The Theory of Innate Virtue Essay

The Theory of Innate Virtue Essay

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Throughout the dialogue of “Meno”, Socrates inquires what virtue is and whether virtue is innate, acquired through learning, or received as a gift from the gods (Jowett, 1949). After some discussion with Meno, Socrates first proposes the theory that virtue is innate. Subsequently the knowledge of innate virtue is of a priori knowledge, which is in turn contingent on a priori justification (Russell, 2011).
A priori knowledge is knowledge that rests on a priori justification. A priori justification is a type of epistemic justification that is, in some sense, independent of experience. There are a variety of views about whether a priori justification can be defeated by other evidence, especially by empirical evidence, and a variety of views about whether a priori justification, or knowledge, must be only of necessary, or analytic, propositions, or at least of ones believed to be necessary or analytic (Russell, 2011).
A priori knowledge of innate virtue is derived by means other than through experience. Plato’s Theory of Recollection was devised to give validity to Socrates presumption of virtue being an innate attribute (Jowett, 1949). The presumption that virtue is in fact a natural attribute pertaining to oneself and is not learned through experience; affords virtue to be an absolute attribute within everyone and derivable by means of recollection. Plato stated, “Thought is the absolute, and all reality is thought” (Hegel, 226). Therefore if knowledge is innate then means to derive true knowledge is through the recollection and reasoning of it. If virtue is indeed an innate attribute, which can be consciously evoked by means of logical thinking and persistent inquiry, that I may deduce to the utmost of my ability to reas...

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...ived thus far through logical reasoning and inquiry, the process in which one uses to incite the recollection of morality can still be useful. Although my thinking maybe fallible, I cannot find adequate evidence to refute that our innate knowledge of morality enables us to discern the intent and means that evoke our actions yielding a moral or immoral action.


G. W. F. Hegel
The Journal of Speculative Philosophy , Vol. 4, No. 3 (1870), pp. 225-268

Russell, Bruce, "A Priori Justification and Knowledge", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2011 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = .\

Jowett, B. (1903). Euthyphro . The Four Socratic Dialogues of Plato , 10-36.
Plato. Meno. Translated by Benjamin Jowett. New York: Liberal Arts Press, 1949.

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