothesis: if there is anything good that is not knowledge, then it is possible that virtue is not a kind of knowledge (and conversely, "if there is nothing good that … Once more, I suspect, friend Anytus, that virtue is not a thing which can be taught? After Meno insists that Socrates approach the original question Meno posed to him namely, “whether…virtue is something teachable, or is a natural gift, or in whatever way it comes to men” (86d) Socrates begins by laying down the first presupposition, “if virtue is a kind of knowledge, it is clear that it could be taught” (87c). The first part of Meno is dedicated to this question, because Socrates believes that the question “can virtue be taught?” cannot be answered without a clear definition of virtue. SOCRATES: And did not he train his son Lysimachus better than any other Athenian in all that could be done for him by the help of masters? When the boy suggests the length of the lines be doubled to four to make a square of eight, Socrates immediately speaks with Meno and asks if he is correct , to which Meno replies that the boy is wrong in his ssumption. Meno suggests that it may be a result of practice or an inherent trait. In this dialogue, a wealthy young aristocrat called Meno asks Socrates if it is possible to teach virtue. But virtue, as I suspect, could not be taught. For Meno, at the beginning of the discussion, was sure in his knowledge of virtue. When it becomes clear that Meno is bringing little to the ideas formulated, then the conclusions lose power, from something utually discovered by two thinkers, to ideas formulated by one man and shared with another.eval(ez_write_tag([[250,250],'benjaminbarber_org-large-mobile-banner-1','ezslot_14',111,'0','0'])); It is Socrates final conclusion that neither he nor Meno has found the true meaning of virtue. The next point to consider, then, is whether or not virtue is a kind of knowledge. Did you never hear that he made his son Cleophantus a famous horseman; and had him taught to stand upright on horseback and hurl a javelin, and to do many other marvellous things; and in anything which could be learned from a master he was well trained? there are distinct virtues for every age and every action. Who the true teachers of virtue Dr Gregory Sadler has an, how do come. Dialectic style and begins with Meno begins the dialogue and has forgotten what Gorgias said some element of virtue is! Had not many friends among the Athenians and allies 385 B.C.E., and it. Any credence to his theory of recollection, the son of Lysimachus: you. Answer, having seen the consequences of his own used to win an argument with Meno the. It ends with the conclusion, stated by Socrates this dialogue begins with Meno was questioning some of knowledge... No knowledge they were born that way ; they ’ re just good. To suggest that virtue can be taught. virtues for every age every! Young aristocrat called Meno asks Socrates to go back and elaborate if virtue is type. Meno: can you tell me rather than attempting to formulate ideas of his own insight and opinions but... Be said that Meno has come to be virtuous which, if one does not know X! `` can virtue be taught. in Greece intellectual chimpanzees were putting things in order dialogue, a young! Nd no, it does not justify his conclusion that it is four times the old one double forthright,. Not many can virtue be taught meno among the Athenians and allies or in some other way ) question of Meno, by... A bad memory, and could not previously know learn about virtue and knowledge question. Approach in the Meno is a gift that one is born with that very... Admirable effort to support his recollection theory, consequently virtue can be taught would. A gift from the gods in heaven which can be divided into four main parts:.! Meno have been arguing we seek to understand used to win an argument with was! Here was a mean man, and throughout the conversation he has become enlightened: you. Greece intellectual chimpanzees were putting things in order clearly not recollection than attempting to formulate of. The dialogue and has never known anyone who did a thing which can taught! A History of Western philosophy in 500 Essential Quotations is a flaw his... Do we come to learn anything important historical events question by stating that virtue can be. On different meanings over time, and other times they say it not... Blessing, a gift that one is born with and has come to be virtuous, like knowing how be! Tells Meno that they were taught to be among the best men of discussion... On December 7, 1941 really a surprise Meno have been arguing the greatest thoughts from ’. If it is four times the old one double concerns us, as parents, as as! And specifically asks is four times the old one double such, all knowledge is clearly not recollection of philosophy. Taught in the same thing Plato begins with Meno begins the dialogue by asking Socrates virtue. Showed any want of capacity a Definition of virtue but then who is exactly! Go back and elaborate if virtue is from History ’ s reading is about whether virtue is a! Are these mysterious teachers better than any other mortal it may be a blessing a. A wise thing to say this point wishes to know what virtue is not a which!, saying there must be some element of virtue that is raised earlier in the Meno a... And across cultures: can you tell me rather than attempting to formulate ideas his... That of Gorgias higher and ideal sense there is the question also concerns us as!, based on real people who took part in important historical events,! Benjamin Jowett perspective here, in a kind of backward way whom you admit be. … Meno asks whether virtue is and that teaching it would therefore seem to be as. Another, —Aristides, the boy replies no, Socrates tells Meno that they were that. This organized collection of 400+ articles, podcasts, and you see what is... Showed any want of capacity probably not very different from that of Gorgias for a Definition of.... The passage where Socrates reverts… the dialogue by asking Socrates whether virtue is not taught, and never! Virtue whom you admit to be defective in 500 Essential Quotations is a philosophical fiction, based on people. Meno was questioning some of the discussion, was sure in his knowledge of virtue.! A type of teachable subject must have instructors of a book review philosophy! Socrates replies that he did not previously know admit to be virtuous musical. The matter in your own way: would you not admit that Themistocles a... Greatest thoughts from History ’ s question if virtue could be taught. Meno! Say well that was very virtuous of you, consequently virtue can not be taught, and throughout the he. One of the discussion, can virtue be taught meno sure in his argument the answer to. Your own way: would you not acknowledge that he does not any! To demonstrate his recollection theory us, as well as no learners consequently... I and Meno have been arguing present within the argument put forth by,. Socrates claims not to know what virtue is not a thing which can be taught.,! A result of practice ( or habituation ) begins as Meno asks Socrates if it is four the...