The Meno

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Scott Asbury

In the Meno, Plato justifies the possibility for one's mind to uncover knowledge. Knowing one can obtain knowledge motivates the mind to gain more knowledge. Plato explains the theory of recollection by first questioning what virtue is, then demonstrating the process through the questioning of a slave boy. Although a few weaknesses present themselves in Plato's argument, Plato presents a valid theory on how our minds can obtain knowledge. This paper focuses on exploring Plato's theory of recollection by examining the strengths and weaknesses of his discussion with Meno. The discussion of Plato's theory of recollection evolved from a single question, "What is virtue?" When questioning Meno on the single definition of virtue, Plato was never satisfied. He never accepted Meno's answers because Meno gave "virtuous" definitions, not "virtue's" definition. For example, Meno claimed, "if you want a woman's virtue, that is easily described. She must be a good housewife, careful with her stores and obedient to her husband. Then there is another virtue for a child, male or female, and another for an old man, free or slave" (Greek Philosophy, 111). All of these are examples of how a person's role becomes virtuous but never defines what virtue really is. Plato questions Meno's self-knowledge of virtue, but Meno expounds virtuous characteristics rather than giving a definition of virtue. This presents a problem because if Meno does not know what virtue really is, then he cannot apply which characteristics associate with virtue and which do not. When Plato asks, "Does anyone know what a part of virtue is, without knowing the whole?" (Greek Philosophy, 119), Meno agrees this is simply impossible. This presents a logical argument against Meno's definition(s) of virtue. Plato believes the conversation to search for what virtue really is should continue despite achieving no success in their first efforts to form a satisfactory definition....
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