Summery of Plato’s Meno Characters: Socrates, Meno (Menon,) Anytus (Anytos,) The slave Boy. The discussion begins with a wealthy young Thessalian nobleman named Meno asking Socrates if virtue can be taught or does it come by practice. Is it acquired through either means or is it endowed by nature or some other means. Socrates gives him and the place from where he hails a complement yet ridicules them. He, Socrates does this by saying Thessalians are ever so ready to give or receive the answer to a question with finding out the deeper understanding.
Socrates states that he can not give the answer readily due to his lack of knowledge of the nature of the subject. The fundamental question for Socrates is what is virtue before knowing whether it is even acquirable in the first place. This Socrates does brilliantly; foreshadowing the nature of the whole discourse. Menon’s response is the knows what virtue is, and says Socrates lack of knowledge of the nature of virtue could reach place far abroad and can be scandalous. Socrates see no problem in that and his reputation, then goes on to say he is yet to meet anyone who knows what virtue is.
Menon reminds Socrates of Gorgias whom he had met. Socrates says he can not recall whether he, Gorgias, knew or knew not what virtue is. This is a further play by Plato on the idea of recollection. He did ask if Menon thought as Gorgias. Menon agreed. He then asks Menon what is virtue. Menon says virtue is like a man’s virtue, a woman’s virtue, a child’s virtue which is different for boys and girls et al. And all these virtues have responsibilities tied to them. Socrates states that these a examples of virtues and tacitly rejects the notion of virtue being dependent on gender or age.
Socrates then asks Menon if he agrees that all the virtues he mention have a quality that makes them a the same. Menon agrees. Socrates Further gives examples of how virtues can be like likened to shapes and colors. But is not the definition of color or shape. Menon also agrees. Menon then gives another definition of virtue as “ the power of attaining goods. ” Socrates posits that if the attainment of these goods are done with ill does that make it a virtue. Menon say it would be on the contrary; they they would be a vice.
Socrates brings to light the manner with which goods are attained would be a virtue or vice not the desire for goods. Socrates revers to his earlier statement that he does not know what virtue is and is perplexed as Menon is. Menon asks Socrates how will he can enquire about that which he does not know. Or if he were to find it, how would he know he did. Socrates that knowing is not so much as learning but is recollection. He says that the soul is with all the knowledge it needs but when in the human form it forgets. And learning is a state of remembrance.
Socrates uses the slave boy of Menon to illustrate his believe in recollection through the geometric experiment. This, he says, that all knowledge exists in the soul. That very notion makes the soul immortal. Socrates also states that things of human nature hang on the soul. And a wise soul guides rightly while a foolish soul does otherwise. With that a good soul is that which applies wisdom and not inherently good. Socrates also makes is stance on knowledge and virtue; he does not think that virtue is knowledge only. In his discourse with Anytos.
He brings to light that men with virtue can not always impart their virtue to others like their sons for instance, and in turn make them good men. Socrates gives examples to Anytos. Anytos views Socrates’ examples as him besmirching good mens names. Then warns him to cease such actions. Anytos goes away in a fit of anger. Socrates concludes with Menon that good men are but guides not teachers of virtue The crux for Socrates is between right opinion and knowledge. One is and the other is practiced. In a sense all know virtues, some practice it. Menon by Plato