Socrates' Demonstration with the Slave Boy

Topics: Ethics, Plato, Virtue Pages: 3 (1016 words) Published: March 26, 2006
Socrates' demonstration with the slave boy, is an effort to use mathematical reasoning to illustrate the process and the importance of keeping an active mind. Simultaneously he is using mathematical reasoning to illustrate how a similar process of reasoning is used in virtually every decision that we make. When Socrates asks the slave boy to find the length of a side of the square with the area of 8, he finds that the answer can neither be 2, nor 3. The manner in which Socrates poses this question, is an attempt to demonstrate the human reasoning process. This process can be characterized by finding a low extreme, finding a high extreme, and coming to understand that the answer to your problem lies somewhere in the middle. The difficulty, which Socrates is clarifying in this situation, is that the extremes are easy to recognize and understand (just as whole numbers such as 2 and 3 are), and humans are prone to being satisfied with that which is easily recognizable. The concise answer is unreachable, the value lies in the process of seeking it, and eliminating that which is untrue, the way perhaps that a sculptor would gradually knock off pieces of a block. This is where the "torpedo's shock" comes into play. Lines are drawn dividing those that choose to stop seeking due to their desire for a concise answer that will never come, and those that dwell in their ignorance, attached to an answer with evidence disproving it. When talking about the impossibility of enquiry, Socrates says, "it will make us idle, and is sweet only to the sluggard." Here Socrates is stating that anyone or anything that contends it knows the truth in such a manner as to hinder this process of enquiry and reasoning, is neither morally or ethically responsible. Also, any answer that leaves us feeling satisfied entirely is a divergence from the truth. The demonstration as a whole, is intended to urge Meno to take up a life of moral enquiry. Meno's youth, impatience and desire for wealth and...
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