Analysis of Meno's Question to Socrates

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In Plato’s dialogue, Meno, Socrates is asked a paradoxical question about what virtue is by Meno. “How will you enquire, Socrates, into that which you do not know? What will you put forth as the subject of enquiry? And if you find what you want, how will you ever know that this is the thing which you did not know?” Socrates retorts that if you already know what you are searching for, then you do not have to search. Alternatively, if you do not know what you are looking for, the search is indeed futile. However, Socrates attempts to explain to Meno why it is that he will be able to find what virtue is by introducing the idea that knowledge is inherent in the individual as it is passed along through the soul. When Meno demands proof of this concept, Socrates provides an example of a slave boy using “inherent knowledge” to calculate the length of a square needed to double it’s own area. This experiment shows Meno that virtue, along with other knowledge, can indeed be discovered through the inherent knowledge in one’s soul, and only has to be “remembered” to become of use.

When Meno proposes his argument to Socrates that a search for what you do not know is impossible, he is reasoning that if one does not know what it is they are trying to find, one will never know if they have found it. Meno seeks to understand how an individual can find new knowledge if they have no clue how to find it or how to comprehend the discovery of it.

Socrates acknowledges Meno’s argument and states that “man cannot enquire either about that which he knows, or about that which he does not know; for if he knows, he has no need to enquire; and if not, he cannot; for he does not know the very subject about which he is to enquire” (Meno, Plato). Meno believes that this proves his own argument, but Socrates proposes an alternate way to attain knowledge. Socrates speaks of “priests and priestesses” who “say that the soul of man is immortal” (Meno, Plato). Also, he says the soul has...
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