Menos Paradox


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What is Meno’s Paradox? First, who is Meno? The Meno is one of the earlier Platonic writings, which include Socrates and which look to try to define an ethic, in this case virtue. Meno himself is seemingly a man who is greedy for wealth, greedy for power, ambitious, and a back-stabber who tries to play everything to his own advantage.

     Meno starts by questioning Socrates. Can virtue be taught? Socrates says to Meno, well, what makes a virtue a virtue. Meno comes to the borrowed point that virtue is “to find joy in beautiful things and have power”. Socrates retorts by saying “do you think men desire just good things?” While explaining themselves they came upon what becomes Meno’s Paradox. Is virtue something learned and can we learn things without already knowing them?

     Socrates defends the philosophy that if a man can recall one fact only, as long as he does not get tired of searching for it, then searching and learning are as a whole, a recollection. Meno does not understand this argument. Socrates uses a discussion with a Greek boy you explain this to Meno. “Do you know that I square figure is like this”, Socrates asks. “I do” the boy replies. He then asks, “Is a square is a four sided figure with equal sides?” Yes, he replies. Socrates questions the size, the lines and comes to asking that if the figure is two feet this way and one foot that way then the line would really be two feet. The boy agrees. Now if its also two feet the other way, then it would be four feet total. The boy agrees. Then he adds a figure the same size, this would make it eight feet. Boy agrees. He asks the boy to explain how long each side of the wall is. He responds with twice the length. Socrates then tells Meno that he didn’t teach anything; just questioned until the boy reached the answer he wanted.

     This brought them back to virtue. It is a type of knowledge; clearly able to be taught says Meno’s. They both question virtue. Does is make us good? Yes. Beneficial? Yes. It comes from the soul, Socrates states. He doubts that virtue is knowledge, therefore unteachable and coming from within. To really say who is virtuous, and if it cannot be taught, then there can’t be teachers because who is virtuous enough to teach it?

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Many people are virtuous, and for example, a virtuous man can do all he can to try to have virtuous children, but it cannot be bought and paid for and taught, it was to come from within the child and be there basically all along, although it becomes more prominent with age.

     I believe in what Socrates philosophizes to Meno, virtue is something that cannot be taught and it is something that cones from the soul within. People cannot be taught, and therefore I agree with Socrates. Originally, I did not agree with Socrates stating that what we learned is a recollection of other things. I started in my rough draft to make points about how we learn things that we would never have known to recall from. I started to use a baby walking as an example. I first went to prove that you need to learn to walk, and that there is no reference to in an infants mind to recall from. I thought that all there was was parent’s encouragement and that’s as much as there was to it. But then I went on to think that walking comes from crawling which comes from the baby flailing about with its new limbs and by questioning what to do with the arms, can then figure out how to use them to crawl along with its legs, and then eventually to stand, to balance and to move forward. This reversed my ideas and I was convinced that what Socrates was saying was logical and did make sense. His method proves that people use their recollection of similar things in order to work out how to answer the next question that they have to solve.


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