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Introduction To Early Greek Philosophy (PHIL1003) Meno Summary

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Sandra Watson
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University of Southampton

Introduction to Early Greek Philosophy (PHIL1003)

Summary – Summaries of key points in meno, symposium, phaedo and the republic by plato

Overview:
 One of Plato’s earliest dialogues
 Dialogue begins with Meno asking Socrates whether virtue can be taught
 Important recurring platonic themes are introduced in Meno e.g.
 the Socratic dialogue itself (when Socrates attempts to dissect an ethical term
by questioning someone who claims to know the terms meaning and
eventually concluded neither he nor the expert know the true answer
 the theme of Recollection/ Anamnesis which is the idea that the soul is eternal,
knows everything and only has to recollect in order to learn
 Virtue is a kind of wisdom (virtue = knowledge?)
 Socrates and Meno work through a number of possible definition of virtue each
suggested by Meno and dismantled by Socrates e.g. …
 The question is raised can you seek what you do not know (like trying to seek the
definition of virtue) and Socrates uses Meno’s slave to solve a problem via the
recollection theory.
 By the end they come to the conclusion that they do not know what virtue is but at
least they know that they do not know.
Section 70-80
 Socrates claims that he does not know the definition of virtue and he hasn’t met
anyone who does. He believes it is better to know that one does not know than
“boldly and grandly” claim you do when you are in fact ignorant.
 Meno gives an answer – diff for men (managing public affairs, helping friends,
harming enemies etc) and for women (managing the home. Being submissive to
husband etc) also diff for children slaves etc
 Socrates points out these a e.gs – he wants the form of virtue (links with Plato’s
theory of forms)
 Meno gives several other examples such as “to desire beautiful things and have
the power to acquire them.” But Socrates states they must be acquired
justly/piously but if virtue is to acquire good things justly and if justice is a kind of
virtue then it is not the definition just an example again. He also points out that
some men desire bad things, and further that they do not know these things to be
bad (since no one desires what will harm them) – another issue.

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Introduction To Early Greek Philosophy (PHIL1003) Meno Summary

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