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Socrates and Virtue

By | March 2007
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At the beginning of Meno Socrates and Meno are discussing what they think the true definition of virtue is. They debate over this matter for quite some time and Meno continues to throw definitions, of what he thinks virtue is, at Socrates. It seems like every time Meno would come up with what he thought virtue was Socrates would shoot it down. Socrates would not come out and say this is not right, he would merely ask him a series of questions in order for Meno to realize it on his own. One after another Socrates continues to find problems with Meno's reasoning behind his definitions. After the fourth attempt they finally decide they would try to start over with a clean slate in order to find out what virtue truly is. At this point Socrates and Meno have not quite come close to defining virtue they have just made definition in general much more clear.

Early on the closest that Socrates and Meno come closest, in my opinion, to defining virtue is when they conclude that virtue is the desire for good things in order to do good. While there are many people out there who desire good things in order to do bad, there are just as many that desire good things in order to do some good. According to my interpretation of the text here, virtue is the desire for good or powerful things in order to do good for others. At the end of this passage though, Socrates shoots down this idea by asking a series of questions putting Meno in a state of "perplexity" and "numbness", as Socrates does best (Section 77c – 80b).

Now having gone through all of that, Meno asks Socrates, how will know you found virtue if you do not know what it truly is? Socrates then goes on to tell Meno about the immortal soul and recollection. This is a belief that your soul is all knowing because it has been through an infinite amount of lives, consuming all kinds of knowledge and information. According to this, the soul is said to be all knowing. According to this theory, learning is just a...

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