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Meno's Paradox

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Meno's Paradox

It is thought that Meno's paradox is of critical importance both within Plato's thought and within the whole history of ideas. It's major importance is that for the first time on record, the possibility of achieving knowledge from the mind's own resources rather than from experience is articulated, demonstrated and seen as raising important philosophical questions.

Meno's paradox states:

`Why on what lines will you look, Socrates, for a thing of whose nature you know nothing at all? Pray, what sort of a thing, amongst those things that you know will you treat us to as the object of your search? Or even supposing, at the best that you it upon it, how will you know it is the thing you did not know?'

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The paradox arises due to a number of assumptions concerning knowledge, inquiry and definition made by both Socrates and Meno. The assumptions of Socrates are:


  1. If we do not know what F is, we do not know anything about F.
  2. If we cannot define F, we do not know what F is.


The assumpti...


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...irical. However, if in his demonstration, Socrates meant to show that Meno's paradox is completely wrong, and that the recollection theory applies to all forms of knowledge i.e. that all knowledge is non-empirical, which is the `full-strength' doctrine, then he was wrong. Thus we must conclude that the recollection theory is an answer to Meno's paradox, but by no means solves it entirely. Irwin writes that `to resolve Meno's paradox Socrates need only suggest that one have an initial belief about the object of inquiry rather than knowledge.'

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