Uploaded by Tu Nguyen

Plato Meno

Tu Nguyen
PHIL 1000 – R27
Philosophy of Human Nature
Reading Reflection 01
In ‘Meno’ - Plato, Meno comes to Socrates with the question “can virtue be taught,” an
inquiry that to Socrates cannot be answered without first defining virtue. (‘Meno’, 70b) They
temporarily settle with the definition of virtue as “a kind of wisdom,” “either the whole or a
part of it,” for qualities of the soul by themselves are neither good nor bad, but rather come
to be so under the influence of wisdom. (‘Meno’, 88d & 89a) With the mutual agreement
that virtue is beneficial and not by nature, Socrates goes on to prove that virtue is not
teachable and thus not a kind of knowledge. The refutation of virtue as neither nature nor
teachable is absolutely crucial to ‘Meno’, for with these eliminations, Socrates arrives at the
definition and qualities of virtue as “neither an inborn quality nor taught, but comes to
those who possess it as a gift from the gods” – both the answer to Meno’s probing question
and the main purpose of the dialogue itself. (‘Meno’, 100a)
I find Socrates’s argument for why virtue is not by nature insufficient. Socrates does not
offer an explanation, unlike how he employs specific examples of “the good men of today
and of the past” to prove that virtuous men themselves are unable to pass on their own
good qualities. (‘Meno’, 93b) Instead, he only hypothesizes that if the good are by nature,
“we would take those whom they had pointed out and guard them in the Acropolis” and
implies that such hypothesis is not possible. (‘Meno’, 89b) The hypothesis does not make
sense, and we could apply the same hypothesis to the probability of virtue being the gifts
from god. Would not the ones with such gifts be guarded to “[reach] maturity” and “be
useful to their cities,” and would that scenario also make no sense? (‘Meno’, 89c) Meno’s
supposed agreement with the notion rules out the need for further explaining, but since