Meno - Plato 9/24/2013 7:31:00 AM
Early (“Socratic”) Dialogues:
Asks “What is F?” questions, where F is a moral concept
Question-and-answer, cross examination style
Socrates is main examiner; one or two interlocutors
Socratic ignorance (no major knowledge claims)
Aporetic- puzzlement, a state in which you do not know at the end.
The all end with no answer to the problem, no positive outcome.
E.g, Aplogy, Euthyphro, Crito, Charmides, Laches.
Middle Period dialogues:
Explores themes beyond virtue (metaphysics, epistemology,
Socrates advances positive philosophical theses
Theory of Forms – forms that are eternal related to beings.
Examples: Phaedo, Phaedrus, Republic, Symposium.
Also quite long
Socrates typically not main character (if present of all)
Forms no longer play significant role
Example: Parmenides, Laws, Timaeus, Critias, Philebus,
Protagoras, Gorgias: have characteristics of “Socratic” dialogues,
but are quite long.
Meno: starts off as “what is F?” inquiry, but has the marks of
middle-period dialogues (transitional?)
Timaeus: all evidence points to late composition, but shares
doctrines with middle-period
Theaetetus, Philebus: belong to late period, but revive “Socratic”
Elenchus: to cross examine, aporetic. Refute the other person, interested in
truth. (Socratic method) If engage in method with him, motivated by right kinds of desires.
The desire to find truth. If truth is your goal, you must be willing to
Temperance: requires moderation.
Callicles – anti-temperance. Believes that moderation is the weak
trying to oppress the strong.
Socratic method cannot find truth. The only thing it can reveal is
“Doxastic Coherence” (makes sure beliefs are consistent)
Meno: Definition, Knowledge and True Belief (epistemology)
Can virtue be taught? Is it acquired by learning, habit or natural?
Or is it a gift from the Gods? Or something that is random/ by
What is virtue? If we don’t know what virtue is, we can’t say what
it’s like? If I have no knowledge of something, I can’t ask anything
o Virtues are standards of excellence.
o Moral virtues: standards of excellence that govern human
conduct and social interactions (e.g., justice. Temperance,
o A good human is one who lives her life in accordance with
o To be a good person is to have a good sense of humor. The
person who has a good sense of humor does not make a joke
a funeral. Is this something we learn or are we born with it?
Priority of Definition:
i. In order to investigate something F, you need to know what F
1. What is it to know F?
ii. Knowledge of F involved grasping its essential nature
iii. If you grasp the essence of a thing, you should be able to give
a definition of it.
Extensional Definitions: defines a concept by listing the class of
entities to which that concept applies. (examples)
o What is a country? Canada, US, England, etc. Intensional Definition: defines a concept in terms of certain
properties that make something an instance of that concept.
o What is a country? A nation w