Meno by Plato
Meno

Plato Meno

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[1]        
[2]        MENO
[3]        
[4]        by
[5]        
[6]        Plato
[7]        
[8]        Translated by Benjamin Jowett
[9]        
[10]       
[11]       PERSONS OF THE DIALOGUE: Meno, Socrates, A Slave of Meno (Boy), Anytus.
[12]       
[13]       
[14]       MENO: Can you tell me, Socrates, whether virtue is acquired by teaching or
[15]       by practice; or if neither by teaching nor by practice, then whether it
[16]       comes to man by nature, or in what other way?
[17]       
[18]       SOCRATES: O Meno, there was a time when the Thessalians were famous among
[19]       the other Hellenes only for their riches and their riding; but now, if I am
[20]       not mistaken, they are equally famous for their wisdom, especially at
[21]       Larisa, which is the native city of your friend Aristippus. And this is
[22]       Gorgias' doing; for when he came there, the flower of the Aleuadae, among
[23]       them your admirer Aristippus, and the other chiefs of the Thessalians, fell
[24]       in love with his wisdom. And he has taught you the habit of answering
[25]       questions in a grand and bold style, which becomes those who know, and is
[26]       the style in which he himself answers all comers; and any Hellene who likes
[27]       may ask him anything. How different is our lot! my dear Meno. Here at
[28]       Athens there is a dearth of the commodity, and all wisdom seems to have
[29]       emigrated from us to you. I am certain that if you were to ask any
[30]       Athenian whether virtue was natural or acquired, he would laugh in your
[31]       face, and say: 'Stranger, you have far too good an opinion of me, if you
[32]       think that I can answer your question. For I literally do not know what
[33]       virtue is, and much less whether it is acquired by teaching or not.' And I
[34]       myself, Meno, living as I do in this region of poverty, am as poor as the
[35]       rest of the world; and I confess with shame that I know literally nothing
[36]       about virtue; and when I do not know the 'quid' of anything how can I know
[37]       the 'quale'? How, if I knew nothing at all of Meno, could I tell if he was
[38]       fair, or the opposite of fair; rich and noble, or the reverse of rich and
[39]       noble? Do you think that I could?
[40]       
[41]       MENO: No, indeed. But are you in earnest, Socrates, in saying that you do
[42]       not know what virtue is? And am I to carry back this report of you to
[43]       Thessaly?
[44]       
[45]       SOCRATES: Not only that, my dear boy, but you may say further that I have
[46]       never known of any one else who did, in my judgment.
[47]       
[48]       MENO: Then you have never met Gorgias when he was at Athens?
[49]       
[50]       SOCRATES: Yes, I have.
[51]       
[52]       MENO: And did you not think that he knew?
[53]       
[54]       SOCRATES: I have not a good memory, Meno, and therefore I cannot now tell
[55]       what I thought of him at the time. And I dare say that he did know, and
[56]       that you know what he said: please, therefore, to remind me of what he
[57]       said; or, if you would rather, tell me your own view; for I suspect that
[58]       you and he think much alike.
[59]       
[60]       MENO: Very true.
[61]       
[62]       SOCRATES: Then as he is not here, never mind him, and do you tell me: By
[63]       the gods, Meno, be generous, and tell me what you say that virtue is; for I
[64]       shall be truly delighted to find that I have been mistaken, and that you
[65]       and Gorgias do really have this knowledge; although I have been just saying
[66]       that I have never found anybody who had.
[67]       
[68]       MENO: There will be no difficulty, Socrates, in answering your question.
[69]       Let us take first the virtue of a man--he should know how to administer the
[70]       state, and in the administration of it to benefit his friends and harm his
[71]       enemies; and he must also be careful not to suffer harm himself. A woman's
[72]       virtue, if you wish to know about that, may also be easily described: her
[73]       duty is to order her house, and keep what is indoors, and obey her husband.
[74]       Every age, every condition of life, young or old, male or female, bond or
[75]       free, has a different virtue: there are virtues numberless, and no lack of
[76]       definitions of them; for virtue is relative to the actions and ages of each
[77]       of us in all that we do. And the same may be said of vice, Socrates
[78]       (Compare Arist. Pol.).
[79]       
[80]       SOCRATES: How fortunate I am, Meno! When I ask you for one virtue, you
[81]       present me with a swarm of them (Compare Theaet.), which are in your
[82]       keeping. Suppose that I carry on the figure of the swarm, and ask of you,
[83]       What is the nature of the bee? and you answer that there are many kinds of
[84]       bees, and I reply: But do bees differ as bees, because there are many and
[85]       different kinds of them; or are they not rather to be distinguished by some
[86]       other quality, as for example beauty, size, or shape? How would you answer
[87]       me?
[88]       
[89]       MENO: I should answer that bees do not differ from one another, as bees.
[90]       
[91]       SOCRATES: And if I went on to say: That is what I desire to know, Meno;
[92]       tell me what is the quality in which they do not differ, but are all
[93]       alike;--would you be able to answer?
[94]       
[95]       MENO: I should.
[96]       
[97]       SOCRATES: And so of the virtues, however many and different they may be,
[98]       they have all a common nature which makes them virtues; and on this he who
[99]       would answer the question, 'What is virtue?' would do well to have his eye
[100]      fixed: Do you understand?
[101]      
[102]      MENO: I am beginning to understand; but I do not as yet take hold of the
[103]      question as I could wish.
[104]      
[105]      SOCRATES: When you say, Meno, that there is one virtue of a man, another
[106]      of a woman, another of a child, and so on, does this apply only to virtue,
[107]      or would you say the same of health, and size, and strength? Or is the
[108]      nature of health always the same, whether in man or woman?
[109]      
[110]      MENO: I should say that health is the same, both in man and woman.
[111]      
[112]      SOCRATES: And is not this true of size and strength? If a woman is
[113]      strong, she will be strong by reason of the same form and of the same
[114]      strength subsisting in her which there is in the man. I mean to say that
[115]      strength, as strength, whether of man or woman, is the same. Is there any
[116]      difference?
[117]      
[118]      MENO: I think not.
[119]      
[120]      SOCRATES: And will not virtue, as virtue, be the same, whether in a child
[121]      or in a grown-up person, in a woman or in a man?
[122]      
[123]      MENO: I cannot help feeling, Socrates, that this case is different from
[124]      the others.
[125]      
[126]      SOCRATES: But why? Were you not saying that the virtue of a man was to
[127]      order a state, and the virtue of a woman was to order a house?
[128]      
[129]      MENO: I did say so.
[130]      
[131]      SOCRATES: And can either house or state or anything be well ordered
[132]      without temperance and without justice?
[133]      
[134]      MENO: Certainly not.
[135]      
[136]      SOCRATES: Then they who order a state or a house temperately or justly
[137]      order them with temperance and justice?
[138]      
[139]      MENO: Certainly.
[140]      
[141]      SOCRATES: Then both men and women, if they are to be good men and women,
[142]      must have the same virtues of temperance and justice?
[143]      
[144]      MENO: True.
[145]      
[146]      SOCRATES: And can either a young man or an elder one be good, if they are
[147]      intemperate and unjust?
[148]      
[149]      MENO: They cannot.
[150]      
[151]      SOCRATES: They must be temperate and just?
[152]      
[153]      MENO: Yes.
[154]      
[155]      SOCRATES: Then all men are good in the same way, and by participation in
[156]      the same virtues?
[157]      
[158]      MENO: Such is the inference.
[159]      
[160]      SOCRATES: And they surely would not have been good in the same way, unless
[161]      their virtue had been the same?
[162]      
[163]      MENO: They would not.
[164]      
[165]      SOCRATES: Then now that the sameness of all virtue has been proven, try
[166]      and remember what you and Gorgias say that virtue is.
[167]      
[168]      MENO: Will you have one definition of them all?
[169]      
[170]      SOCRATES: That is what I am seeking.
[171]      
[172]      MENO: If you want to have one definition of them all, I know not what to
[173]      say, but that virtue is the power of governing mankind.
[174]      
[175]      SOCRATES: And does this definition of virtue include all virtue? Is
[176]      virtue the same in a child and in a slave, Meno? Can the child govern his
[177]      father, or the slave his master; and would he who governed be any longer a
[178]      slave?
[179]      
[180]      MENO: I think not, Socrates.
[181]      
[182]      SOCRATES: No, indeed; there would be small reason in that. Yet once more,
[183]      fair friend; according to you, virtue is 'the power of governing;' but do
[184]      you not add 'justly and not unjustly'?
[185]      
[186]      MENO: Yes, Socrates; I agree there; for justice is virtue.
[187]      
[188]      SOCRATES: Would you say 'virtue,' Meno, or 'a virtue'?
[189]      
[190]      MENO: What do you mean?
[191]      
[192]      SOCRATES: I mean as I might say about anything; that a round, for example,
[193]      is 'a figure' and not simply 'figure,' and I should adopt this mode of
[194]      speaking, because there are other figures.
[195]      
[196]      MENO: Quite right; and that is just what I am saying about virtue--that
[197]      there are other virtues as well as justice.
[198]      
[199]      SOCRATES: What are they? tell me the names of them, as I would tell you
[200]      the names of the other figures if you asked me.
[201]      
[202]      MENO: Courage and temperance and wisdom and magnanimity are virtues; and
[203]      there are many others.
[204]      
[205]      SOCRATES: Yes, Meno; and again we are in the same case: in searching
[206]      after one virtue we have found many, though not in the same way as before;
[207]      but we have been unable to find the common virtue which runs through them
[208]      all.
[209]      
[210]      MENO: Why, Socrates, even now I am not able to follow you in the attempt
[211]      to get at one common notion of virtue as of other things.
[212]      
[213]      SOCRATES: No wonder; but I will try to get nearer if I can, for you know
[214]      that all things have a common notion. Suppose now that some one asked you
[215]      the question which I asked before: Meno, he would say, what is figure?
[216]      And if you answered 'roundness,' he would reply to you, in my way of
[217]      speaking, by asking whether you would say that roundness is 'figure' or 'a
[218]      figure;' and you would answer 'a figure.'
[219]      
[220]      MENO: Certainly.
[221]      
[222]      SOCRATES: And for this reason--that there are other figures?
[223]      
[224]      MENO: Yes.
[225]      
[226]      SOCRATES: And if he proceeded to ask, What other figures are there? you
[227]      would have told him.
[228]      
[229]      MENO: I should.
[230]      
[231]      SOCRATES: And if he similarly asked what colour is, and you answered
[232]      whiteness, and the questioner rejoined, Would you say that whiteness is
[233]      colour or a colour? you would reply, A colour, because there are other
[234]      colours as well.
[235]      
[236]      MENO: I should.
[237]      
[238]      SOCRATES: And if he had said, Tell me what they are?--you would have told
[239]      him of other colours which are colours just as much as whiteness.
[240]      
[241]      MENO: Yes.
[242]      
[243]      SOCRATES: And suppose that he were to pursue the matter in my way, he
[244]      would say: Ever and anon we are landed in particulars, but this is not
[245]      what I want; tell me then, since you call them by a common name, and say
[246]      that they are all figures, even when opposed to one another, what is that
[247]      common nature which you designate as figure--which contains straight as
[248]      well as round, and is no more one than the other--that would be your mode
[249]      of speaking?
[250]      
[251]      MENO: Yes.
[252]      
[253]      SOCRATES: And in speaking thus, you do not mean to say that the round is
[254]      round any more than straight, or the straight any more straight than round?
[255]      
[256]      MENO: Certainly not.
[257]      
[258]      SOCRATES: You only assert that the round figure is not more a figure than
[259]      the straight, or the straight than the round?
[260]      
[261]      MENO: Very true.
[262]      
[263]      SOCRATES: To what then do we give the name of figure? Try and answer.
[264]      Suppose that when a person asked you this question either about figure or
[265]      colour, you were to reply, Man, I do not understand what you want, or know
[266]      what you are saying; he would look rather astonished and say: Do you not
[267]      understand that I am looking for the 'simile in multis'? And then he might
[268]      put the question in another form: Meno, he might say, what is that 'simile
[269]      in multis' which you call figure, and which includes not only round and
[270]      straight figures, but all? Could you not answer that question, Meno? I
[271]      wish that you would try; the attempt will be good practice with a view to
[272]      the answer about virtue.
[273]      
[274]      MENO: I would rather that you should answer, Socrates.
[275]      
[276]      SOCRATES: Shall I indulge you?
[277]      
[278]      MENO: By all means.
[279]      
[280]      SOCRATES: And then you will tell me about virtue?
[281]      
[282]      MENO: I will.
[283]      
[284]      SOCRATES: Then I must do my best, for there is a prize to be won.
[285]      
[286]      MENO: Certainly.
[287]      
[288]      SOCRATES: Well, I will try and explain to you what figure is. What do you
[289]      say to this answer?--Figure is the only thing which always follows colour.
[290]      Will you be satisfied with it, as I am sure that I should be, if you would
[291]      let me have a similar definition of virtue?
[292]      
[293]      MENO: But, Socrates, it is such a simple answer.
[294]      
[295]      SOCRATES: Why simple?
[296]      
[297]      MENO: Because, according to you, figure is that which always follows
[298]      colour.
[299]      
[300]      (SOCRATES: Granted.)
[301]      
[302]      MENO: But if a person were to say that he does not know what colour is,
[303]      any more than what figure is--what sort of answer would you have given him?
[304]      
[305]      SOCRATES: I should have told him the truth. And if he were a philosopher
[306]      of the eristic and antagonistic sort, I should say to him: You have my
[307]      answer, and if I am wrong, your business is to take up the argument and
[308]      refute me. But if we were friends, and were talking as you and I are now,
[309]      I should reply in a milder strain and more in the dialectician's vein; that
[310]      is to say, I should not only speak the truth, but I should make use of
[311]      premisses which the person interrogated would be willing to admit. And
[312]      this is the way in which I shall endeavour to approach you. You will
[313]      acknowledge, will you not, that there is such a thing as an end, or
[314]      termination, or extremity?--all which words I use in the same sense,
[315]      although I am aware that Prodicus might draw distinctions about them: but
[316]      still you, I am sure, would speak of a thing as ended or terminated--that
[317]      is all which I am saying--not anything very difficult.
[318]      
[319]      MENO: Yes, I should; and I believe that I understand your meaning.
[320]      
[321]      SOCRATES: And you would speak of a surface and also of a solid, as for
[322]      example in geometry.
[323]      
[324]      MENO: Yes.
[325]      
[326]      SOCRATES: Well then, you are now in a condition to understand my
[327]      definition of figure. I define figure to be that in which the solid ends;
[328]      or, more concisely, the limit of solid.
[329]      
[330]      MENO: And now, Socrates, what is colour?
[331]      
[332]      SOCRATES: You are outrageous, Meno, in thus plaguing a poor old man to
[333]      give you an answer, when you will not take the trouble of remembering what
[334]      is Gorgias' definition of virtue.
[335]      
[336]      MENO: When you have told me what I ask, I will tell you, Socrates.
[337]      
[338]      SOCRATES: A man who was blindfolded has only to hear you talking, and he
[339]      would know that you are a fair creature and have still many lovers.
[340]      
[341]      MENO: Why do you think so?
[342]      
[343]      SOCRATES: Why, because you always speak in imperatives: like all beauties
[344]      when they are in their prime, you are tyrannical; and also, as I suspect,
[345]      you have found out that I have weakness for the fair, and therefore to
[346]      humour you I must answer.
[347]      
[348]      MENO: Please do.
[349]      
[350]      SOCRATES: Would you like me to answer you after the manner of Gorgias,
[351]      which is familiar to you?
[352]      
[353]      MENO: I should like nothing better.
[354]      
[355]      SOCRATES: Do not he and you and Empedocles say that there are certain
[356]      effluences of existence?
[357]      
[358]      MENO: Certainly.
[359]      
[360]      SOCRATES: And passages into which and through which the effluences pass?
[361]      
[362]      MENO: Exactly.
[363]      
[364]      SOCRATES: And some of the effluences fit into the passages, and some of
[365]      them are too small or too large?
[366]      
[367]      MENO: True.
[368]      
[369]      SOCRATES: And there is such a thing as sight?
[370]      
[371]      MENO: Yes.
[372]      
[373]      SOCRATES: And now, as Pindar says, 'read my meaning:'--colour is an
[374]      effluence of form, commensurate with sight, and palpable to sense.
[375]      
[376]      MENO: That, Socrates, appears to me to be an admirable answer.
[377]      
[378]      SOCRATES: Why, yes, because it happens to be one which you have been in
[379]      the habit of hearing: and your wit will have discovered, I suspect, that
[380]      you may explain in the same way the nature of sound and smell, and of many
[381]      other similar phenomena.
[382]      
[383]      MENO: Quite true.
[384]      
[385]      SOCRATES: The answer, Meno, was in the orthodox solemn vein, and therefore
[386]      was more acceptable to you than the other answer about figure.
[387]      
[388]      MENO: Yes.
[389]      
[390]      SOCRATES: And yet, O son of Alexidemus, I cannot help thinking that the
[391]      other was the better; and I am sure that you would be of the same opinion,
[392]      if you would only stay and be initiated, and were not compelled, as you
[393]      said yesterday, to go away before the mysteries.
[394]      
[395]      MENO: But I will stay, Socrates, if you will give me many such answers.
[396]      
[397]      SOCRATES: Well then, for my own sake as well as for yours, I will do my
[398]      very best; but I am afraid that I shall not be able to give you very many
[399]      as good: and now, in your turn, you are to fulfil your promise, and tell
[400]      me what virtue is in the universal; and do not make a singular into a
[401]      plural, as the facetious say of those who break a thing, but deliver virtue
[402]      to me whole and sound, and not broken into a number of pieces: I have
[403]      given you the pattern.
[404]      
[405]      MENO: Well then, Socrates, virtue, as I take it, is when he, who desires
[406]      the honourable, is able to provide it for himself; so the poet says, and I
[407]      say too--
[408]      
[409]      'Virtue is the desire of things honourable and the power of attaining
[410]      them.'
[411]      
[412]      SOCRATES: And does he who desires the honourable also desire the good?
[413]      
[414]      MENO: Certainly.
[415]      
[416]      SOCRATES: Then are there some who desire the evil and others who desire
[417]      the good? Do not all men, my dear sir, desire good?
[418]      
[419]      MENO: I think not.
[420]      
[421]      SOCRATES: There are some who desire evil?
[422]      
[423]      MENO: Yes.
[424]      
[425]      SOCRATES: Do you mean that they think the evils which they desire, to be
[426]      good; or do they know that they are evil and yet desire them?
[427]      
[428]      MENO: Both, I think.
[429]      
[430]      SOCRATES: And do you really imagine, Meno, that a man knows evils to be
[431]      evils and desires them notwithstanding?
[432]      
[433]      MENO: Certainly I do.
[434]      
[435]      SOCRATES: And desire is of possession?
[436]      
[437]      MENO: Yes, of possession.
[438]      
[439]      SOCRATES: And does he think that the evils will do good to him who
[440]      possesses them, or does he know that they will do him harm?
[441]      
[442]      MENO: There are some who think that the evils will do them good, and
[443]      others who know that they will do them harm.
[444]      
[445]      SOCRATES: And, in your opinion, do those who think that they will do them
[446]      good know that they are evils?
[447]      
[448]      MENO: Certainly not.
[449]      
[450]      SOCRATES: Is it not obvious that those who are ignorant of their nature do
[451]      not desire them; but they desire what they suppose to be goods although
[452]      they are really evils; and if they are mistaken and suppose the evils to be
[453]      goods they really desire goods?
[454]      
[455]      MENO: Yes, in that case.
[456]      
[457]      SOCRATES: Well, and do those who, as you say, desire evils, and think that
[458]      evils are hurtful to the possessor of them, know that they will be hurt by
[459]      them?
[460]      
[461]      MENO: They must know it.
[462]      
[463]      SOCRATES: And must they not suppose that those who are hurt are miserable
[464]      in proportion to the hurt which is inflicted upon them?
[465]      
[466]      MENO: How can it be otherwise?
[467]      
[468]      SOCRATES: But are not the miserable ill-fated?
[469]      
[470]      MENO: Yes, indeed.
[471]      
[472]      SOCRATES: And does any one desire to be miserable and ill-fated?
[473]      
[474]      MENO: I should say not, Socrates.
[475]      
[476]      SOCRATES: But if there is no one who desires to be miserable, there is no
[477]      one, Meno, who desires evil; for what is misery but the desire and
[478]      possession of evil?
[479]      
[480]      MENO: That appears to be the truth, Socrates, and I admit that nobody
[481]      desires evil.
[482]      
[483]      SOCRATES: And yet, were you not saying just now that virtue is the desire
[484]      and power of attaining good?
[485]      
[486]      MENO: Yes, I did say so.
[487]      
[488]      SOCRATES: But if this be affirmed, then the desire of good is common to
[489]      all, and one man is no better than another in that respect?
[490]      
[491]      MENO: True.
[492]      
[493]      SOCRATES: And if one man is not better than another in desiring good, he
[494]      must be better in the power of attaining it?
[495]      
[496]      MENO: Exactly.
[497]      
[498]      SOCRATES: Then, according to your definition, virtue would appear to be
[499]      the power of attaining good?
[500]      
[501]      MENO: I entirely approve, Socrates, of the manner in which you now view
[502]      this matter.
[503]      
[504]      SOCRATES: Then let us see whether what you say is true from another point
[505]      of view; for very likely you may be right:--You affirm virtue to be the
[506]      power of attaining goods?
[507]      
[508]      MENO: Yes.
[509]      
[510]      SOCRATES: And the goods which you mean are such as health and wealth and
[511]      the possession of gold and silver, and having office and honour in the
[512]      state--those are what you would call goods?
[513]      
[514]      MENO: Yes, I should include all those.
[515]      
[516]      SOCRATES: Then, according to Meno, who is the hereditary friend of the
[517]      great king, virtue is the power of getting silver and gold; and would you
[518]      add that they must be gained piously, justly, or do you deem this to be of
[519]      no consequence? And is any mode of acquisition, even if unjust and
[520]      dishonest, equally to be deemed virtue?
[521]      
[522]      MENO: Not virtue, Socrates, but vice.
[523]      
[524]      SOCRATES: Then justice or temperance or holiness, or some other part of
[525]      virtue, as would appear, must accompany the acquisition, and without them
[526]      the mere acquisition of good will not be virtue.
[527]      
[528]      MENO: Why, how can there be virtue without these?
[529]      
[530]      SOCRATES: And the non-acquisition of gold and silver in a dishonest manner
[531]      for oneself or another, or in other words the want of them, may be equally
[532]      virtue?
[533]      
[534]      MENO: True.
[535]      
[536]      SOCRATES: Then the acquisition of such goods is no more virtue than the
[537]      non-acquisition and want of them, but whatever is accompanied by justice or
[538]      honesty is virtue, and whatever is devoid of justice is vice.
[539]      
[540]      MENO: It cannot be otherwise, in my judgment.
[541]      
[542]      SOCRATES: And were we not saying just now that justice, temperance, and
[543]      the like, were each of them a part of virtue?
[544]      
[545]      MENO: Yes.
[546]      
[547]      SOCRATES: And so, Meno, this is the way in which you mock me.
[548]      
[549]      MENO: Why do you say that, Socrates?
[550]      
[551]      SOCRATES: Why, because I asked you to deliver virtue into my hands whole
[552]      and unbroken, and I gave you a pattern according to which you were to frame
[553]      your answer; and you have forgotten already, and tell me that virtue is the
[554]      power of attaining good justly, or with justice; and justice you
[555]      acknowledge to be a part of virtue.
[556]      
[557]      MENO: Yes.
[558]      
[559]      SOCRATES: Then it follows from your own admissions, that virtue is doing
[560]      what you do with a part of virtue; for justice and the like are said by you
[561]      to be parts of virtue.
[562]      
[563]      MENO: What of that?
[564]      
[565]      SOCRATES: What of that! Why, did not I ask you to tell me the nature of
[566]      virtue as a whole? And you are very far from telling me this; but declare
[567]      every action to be virtue which is done with a part of virtue; as though
[568]      you had told me and I must already know the whole of virtue, and this too
[569]      when frittered away into little pieces. And, therefore, my dear Meno, I
[570]      fear that I must begin again and repeat the same question: What is virtue?
[571]      for otherwise, I can only say, that every action done with a part of virtue
[572]      is virtue; what else is the meaning of saying that every action done with
[573]      justice is virtue? Ought I not to ask the question over again; for can any
[574]      one who does not know virtue know a part of virtue?
[575]      
[576]      MENO: No; I do not say that he can.
[577]      
[578]      SOCRATES: Do you remember how, in the example of figure, we rejected any
[579]      answer given in terms which were as yet unexplained or unadmitted?
[580]      
[581]      MENO: Yes, Socrates; and we were quite right in doing so.
[582]      
[583]      SOCRATES: But then, my friend, do not suppose that we can explain to any
[584]      one the nature of virtue as a whole through some unexplained portion of
[585]      virtue, or anything at all in that fashion; we should only have to ask over
[586]      again the old question, What is virtue? Am I not right?
[587]      
[588]      MENO: I believe that you are.
[589]      
[590]      SOCRATES: Then begin again, and answer me, What, according to you and your
[591]      friend Gorgias, is the definition of virtue?
[592]      
[593]      MENO: O Socrates, I used to be told, before I knew you, that you were
[594]      always doubting yourself and making others doubt; and now you are casting
[595]      your spells over me, and I am simply getting bewitched and enchanted, and
[596]      am at my wits' end. And if I may venture to make a jest upon you, you seem
[597]      to me both in your appearance and in your power over others to be very like
[598]      the flat torpedo fish, who torpifies those who come near him and touch him,
[599]      as you have now torpified me, I think. For my soul and my tongue are
[600]      really torpid, and I do not know how to answer you; and though I have been
[601]      delivered of an infinite variety of speeches about virtue before now, and
[602]      to many persons--and very good ones they were, as I thought--at this moment
[603]      I cannot even say what virtue is. And I think that you are very wise in
[604]      not voyaging and going away from home, for if you did in other places as
[605]      you do in Athens, you would be cast into prison as a magician.
[606]      
[607]      SOCRATES: You are a rogue, Meno, and had all but caught me.
[608]      
[609]      MENO: What do you mean, Socrates?
[610]      
[611]      SOCRATES: I can tell why you made a simile about me.
[612]      
[613]      MENO: Why?
[614]      
[615]      SOCRATES: In order that I might make another simile about you. For I know
[616]      that all pretty young gentlemen like to have pretty similes made about
[617]      them--as well they may--but I shall not return the compliment. As to my
[618]      being a torpedo, if the torpedo is torpid as well as the cause of torpidity
[619]      in others, then indeed I am a torpedo, but not otherwise; for I perplex
[620]      others, not because I am clear, but because I am utterly perplexed myself.
[621]      And now I know not what virtue is, and you seem to be in the same case,
[622]      although you did once perhaps know before you touched me. However, I have
[623]      no objection to join with you in the enquiry.
[624]      
[625]      MENO: And how will you enquire, Socrates, into that which you do not know?
[626]      What will you put forth as the subject of enquiry? And if you find what
[627]      you want, how will you ever know that this is the thing which you did not
[628]      know?
[629]      
[630]      SOCRATES: I know, Meno, what you mean; but just see what a tiresome
[631]      dispute you are introducing. You argue that a man cannot enquire either
[632]      about that which he knows, or about that which he does not know; for if he
[633]      knows, he has no need to enquire; and if not, he cannot; for he does not
[634]      know the very subject about which he is to enquire (Compare Aristot. Post.
[635]      Anal.).
[636]      
[637]      MENO: Well, Socrates, and is not the argument sound?
[638]      
[639]      SOCRATES: I think not.
[640]      
[641]      MENO: Why not?
[642]      
[643]      SOCRATES: I will tell you why: I have heard from certain wise men and
[644]      women who spoke of things divine that--
[645]      
[646]      MENO: What did they say?
[647]      
[648]      SOCRATES: They spoke of a glorious truth, as I conceive.
[649]      
[650]      MENO: What was it? and who were they?
[651]      
[652]      SOCRATES: Some of them were priests and priestesses, who had studied how
[653]      they might be able to give a reason of their profession: there have been
[654]      poets also, who spoke of these things by inspiration, like Pindar, and many
[655]      others who were inspired. And they say--mark, now, and see whether their
[656]      words are true--they say that the soul of man is immortal, and at one time
[657]      has an end, which is termed dying, and at another time is born again, but
[658]      is never destroyed. And the moral is, that a man ought to live always in
[659]      perfect holiness. 'For in the ninth year Persephone sends the souls of
[660]      those from whom she has received the penalty of ancient crime back again
[661]      from beneath into the light of the sun above, and these are they who become
[662]      noble kings and mighty men and great in wisdom and are called saintly
[663]      heroes in after ages.' The soul, then, as being immortal, and having been
[664]      born again many times, and having seen all things that exist, whether in
[665]      this world or in the world below, has knowledge of them all; and it is no
[666]      wonder that she should be able to call to remembrance all that she ever
[667]      knew about virtue, and about everything; for as all nature is akin, and the
[668]      soul has learned all things; there is no difficulty in her eliciting or as
[669]      men say learning, out of a single recollection all the rest, if a man is
[670]      strenuous and does not faint; for all enquiry and all learning is but
[671]      recollection. And therefore we ought not to listen to this sophistical
[672]      argument about the impossibility of enquiry: for it will make us idle; and
[673]      is sweet only to the sluggard; but the other saying will make us active and
[674]      inquisitive. In that confiding, I will gladly enquire with you into the
[675]      nature of virtue.
[676]      
[677]      MENO: Yes, Socrates; but what do you mean by saying that we do not learn,
[678]      and that what we call learning is only a process of recollection? Can you
[679]      teach me how this is?
[680]      
[681]      SOCRATES: I told you, Meno, just now that you were a rogue, and now you
[682]      ask whether I can teach you, when I am saying that there is no teaching,
[683]      but only recollection; and thus you imagine that you will involve me in a
[684]      contradiction.
[685]      
[686]      MENO: Indeed, Socrates, I protest that I had no such intention. I only
[687]      asked the question from habit; but if you can prove to me that what you say
[688]      is true, I wish that you would.
[689]      
[690]      SOCRATES: It will be no easy matter, but I will try to please you to the
[691]      utmost of my power. Suppose that you call one of your numerous attendants,
[692]      that I may demonstrate on him.
[693]      
[694]      MENO: Certainly. Come hither, boy.
[695]      
[696]      SOCRATES: He is Greek, and speaks Greek, does he not?
[697]      
[698]      MENO: Yes, indeed; he was born in the house.
[699]      
[700]      SOCRATES: Attend now to the questions which I ask him, and observe whether
[701]      he learns of me or only remembers.
[702]      
[703]      MENO: I will.
[704]      
[705]      SOCRATES: Tell me, boy, do you know that a figure like this is a square?
[706]      
[707]      BOY: I do.
[708]      
[709]      SOCRATES: And you know that a square figure has these four lines equal?
[710]      
[711]      BOY: Certainly.
[712]      
[713]      SOCRATES: And these lines which I have drawn through the middle of the
[714]      square are also equal?
[715]      
[716]      BOY: Yes.
[717]      
[718]      SOCRATES: A square may be of any size?
[719]      
[720]      BOY: Certainly.
[721]      
[722]      SOCRATES: And if one side of the figure be of two feet, and the other side
[723]      be of two feet, how much will the whole be? Let me explain: if in one
[724]      direction the space was of two feet, and in the other direction of one
[725]      foot, the whole would be of two feet taken once?
[726]      
[727]      BOY: Yes.
[728]      
[729]      SOCRATES: But since this side is also of two feet, there are twice two
[730]      feet?
[731]      
[732]      BOY: There are.
[733]      
[734]      SOCRATES: Then the square is of twice two feet?
[735]      
[736]      BOY: Yes.
[737]      
[738]      SOCRATES: And how many are twice two feet? count and tell me.
[739]      
[740]      BOY: Four, Socrates.
[741]      
[742]      SOCRATES: And might there not be another square twice as large as this,
[743]      and having like this the lines equal?
[744]      
[745]      BOY: Yes.
[746]      
[747]      SOCRATES: And of how many feet will that be?
[748]      
[749]      BOY: Of eight feet.
[750]      
[751]      SOCRATES: And now try and tell me the length of the line which forms the
[752]      side of that double square: this is two feet--what will that be?
[753]      
[754]      BOY: Clearly, Socrates, it will be double.
[755]      
[756]      SOCRATES: Do you observe, Meno, that I am not teaching the boy anything,
[757]      but only asking him questions; and now he fancies that he knows how long a
[758]      line is necessary in order to produce a figure of eight square feet; does
[759]      he not?
[760]      
[761]      MENO: Yes.
[762]      
[763]      SOCRATES: And does he really know?
[764]      
[765]      MENO: Certainly not.
[766]      
[767]      SOCRATES: He only guesses that because the square is double, the line is
[768]      double.
[769]      
[770]      MENO: True.
[771]      
[772]      SOCRATES: Observe him while he recalls the steps in regular order. (To
[773]      the Boy:) Tell me, boy, do you assert that a double space comes from a
[774]      double line? Remember that I am not speaking of an oblong, but of a figure
[775]      equal every way, and twice the size of this--that is to say of eight feet;
[776]      and I want to know whether you still say that a double square comes from
[777]      double line?
[778]      
[779]      BOY: Yes.
[780]      
[781]      SOCRATES: But does not this line become doubled if we add another such
[782]      line here?
[783]      
[784]      BOY: Certainly.
[785]      
[786]      SOCRATES: And four such lines will make a space containing eight feet?
[787]      
[788]      BOY: Yes.
[789]      
[790]      SOCRATES: Let us describe such a figure: Would you not say that this is
[791]      the figure of eight feet?
[792]      
[793]      BOY: Yes.
[794]      
[795]      SOCRATES: And are there not these four divisions in the figure, each of
[796]      which is equal to the figure of four feet?
[797]      
[798]      BOY: True.
[799]      
[800]      SOCRATES: And is not that four times four?
[801]      
[802]      BOY: Certainly.
[803]      
[804]      SOCRATES: And four times is not double?
[805]      
[806]      BOY: No, indeed.
[807]      
[808]      SOCRATES: But how much?
[809]      
[810]      BOY: Four times as much.
[811]      
[812]      SOCRATES: Therefore the double line, boy, has given a space, not twice,
[813]      but four times as much.
[814]      
[815]      BOY: True.
[816]      
[817]      SOCRATES: Four times four are sixteen--are they not?
[818]      
[819]      BOY: Yes.
[820]      
[821]      SOCRATES: What line would give you a space of eight feet, as this gives
[822]      one of sixteen feet;--do you see?
[823]      
[824]      BOY: Yes.
[825]      
[826]      SOCRATES: And the space of four feet is made from this half line?
[827]      
[828]      BOY: Yes.
[829]      
[830]      SOCRATES: Good; and is not a space of eight feet twice the size of this,
[831]      and half the size of the other?
[832]      
[833]      BOY: Certainly.
[834]      
[835]      SOCRATES: Such a space, then, will be made out of a line greater than this
[836]      one, and less than that one?
[837]      
[838]      BOY: Yes; I think so.
[839]      
[840]      SOCRATES: Very good; I like to hear you say what you think. And now tell
[841]      me, is not this a line of two feet and that of four?
[842]      
[843]      BOY: Yes.
[844]      
[845]      SOCRATES: Then the line which forms the side of eight feet ought to be
[846]      more than this line of two feet, and less than the other of four feet?
[847]      
[848]      BOY: It ought.
[849]      
[850]      SOCRATES: Try and see if you can tell me how much it will be.
[851]      
[852]      BOY: Three feet.
[853]      
[854]      SOCRATES: Then if we add a half to this line of two, that will be the line
[855]      of three. Here are two and there is one; and on the other side, here are
[856]      two also and there is one: and that makes the figure of which you speak?
[857]      
[858]      BOY: Yes.
[859]      
[860]      SOCRATES: But if there are three feet this way and three feet that way,
[861]      the whole space will be three times three feet?
[862]      
[863]      BOY: That is evident.
[864]      
[865]      SOCRATES: And how much are three times three feet?
[866]      
[867]      BOY: Nine.
[868]      
[869]      SOCRATES: And how much is the double of four?
[870]      
[871]      BOY: Eight.
[872]      
[873]      SOCRATES: Then the figure of eight is not made out of a line of three?
[874]      
[875]      BOY: No.
[876]      
[877]      SOCRATES: But from what line?--tell me exactly; and if you would rather
[878]      not reckon, try and show me the line.
[879]      
[880]      BOY: Indeed, Socrates, I do not know.
[881]      
[882]      SOCRATES: Do you see, Meno, what advances he has made in his power of
[883]      recollection? He did not know at first, and he does not know now, what is
[884]      the side of a figure of eight feet: but then he thought that he knew, and
[885]      answered confidently as if he knew, and had no difficulty; now he has a
[886]      difficulty, and neither knows nor fancies that he knows.
[887]      
[888]      MENO: True.
[889]      
[890]      SOCRATES: Is he not better off in knowing his ignorance?
[891]      
[892]      MENO: I think that he is.
[893]      
[894]      SOCRATES: If we have made him doubt, and given him the 'torpedo's shock,'
[895]      have we done him any harm?
[896]      
[897]      MENO: I think not.
[898]      
[899]      SOCRATES: We have certainly, as would seem, assisted him in some degree to
[900]      the discovery of the truth; and now he will wish to remedy his ignorance,
[901]      but then he would have been ready to tell all the world again and again
[902]      that the double space should have a double side.
[903]      
[904]      MENO: True.
[905]      
[906]      SOCRATES: But do you suppose that he would ever have enquired into or
[907]      learned what he fancied that he knew, though he was really ignorant of it,
[908]      until he had fallen into perplexity under the idea that he did not know,
[909]      and had desired to know?
[910]      
[911]      MENO: I think not, Socrates.
[912]      
[913]      SOCRATES: Then he was the better for the torpedo's touch?
[914]      
[915]      MENO: I think so.
[916]      
[917]      SOCRATES: Mark now the farther development. I shall only ask him, and not
[918]      teach him, and he shall share the enquiry with me: and do you watch and
[919]      see if you find me telling or explaining anything to him, instead of
[920]      eliciting his opinion. Tell me, boy, is not this a square of four feet
[921]      which I have drawn?
[922]      
[923]      BOY: Yes.
[924]      
[925]      SOCRATES: And now I add another square equal to the former one?
[926]      
[927]      BOY: Yes.
[928]      
[929]      SOCRATES: And a third, which is equal to either of them?
[930]      
[931]      BOY: Yes.
[932]      
[933]      SOCRATES: Suppose that we fill up the vacant corner?
[934]      
[935]      BOY: Very good.
[936]      
[937]      SOCRATES: Here, then, there are four equal spaces?
[938]      
[939]      BOY: Yes.
[940]      
[941]      SOCRATES: And how many times larger is this space than this other?
[942]      
[943]      BOY: Four times.
[944]      
[945]      SOCRATES: But it ought to have been twice only, as you will remember.
[946]      
[947]      BOY: True.
[948]      
[949]      SOCRATES: And does not this line, reaching from corner to corner, bisect
[950]      each of these spaces?
[951]      
[952]      BOY: Yes.
[953]      
[954]      SOCRATES: And are there not here four equal lines which contain this
[955]      space?
[956]      
[957]      BOY: There are.
[958]      
[959]      SOCRATES: Look and see how much this space is.
[960]      
[961]      BOY: I do not understand.
[962]      
[963]      SOCRATES: Has not each interior line cut off half of the four spaces?
[964]      
[965]      BOY: Yes.
[966]      
[967]      SOCRATES: And how many spaces are there in this section?
[968]      
[969]      BOY: Four.
[970]      
[971]      SOCRATES: And how many in this?
[972]      
[973]      BOY: Two.
[974]      
[975]      SOCRATES: And four is how many times two?
[976]      
[977]      BOY: Twice.
[978]      
[979]      SOCRATES: And this space is of how many feet?
[980]      
[981]      BOY: Of eight feet.
[982]      
[983]      SOCRATES: And from what line do you get this figure?
[984]      
[985]      BOY: From this.
[986]      
[987]      SOCRATES: That is, from the line which extends from corner to corner of
[988]      the figure of four feet?
[989]      
[990]      BOY: Yes.
[991]      
[992]      SOCRATES: And that is the line which the learned call the diagonal. And
[993]      if this is the proper name, then you, Meno's slave, are prepared to affirm
[994]      that the double space is the square of the diagonal?
[995]      
[996]      BOY: Certainly, Socrates.
[997]      
[998]      SOCRATES: What do you say of him, Meno? Were not all these answers given
[999]      out of his own head?
[1000]     
[1001]     MENO: Yes, they were all his own.
[1002]     
[1003]     SOCRATES: And yet, as we were just now saying, he did not know?
[1004]     
[1005]     MENO: True.
[1006]     
[1007]     SOCRATES: But still he had in him those notions of his--had he not?
[1008]     
[1009]     MENO: Yes.
[1010]     
[1011]     SOCRATES: Then he who does not know may still have true notions of that
[1012]     which he does not know?
[1013]     
[1014]     MENO: He has.
[1015]     
[1016]     SOCRATES: And at present these notions have just been stirred up in him,
[1017]     as in a dream; but if he were frequently asked the same questions, in
[1018]     different forms, he would know as well as any one at last?
[1019]     
[1020]     MENO: I dare say.
[1021]     
[1022]     SOCRATES: Without any one teaching him he will recover his knowledge for
[1023]     himself, if he is only asked questions?
[1024]     
[1025]     MENO: Yes.
[1026]     
[1027]     SOCRATES: And this spontaneous recovery of knowledge in him is
[1028]     recollection?
[1029]     
[1030]     MENO: True.
[1031]     
[1032]     SOCRATES: And this knowledge which he now has must he not either have
[1033]     acquired or always possessed?
[1034]     
[1035]     MENO: Yes.
[1036]     
[1037]     SOCRATES: But if he always possessed this knowledge he would always have
[1038]     known; or if he has acquired the knowledge he could not have acquired it in
[1039]     this life, unless he has been taught geometry; for he may be made to do the
[1040]     same with all geometry and every other branch of knowledge. Now, has any
[1041]     one ever taught him all this? You must know about him, if, as you say, he
[1042]     was born and bred in your house.
[1043]     
[1044]     MENO: And I am certain that no one ever did teach him.
[1045]     
[1046]     SOCRATES: And yet he has the knowledge?
[1047]     
[1048]     MENO: The fact, Socrates, is undeniable.
[1049]     
[1050]     SOCRATES: But if he did not acquire the knowledge in this life, then he
[1051]     must have had and learned it at some other time?
[1052]     
[1053]     MENO: Clearly he must.
[1054]     
[1055]     SOCRATES: Which must have been the time when he was not a man?
[1056]     
[1057]     MENO: Yes.
[1058]     
[1059]     SOCRATES: And if there have been always true thoughts in him, both at the
[1060]     time when he was and was not a man, which only need to be awakened into
[1061]     knowledge by putting questions to him, his soul must have always possessed
[1062]     this knowledge, for he always either was or was not a man?
[1063]     
[1064]     MENO: Obviously.
[1065]     
[1066]     SOCRATES: And if the truth of all things always existed in the soul, then
[1067]     the soul is immortal. Wherefore be of good cheer, and try to recollect
[1068]     what you do not know, or rather what you do not remember.
[1069]     
[1070]     MENO: I feel, somehow, that I like what you are saying.
[1071]     
[1072]     SOCRATES: And I, Meno, like what I am saying. Some things I have said of
[1073]     which I am not altogether confident. But that we shall be better and
[1074]     braver and less helpless if we think that we ought to enquire, than we
[1075]     should have been if we indulged in the idle fancy that there was no knowing
[1076]     and no use in seeking to know what we do not know;--that is a theme upon
[1077]     which I am ready to fight, in word and deed, to the utmost of my power.
[1078]     
[1079]     MENO: There again, Socrates, your words seem to me excellent.
[1080]     
[1081]     SOCRATES: Then, as we are agreed that a man should enquire about that
[1082]     which he does not know, shall you and I make an effort to enquire together
[1083]     into the nature of virtue?
[1084]     
[1085]     MENO: By all means, Socrates. And yet I would much rather return to my
[1086]     original question, Whether in seeking to acquire virtue we should regard it
[1087]     as a thing to be taught, or as a gift of nature, or as coming to men in
[1088]     some other way?
[1089]     
[1090]     SOCRATES: Had I the command of you as well as of myself, Meno, I would not
[1091]     have enquired whether virtue is given by instruction or not, until we had
[1092]     first ascertained 'what it is.' But as you think only of controlling me
[1093]     who am your slave, and never of controlling yourself,--such being your
[1094]     notion of freedom, I must yield to you, for you are irresistible. And
[1095]     therefore I have now to enquire into the qualities of a thing of which I do
[1096]     not as yet know the nature. At any rate, will you condescend a little, and
[1097]     allow the question 'Whether virtue is given by instruction, or in any other
[1098]     way,' to be argued upon hypothesis? As the geometrician, when he is asked
[1099]     whether a certain triangle is capable being inscribed in a certain circle
[1100]     (Or, whether a certain area is capable of being inscribed as a triangle in
[1101]     a certain circle.), will reply: 'I cannot tell you as yet; but I will
[1102]     offer a hypothesis which may assist us in forming a conclusion: If the
[1103]     figure be such that when you have produced a given side of it (Or, when you
[1104]     apply it to the given line, i.e. the diameter of the circle (autou).), the
[1105]     given area of the triangle falls short by an area corresponding to the part
[1106]     produced (Or, similar to the area so applied.), then one consequence
[1107]     follows, and if this is impossible then some other; and therefore I wish to
[1108]     assume a hypothesis before I tell you whether this triangle is capable of
[1109]     being inscribed in the circle':--that is a geometrical hypothesis. And we
[1110]     too, as we know not the nature and qualities of virtue, must ask, whether
[1111]     virtue is or is not taught, under a hypothesis: as thus, if virtue is of
[1112]     such a class of mental goods, will it be taught or not? Let the first
[1113]     hypothesis be that virtue is or is not knowledge,--in that case will it be
[1114]     taught or not? or, as we were just now saying, 'remembered'? For there is
[1115]     no use in disputing about the name. But is virtue taught or not? or
[1116]     rather, does not every one see that knowledge alone is taught?
[1117]     
[1118]     MENO: I agree.
[1119]     
[1120]     SOCRATES: Then if virtue is knowledge, virtue will be taught?
[1121]     
[1122]     MENO: Certainly.
[1123]     
[1124]     SOCRATES: Then now we have made a quick end of this question: if virtue
[1125]     is of such a nature, it will be taught; and if not, not?
[1126]     
[1127]     MENO: Certainly.
[1128]     
[1129]     SOCRATES: The next question is, whether virtue is knowledge or of another
[1130]     species?
[1131]     
[1132]     MENO: Yes, that appears to be the question which comes next in order.
[1133]     
[1134]     SOCRATES: Do we not say that virtue is a good?--This is a hypothesis which
[1135]     is not set aside.
[1136]     
[1137]     MENO: Certainly.
[1138]     
[1139]     SOCRATES: Now, if there be any sort of good which is distinct from
[1140]     knowledge, virtue may be that good; but if knowledge embraces all good,
[1141]     then we shall be right in thinking that virtue is knowledge?
[1142]     
[1143]     MENO: True.
[1144]     
[1145]     SOCRATES: And virtue makes us good?
[1146]     
[1147]     MENO: Yes.
[1148]     
[1149]     SOCRATES: And if we are good, then we are profitable; for all good things
[1150]     are profitable?
[1151]     
[1152]     MENO: Yes.
[1153]     
[1154]     SOCRATES: Then virtue is profitable?
[1155]     
[1156]     MENO: That is the only inference.
[1157]     
[1158]     SOCRATES: Then now let us see what are the things which severally profit
[1159]     us. Health and strength, and beauty and wealth--these, and the like of
[1160]     these, we call profitable?
[1161]     
[1162]     MENO: True.
[1163]     
[1164]     SOCRATES: And yet these things may also sometimes do us harm: would you
[1165]     not think so?
[1166]     
[1167]     MENO: Yes.
[1168]     
[1169]     SOCRATES: And what is the guiding principle which makes them profitable or
[1170]     the reverse? Are they not profitable when they are rightly used, and
[1171]     hurtful when they are not rightly used?
[1172]     
[1173]     MENO: Certainly.
[1174]     
[1175]     SOCRATES: Next, let us consider the goods of the soul: they are
[1176]     temperance, justice, courage, quickness of apprehension, memory,
[1177]     magnanimity, and the like?
[1178]     
[1179]     MENO: Surely.
[1180]     
[1181]     SOCRATES: And such of these as are not knowledge, but of another sort, are
[1182]     sometimes profitable and sometimes hurtful; as, for example, courage
[1183]     wanting prudence, which is only a sort of confidence? When a man has no
[1184]     sense he is harmed by courage, but when he has sense he is profited?
[1185]     
[1186]     MENO: True.
[1187]     
[1188]     SOCRATES: And the same may be said of temperance and quickness of
[1189]     apprehension; whatever things are learned or done with sense are
[1190]     profitable, but when done without sense they are hurtful?
[1191]     
[1192]     MENO: Very true.
[1193]     
[1194]     SOCRATES: And in general, all that the soul attempts or endures, when
[1195]     under the guidance of wisdom, ends in happiness; but when she is under the
[1196]     guidance of folly, in the opposite?
[1197]     
[1198]     MENO: That appears to be true.
[1199]     
[1200]     SOCRATES: If then virtue is a quality of the soul, and is admitted to be
[1201]     profitable, it must be wisdom or prudence, since none of the things of the
[1202]     soul are either profitable or hurtful in themselves, but they are all made
[1203]     profitable or hurtful by the addition of wisdom or of folly; and therefore
[1204]     if virtue is profitable, virtue must be a sort of wisdom or prudence?
[1205]     
[1206]     MENO: I quite agree.
[1207]     
[1208]     SOCRATES: And the other goods, such as wealth and the like, of which we
[1209]     were just now saying that they are sometimes good and sometimes evil, do
[1210]     not they also become profitable or hurtful, accordingly as the soul guides
[1211]     and uses them rightly or wrongly; just as the things of the soul herself
[1212]     are benefited when under the guidance of wisdom and harmed by folly?
[1213]     
[1214]     MENO: True.
[1215]     
[1216]     SOCRATES: And the wise soul guides them rightly, and the foolish soul
[1217]     wrongly.
[1218]     
[1219]     MENO: Yes.
[1220]     
[1221]     SOCRATES: And is not this universally true of human nature? All other
[1222]     things hang upon the soul, and the things of the soul herself hang upon
[1223]     wisdom, if they are to be good; and so wisdom is inferred to be that which
[1224]     profits--and virtue, as we say, is profitable?
[1225]     
[1226]     MENO: Certainly.
[1227]     
[1228]     SOCRATES: And thus we arrive at the conclusion that virtue is either
[1229]     wholly or partly wisdom?
[1230]     
[1231]     MENO: I think that what you are saying, Socrates, is very true.
[1232]     
[1233]     SOCRATES: But if this is true, then the good are not by nature good?
[1234]     
[1235]     MENO: I think not.
[1236]     
[1237]     SOCRATES: If they had been, there would assuredly have been discerners of
[1238]     characters among us who would have known our future great men; and on their
[1239]     showing we should have adopted them, and when we had got them, we should
[1240]     have kept them in the citadel out of the way of harm, and set a stamp upon
[1241]     them far rather than upon a piece of gold, in order that no one might
[1242]     tamper with them; and when they grew up they would have been useful to the
[1243]     state?
[1244]     
[1245]     MENO: Yes, Socrates, that would have been the right way.
[1246]     
[1247]     SOCRATES: But if the good are not by nature good, are they made good by
[1248]     instruction?
[1249]     
[1250]     MENO: There appears to be no other alternative, Socrates. On the
[1251]     supposition that virtue is knowledge, there can be no doubt that virtue is
[1252]     taught.
[1253]     
[1254]     SOCRATES: Yes, indeed; but what if the supposition is erroneous?
[1255]     
[1256]     MENO: I certainly thought just now that we were right.
[1257]     
[1258]     SOCRATES: Yes, Meno; but a principle which has any soundness should stand
[1259]     firm not only just now, but always.
[1260]     
[1261]     MENO: Well; and why are you so slow of heart to believe that knowledge is
[1262]     virtue?
[1263]     
[1264]     SOCRATES: I will try and tell you why, Meno. I do not retract the
[1265]     assertion that if virtue is knowledge it may be taught; but I fear that I
[1266]     have some reason in doubting whether virtue is knowledge: for consider now
[1267]     and say whether virtue, and not only virtue but anything that is taught,
[1268]     must not have teachers and disciples?
[1269]     
[1270]     MENO: Surely.
[1271]     
[1272]     SOCRATES: And conversely, may not the art of which neither teachers nor
[1273]     disciples exist be assumed to be incapable of being taught?
[1274]     
[1275]     MENO: True; but do you think that there are no teachers of virtue?
[1276]     
[1277]     SOCRATES: I have certainly often enquired whether there were any, and
[1278]     taken great pains to find them, and have never succeeded; and many have
[1279]     assisted me in the search, and they were the persons whom I thought the
[1280]     most likely to know. Here at the moment when he is wanted we fortunately
[1281]     have sitting by us Anytus, the very person of whom we should make enquiry;
[1282]     to him then let us repair. In the first place, he is the son of a wealthy
[1283]     and wise father, Anthemion, who acquired his wealth, not by accident or
[1284]     gift, like Ismenias the Theban (who has recently made himself as rich as
[1285]     Polycrates), but by his own skill and industry, and who is a well-
[1286]     conditioned, modest man, not insolent, or overbearing, or annoying;
[1287]     moreover, this son of his has received a good education, as the Athenian
[1288]     people certainly appear to think, for they choose him to fill the highest
[1289]     offices. And these are the sort of men from whom you are likely to learn
[1290]     whether there are any teachers of virtue, and who they are. Please,
[1291]     Anytus, to help me and your friend Meno in answering our question, Who are
[1292]     the teachers? Consider the matter thus: If we wanted Meno to be a good
[1293]     physician, to whom should we send him? Should we not send him to the
[1294]     physicians?
[1295]     
[1296]     ANYTUS: Certainly.
[1297]     
[1298]     SOCRATES: Or if we wanted him to be a good cobbler, should we not send him
[1299]     to the cobblers?
[1300]     
[1301]     ANYTUS: Yes.
[1302]     
[1303]     SOCRATES: And so forth?
[1304]     
[1305]     ANYTUS: Yes.
[1306]     
[1307]     SOCRATES: Let me trouble you with one more question. When we say that we
[1308]     should be right in sending him to the physicians if we wanted him to be a
[1309]     physician, do we mean that we should be right in sending him to those who
[1310]     profess the art, rather than to those who do not, and to those who demand
[1311]     payment for teaching the art, and profess to teach it to any one who will
[1312]     come and learn? And if these were our reasons, should we not be right in
[1313]     sending him?
[1314]     
[1315]     ANYTUS: Yes.
[1316]     
[1317]     SOCRATES: And might not the same be said of flute-playing, and of the
[1318]     other arts? Would a man who wanted to make another a flute-player refuse
[1319]     to send him to those who profess to teach the art for money, and be
[1320]     plaguing other persons to give him instruction, who are not professed
[1321]     teachers and who never had a single disciple in that branch of knowledge
[1322]     which he wishes him to acquire--would not such conduct be the height of
[1323]     folly?
[1324]     
[1325]     ANYTUS: Yes, by Zeus, and of ignorance too.
[1326]     
[1327]     SOCRATES: Very good. And now you are in a position to advise with me
[1328]     about my friend Meno. He has been telling me, Anytus, that he desires to
[1329]     attain that kind of wisdom and virtue by which men order the state or the
[1330]     house, and honour their parents, and know when to receive and when to send
[1331]     away citizens and strangers, as a good man should. Now, to whom should he
[1332]     go in order that he may learn this virtue? Does not the previous argument
[1333]     imply clearly that we should send him to those who profess and avouch that
[1334]     they are the common teachers of all Hellas, and are ready to impart
[1335]     instruction to any one who likes, at a fixed price?
[1336]     
[1337]     ANYTUS: Whom do you mean, Socrates?
[1338]     
[1339]     SOCRATES: You surely know, do you not, Anytus, that these are the people
[1340]     whom mankind call Sophists?
[1341]     
[1342]     ANYTUS: By Heracles, Socrates, forbear! I only hope that no friend or
[1343]     kinsman or acquaintance of mine, whether citizen or stranger, will ever be
[1344]     so mad as to allow himself to be corrupted by them; for they are a manifest
[1345]     pest and corrupting influence to those who have to do with them.
[1346]     
[1347]     SOCRATES: What, Anytus? Of all the people who profess that they know how
[1348]     to do men good, do you mean to say that these are the only ones who not
[1349]     only do them no good, but positively corrupt those who are entrusted to
[1350]     them, and in return for this disservice have the face to demand money?
[1351]     Indeed, I cannot believe you; for I know of a single man, Protagoras, who
[1352]     made more out of his craft than the illustrious Pheidias, who created such
[1353]     noble works, or any ten other statuaries. How could that be? A mender of
[1354]     old shoes, or patcher up of clothes, who made the shoes or clothes worse
[1355]     than he received them, could not have remained thirty days undetected, and
[1356]     would very soon have starved; whereas during more than forty years,
[1357]     Protagoras was corrupting all Hellas, and sending his disciples from him
[1358]     worse than he received them, and he was never found out. For, if I am not
[1359]     mistaken, he was about seventy years old at his death, forty of which were
[1360]     spent in the practice of his profession; and during all that time he had a
[1361]     good reputation, which to this day he retains: and not only Protagoras,
[1362]     but many others are well spoken of; some who lived before him, and others
[1363]     who are still living. Now, when you say that they deceived and corrupted
[1364]     the youth, are they to be supposed to have corrupted them consciously or
[1365]     unconsciously? Can those who were deemed by many to be the wisest men of
[1366]     Hellas have been out of their minds?
[1367]     
[1368]     ANYTUS: Out of their minds! No, Socrates; the young men who gave their
[1369]     money to them were out of their minds, and their relations and guardians
[1370]     who entrusted their youth to the care of these men were still more out of
[1371]     their minds, and most of all, the cities who allowed them to come in, and
[1372]     did not drive them out, citizen and stranger alike.
[1373]     
[1374]     SOCRATES: Has any of the Sophists wronged you, Anytus? What makes you so
[1375]     angry with them?
[1376]     
[1377]     ANYTUS: No, indeed, neither I nor any of my belongings has ever had, nor
[1378]     would I suffer them to have, anything to do with them.
[1379]     
[1380]     SOCRATES: Then you are entirely unacquainted with them?
[1381]     
[1382]     ANYTUS: And I have no wish to be acquainted.
[1383]     
[1384]     SOCRATES: Then, my dear friend, how can you know whether a thing is good
[1385]     or bad of which you are wholly ignorant?
[1386]     
[1387]     ANYTUS: Quite well; I am sure that I know what manner of men these are,
[1388]     whether I am acquainted with them or not.
[1389]     
[1390]     SOCRATES: You must be a diviner, Anytus, for I really cannot make out,
[1391]     judging from your own words, how, if you are not acquainted with them, you
[1392]     know about them. But I am not enquiring of you who are the teachers who
[1393]     will corrupt Meno (let them be, if you please, the Sophists); I only ask
[1394]     you to tell him who there is in this great city who will teach him how to
[1395]     become eminent in the virtues which I was just now describing. He is the
[1396]     friend of your family, and you will oblige him.
[1397]     
[1398]     ANYTUS: Why do you not tell him yourself?
[1399]     
[1400]     SOCRATES: I have told him whom I supposed to be the teachers of these
[1401]     things; but I learn from you that I am utterly at fault, and I dare say
[1402]     that you are right. And now I wish that you, on your part, would tell me
[1403]     to whom among the Athenians he should go. Whom would you name?
[1404]     
[1405]     ANYTUS: Why single out individuals? Any Athenian gentleman, taken at
[1406]     random, if he will mind him, will do far more good to him than the
[1407]     Sophists.
[1408]     
[1409]     SOCRATES: And did those gentlemen grow of themselves; and without having
[1410]     been taught by any one, were they nevertheless able to teach others that
[1411]     which they had never learned themselves?
[1412]     
[1413]     ANYTUS: I imagine that they learned of the previous generation of
[1414]     gentlemen. Have there not been many good men in this city?
[1415]     
[1416]     SOCRATES: Yes, certainly, Anytus; and many good statesmen also there
[1417]     always have been and there are still, in the city of Athens. But the
[1418]     question is whether they were also good teachers of their own virtue;--not
[1419]     whether there are, or have been, good men in this part of the world, but
[1420]     whether virtue can be taught, is the question which we have been
[1421]     discussing. Now, do we mean to say that the good men of our own and of
[1422]     other times knew how to impart to others that virtue which they had
[1423]     themselves; or is virtue a thing incapable of being communicated or
[1424]     imparted by one man to another? That is the question which I and Meno have
[1425]     been arguing. Look at the matter in your own way: Would you not admit
[1426]     that Themistocles was a good man?
[1427]     
[1428]     ANYTUS: Certainly; no man better.
[1429]     
[1430]     SOCRATES: And must not he then have been a good teacher, if any man ever
[1431]     was a good teacher, of his own virtue?
[1432]     
[1433]     ANYTUS: Yes certainly,--if he wanted to be so.
[1434]     
[1435]     SOCRATES: But would he not have wanted? He would, at any rate, have
[1436]     desired to make his own son a good man and a gentleman; he could not have
[1437]     been jealous of him, or have intentionally abstained from imparting to him
[1438]     his own virtue. Did you never hear that he made his son Cleophantus a
[1439]     famous horseman; and had him taught to stand upright on horseback and hurl
[1440]     a javelin, and to do many other marvellous things; and in anything which
[1441]     could be learned from a master he was well trained? Have you not heard
[1442]     from our elders of him?
[1443]     
[1444]     ANYTUS: I have.
[1445]     
[1446]     SOCRATES: Then no one could say that his son showed any want of capacity?
[1447]     
[1448]     ANYTUS: Very likely not.
[1449]     
[1450]     SOCRATES: But did any one, old or young, ever say in your hearing that
[1451]     Cleophantus, son of Themistocles, was a wise or good man, as his father
[1452]     was?
[1453]     
[1454]     ANYTUS: I have certainly never heard any one say so.
[1455]     
[1456]     SOCRATES: And if virtue