Chapter 16 - Meno's progress  pp. 209-213

Meno's progress

By Dominic Scott

Image View Previous Chapter Next Chapter



On pages 60–65 above, I claimed that Plato draws an extremely vivid portrait of Meno's character throughout the work, and has Socrates attempt to reform it as the conversation goes on. One of his main stratagems is to use the slave boy and Anytus as object lessons from which Meno is supposed to learn. I now wish to examine the last section of the dialogue, 96d onwards, to see whether Socrates ultimately has any success.

Let us turn back to the point where Anytus leaves Socrates and Meno to continue the discussion as to whether virtue is teachable. After concluding that it is not (95b1–96c10), Socrates introduces the distinction between knowledge and true belief (96d1–98b6); finally they agree that virtue is true belief, not knowledge, and comes not by teaching but by divine dispensation (98b7–100c2). What I wish to show is that throughout this passage Meno's behaviour as an interlocutor undergoes a marked change, especially in comparison to the first ten pages of the dialogue.

He is much milder and more co-operative. There are certainly no abrupt or peremptory demands, nor any obstructions. At no point does Socrates need to comment on his failings, even light-heartedly. The third section (98b7–100c2) is a particularly striking contrast to Meno's behaviour in the first part of the dialogue: in all his answers he agrees straightforwardly with Socrates.

Chapter 16

Reference Type: reference-list

Reference Type: reference-list

Adkins, A. W. H. (1960) Merit and Responsibility: a Study in Greek Values. Oxford
Annas, J. (1981) An Introduction to Plato's Republic. Oxford
Anscombe, G. E. M. (1979) ‘Understanding proofs: Meno, 85d9–86c2, continued’, Philosophy 54: 149–58
Barnes, J. (1972) ‘Mr. Locke's darling notion’, Philosophical Quarterly 22: 193–214
Barnes, J. (1980) ‘Socrates and the jury: paradoxes in Plato's distinction between knowledge and true belief’, Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, suppl. vol. 54, 193–206
Bedu-Addo, J. T. (1984) ‘Recollection and the argument “from a hypothesis” in Plato's Meno’, Journal of Hellenic Studies 104: 1–14
Benson, H. H. (1990) ‘The priority of definition and the Socratic elenchus’, Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy 8: 19–65
Benson, H. H. (2000) Socratic Wisdom. Oxford
Benson, H. H. (2002) ‘The method of hypothesis in the Meno’, Boston Area Colloquium in Ancient Philosophy 18: 95–126
Berti, E. (1981) ed. Aristotle's Posterior Analytics. Padua
Beversluis, J. (1987) ‘Does Socrates commit the Socratic fallacy?’, American Philosophy Quarterly 24: 211–23
Blondell, R. (2002) The Play of Character in Plato's Dialogues. Cambridge
Bluck, R. S. (1961) Plato's Meno. Cambridge
Bostock, D. (1986) Plato's Phaedo. Oxford
Brague, R. (1978) Le Restant: Supplément aux Commentaires du Ménon de Platon. Paris
Brickhouse, T. C. and Smith, N. D. (1994) Plato's Socrates. Oxford
Brown, L. (1991) ‘Connaissance et réminiscence dans le Ménon’, Revue Philosophique 181: 603–19
Brown, M. S. (1967) ‘Plato disapproves of the slave-boy's answer’, Review of Metaphysics 20: 57–93
Brumbaugh, R. (1975) ‘Plato's Meno as form and as content of secondary school courses in philosophy’, Teaching Philosophy 1: 107–15
Brunschwig, J. (1991) ‘Pouvoir enseigner la vertue?’, Revue Philosophique 181: 591–602
Burnet, J. (1900–7) ed. Platonis Opera. 5 vols. Oxford
Burnet, J. (1908) Early Greek Philosophy. 2nd edn. London
Burnyeat, M. F. (1977) ‘Examples in epistemology: Socrates, Theaetetus and G. E. Moore’, Philosophy 52: 381–98
Burnyeat, M. F. (1980) ‘Socrates and the jury: paradoxes in Plato's distinction between knowledge and true belief’, Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, suppl. vol. 54: 173–91
Burnyeat, M. F. (1981) ‘Aristotle on understanding knowledge’, in Berti (1981) ed. 97–139
Burnyeat, M. F. (1987) ‘Wittgenstein and Augustine De Magistro’, Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society suppl. vol. 61: 1–24
Burnyeat, M. F. (1997) ‘First words: a valedictory lecture’, Proceedings of the Cambridge Philological Society, 3rd series, 43: 1–20
Burnyeat, M. F. (2003) ‘By the dog’, Review of Blondell (2002), London Review of Books, vol. 25, no. 15: 23–24
Bury, R. G. (1932) The Symposium of Plato. 2nd edn. Cambridge
Calvert, B. (1974) ‘Meno's paradox reconsidered’, Journal of the History of Philosophy 12: 143–52
Calvert, B. (1984) ‘The politicians of Athens in the Gorgias and Meno’, History of Political Thought 5: 1–16
Canto, M. (1987) Platon: Gorgias. Paris
Canto-Sperber, M. (1991) Platon: Ménon. Paris
Carcopino, J. (1927) La Basilique Pythagoricienne. Paris
Cherniss, H. (1947) ‘Some war-time publications concerning Plato’, American Journal of Philology 68: 113–46
Cook Wilson, J. (1903) ‘On the geometrical problem in Plato's Meno, 86E sqq.’, Journal of Philology 28: 222–40
Cooper, J. M. (1997) ed. Plato: Complete Works. Indianapolis
Cottingham, J., Stoothof, R. and Murdoch, D. (1984–91) eds. The Philosophical Writings of Descartes. 3 vols. Cambridge
Cowie, F. (1999) What's Within? Nativism Reconsidered. Oxford
Croiset, A. and Bodin, L. (1923) Platon: Gorgias et Ménon. Paris
Crombie, I. M. (1963) An Examination of Plato's Doctrines. 2 vols. London
Day, J. M. (1994) ed. Plato's Meno in Focus. London
Desjardins, R. (1985) ‘Knowledge and virtue: paradox in Plato's Meno’, Review of Metaphysics 39: 261–81
Devereux, D. T. (1978) ‘Nature and teaching in Plato's Meno’, Phronesis 23: 118–26
Diels, H. and Kranz, W. (1985) eds. Die Fragmente der Vorsokratiker. 3 vols. 6th edn. Zürich and Hildesheim. (Cited as DK)
Dodds, E. R. (1959) Plato's Gorgias. Oxford
Dover, K. J. (1974) Greek Popular Morality. Oxford
Ebert, T. (1973) ‘Plato's theory of recollection reconsidered: an interpretation of Meno 80a–86c’, Man and World 6: 163–81
Ebert, T. (1974) Meinung und Wiṡsen in der Philosophie Platons. Berlin
Everson, S. (1990) ed. Epistemology (Companions to Ancient Thought I). Cambridge
Fine, G. (1990) ‘Knowledge and belief in Republic vvii’, in Everson (1990) 85–115
Fine, G. (1992) ‘Inquiry in the Meno’, in Kraut (1992) ed. 200–26
Fine, G. (1999) ed. Plato (Oxford Readings in Philosophy) 2 vols. Oxford
Fine, G. (2003) Plato on Knowledge and Forms. Oxford
Fine, G. (2004) ‘Knowledge and true belief in the Meno’, Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy 27: 41–81
Fowler, H. N. (1926) trans. Plato: Cratylus, Parmenides, Greater Hippias, Lesser Hippias. Loeb translation. Vol iv. Cambridge, Mass.
Franklin, L. (2001) ‘The structure of dialectic in the Meno’, Phronesis 46: 413–39
Friedländer, P. (1945) Review of Robinson (1941). Classical Philology 40: 253–9
Friedländer, P. (1958) Plato I: An Introduction. London
Friedländer, P. (1964) Plato II: The Dialogues (First Period). London
Gaiser, K. (1963) Review of Bluck (1961). Gymnasium 70: 440–2
Geach, P. T. (1966) ‘Plato's Euthyphro: an analysis and commentary’, Monist 50: 369–82
Gedike, F. (1780) ed. Platonis Dialogi IV: Meno, Krito, Alcibiades uterque. Berlin
Gomperz, T. (1905) A History of Greek Philosophy. Vol. ii. London
Gordon, J. (1999) Turning Toward Philosophy. Pennsylvania
Gulley, N. (1962) Plato's Theory of Knowledge. London
Gulley, N. (1969) Review of Klein (1965). Classical Review, new series, 19 no. 2: 162–3
Guthrie, W. C. K. (1956) trans. Plato: Protagoras and Meno. Penguin Translation. Harmondsworth
Guthrie, W. C. K. (1971) The Sophists. Cambridge
Hackforth, R. (1952) Plato's Phaedrus. Cambridge
Hackforth, R. (1955) Plato's Phaedo. Cambridge
Hacking, I. (1975) Why Does Language Matter to Philosophy? Cambridge
Hall, R. W. (1981) Plato. London
Heath, T. E. (1921) A History of Greek Mathematics, vol. i. Oxford
Hobbs, A. (2000) Plato and the Hero: Courage, Manliness and the Impersonal Good. Cambridge
Hoerber, R. G. (1960) ‘Plato's Meno’, Phronesis 5: 78–102
Irwin, T. (1977) Plato's Moral Theory. Oxford
Irwin, T. (1979) Plato: Gorgias. Oxford
Irwin, T. (1995) Plato's Ethics. Oxford
Jolley, N. (1984) Leibniz and Locke. Oxford
Kerferd, G. B. (1981) The Sophistic Movement. Cambridge
Kirk, G. S., Raven, J. E. and Schofield, M. (1983) The Presocratic Philosophers. 2nd edn. Cambridge
Klein, J. (1965) A Commentary on Plato's Meno. Chicago
Knorr, W. R. (1986) The Ancient Tradition of Geometric Problems. Boston
Korsgaard, C. M. (1983) ‘Two distinctions in goodness’, Philosophical Review 92: 169–95
Kraut, R. (1984) Socrates and the State. Princeton
Kraut, R. (1992) ed. The Cambridge Companion to Plato. Cambridge
Lamb, W. R. M. (1924) trans. Plato: Laches, Protagoras, Meno, Euthydemus. Loeb translation. Cambridge, Mass.
Lloyd, G. E. R. (1992) ‘Plato and the mysteries of mathematics’, Phronesis 37: 166–83
McCabe, M. M. (1994) Plato's Individuals. Princeton
Menn, S. (2002) ‘Plato and the method of analysis’, Phronesis 47: 193–223
Mill, J. S. (1979) Essays on Philosophy and the Classics, in The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, vol. xi, J. M. Robson ed. Toronto
Moline, J. (1969) ‘Meno's paradox?’, Phronesis 14: 153–61
Moravcsik, J. (1978) ‘Learning as recollection’, in Vlastos (1978) ed. 53–69 [repr. in Day (1994) ed. 112–28]
Moser, P. K. (1987) A Priori Knowledge (Oxford Readings in Philosophy). Oxford
Mueller, I. (1992) ‘Mathematical method and philosophical truth’, in Kraut (1992) ed. 170–99
Nakhnikian, G. (1973) ‘The first Socratic paradox’, Journal of the History of Philosophy 11: 1–17 [repr. in Day (1994) ed. 129–51]
Nehamas, A. (1985) ‘Meno's paradox and Socrates as a teacher’, Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy 3: 1–30 [repr. in Day (1994) ed. 221–48]
Nehamas, A. (1987) ‘Socratic intellectualism’, Proceedings of the Boston Area Colloquium in Ancient Philosophy 2: 275–316
Newman, W. L. (1887) The Politics of Aristotle. 4 vols. Oxford
Nussbaum, M. (1980) ‘Aristophanes and Socrates on learning practical wisdom’, Yale Classical Studies 26: 43–97
O'Brien, M. J. (1967) The Socratic Paradoxes and the Greek Mind. Chapel Hill
Parkinson, G. H. R. (1973) ed. Leibniz: Philosophical Writings. London
Penner, T. (1973) ‘The unity of virtue’, Philosophical Review 82: 35–68
Phillips, B. (1948) ‘The significance of Meno's paradox’, Classical Weekly 42: 87–91
Popper, K. R. (1966) The Open Society and its Enemies. 5th edn. London
Prior, W. J. (1998) ‘Plato and the Socratic fallacy’, Phronesis 43: 97–113
Rackham, H. (1959) trans. Aristotle: Politics. Loeb translation. Cambridge, Mass
Remnant, P. and Bennett, J. (1982) eds. G. W. Leibniz: New Essays on Human Understanding. Cambridge
Reuter, M. (2001) ‘Is goodness really a gift from god? Another look at the conclusion of Plato's Meno’, Phoenix 55: 77–97
Robinson, R. (1941) Plato's Earlier Dialectic. 1st edn. Ithaca
Robinson, R. (1953) Plato's Earlier Dialectic. 2nd edn. Oxford
Robinson, T. M. (1995) Plato's Psychology. 2nd edn. Toronto
Rose, L. (1970) ‘Plato's Meno 86–9’, Journal of the History of Philosophy 8: 1–8
Ryle, G. (1976) ‘The Meno: many things are odd about our Meno’, Paideia (Special Plato Issue) 5: 1–9
Santas, G. (1972) ‘The Socratic fallacy’, Journal of the History of Philosophy 10: 127–41
Santas, G. (1979) Socrates. London
Santas, G. (2001) Goodness and Justice: Plato, Aristotle and the Moderns. Blackwell
Saunders, T. J. (1995) Aristotle: Politics, Books I and II. Oxford
Savile, A. (1972) ‘Leibniz's contribution to the theory of innate ideas’, Philosophy 47: 113–24
Scolnicov, S. (1988) Plato's Metaphysics of Education. London and New York
Scott, D. (1988) ‘Innatism and the Stoa’, Proceedings of the Cambridge Philological Society, 3rd series, 33: 123–53
Scott, D. (1991) ‘Socrate prend-il au sérieux le paradoxe de Ménon?’, Revue Philosophique 181: 627–41
Scott, D. (1995) Recollection and Experience. Cambridge
Scott, D. (1999) ‘Platonic pessimism and moral education’, Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy 17: 15–36
Sedley, D. (1999) ‘The ideal of godlikeness’, in Fine (1999) ed., vol. II, 309–28
Sedley, D. (2004) Plato's Cratylus. Cambridge
Seeskin, K. (1987) Dialogue and Discovery: a Study in Socratic Method. Albany, New York
Sharples, R. (1985) Plato's Meno. Warminster
Shorey, P. A. (1909) ‘Φύσις, μελέτη, ἔπιστήμη’, Transactions of the American Philological Association 40: 184–201
Shorey, P. A. (1930) Plato: Republic. Loeb translation. 2 vols. Cambridge, Mass.
Sternfeld, R. and Zyskind, H. (1976) ‘Plato's Meno 89c: “Virtue is knowledge” – a hypothesis?’, Phronesis 21: 130–4
Sternfeld, R. and Zyskind, H. (1978) Plato's Meno: a Philosophy of Man as Acquisitive. Carbondale and London
Stock, St. G. (1904) The Meno of Plato. 3rd edn. Oxford
Tarrant, H. (2003) Review of Gordon (1999). Ancient Philosophy 23: 435–9
Taylor, A. E. (1926) Plato: The Man and His Work. London
Thomas, J. E. (1980) Musings on the Meno. The Hague
Thompson, E. S. (1901) The Meno of Plato. London
Umphrey, S. (1990) Zetetic Skepticism. Wakefield, New Hampshire
Verdenius, M. J. (1957) ‘Notes on Plato's Meno’, Mnemosyne, 4th series, 10: 289–99
Vlastos, G. (1965) ‘Anamnesis in the Meno’, Dialogue 4: 143–67 [repr. in Vlastos (1995) vol. II: 147–65]
Vlastos, G. (1969) ‘Socrates on acrasia’, Phoenix 23: 71–88 [repr. in Vlastos (1995) vol. II: 43–59]
Vlastos, G. (1978) ed. Plato I: Metaphysics and Epistemology. Notre Dame
Vlastos, G. (1980) ed. Socrates: a Collection of Critical Essays. Notre Dame
Vlastos, G. (1991) Socrates: Ironist and Moral Philosopher. Cambridge
Vlastos, G. (1994) Socratic Studies. Cambridge
Vlastos, G. (1995) Studies in Greek Philosophy. 2 vols. Princeton
Weiss, R. (2001) Virtue in the Cave: Moral Inquiry in Plato's Meno. Oxford
West, M. L. (1983) The Orphic Poems. Oxford
White, N. P. (1974) ‘Inquiry’, Review of Metaphysics 28: 289–310 [repr. in Day (1994) ed. 152–71]
White, N. P. (1976) Plato on Knowledge and Reality. Indianapolis
Wilkes, K. V. (1979) ‘Conclusions in the Meno’, Archiv für Geschichte der Philosophie 61: 143–53 [repr. in Day (1994) ed. 208–20]
Wittgenstein, L. (1967) Philosophical Investigations. 3rd edn. Oxford
Woodruff, P. (1987) ‘Expert knowledge in the Apology and Laches: what a general needs to know’, Proceedings of the Boston Area Colloquium in Ancient Philosophy 3: 79–115