Page numbers in dark red refer to the 6th edition, dark blue numbers refer to the 5th edition, greenish page numbers refer to the 4th edition, and page numbers in light blue refer to the 3rd edition.

Before class you must read:

  1. (lines 300-430, colored red in the page.)
  2. (417-666, colored brown in the page.)
  3. Does the Center Hold, page 48 (6th edition), or 49 (5th edition), or the 48-49 (4th edition), or 49-50 (3rd edition) or at (Click this link if you don't have the book yet.

If you are taking this class on campus, there will be a quiz before class on all readings.

Helpful questions on the Theaetetus, indexed by line number:

310. What is this task that Socrates and Theaetetus think is a task for the very ablest men?
318. What are Theaetetus and Socrates trying to do?
325. What does Socrates mean when he says Theaetetus is pregnant?
329. What did Socrates' mom do for a living?
331. What art does Socrates say he practices?
335. What do other people say about Socrates?
347. Why did Artemis not allow "barren" women (ones who could not have children) to be midwives?
352. What do midwives know better than anyone else?
356. What do midwives do for their clients?
378. What does Socrates say that women do not do.  (This link changelings might help.)
380. What would midwives have to do if women did do this thing?
384. How is Socrates' midwifery different from that practiced by women like his mother?
386. What does Socrates say is the greatest thing about his art?
389. What is the reproach that has often been made against Socrates?
390. Why is this a true reproach?
393. What seems to happen to people who hang around with Socrates?
396. Does this happen because they learn stuff from Socrates?
397. Why does it happen?
398. To whom is the delivery of these things due?
411. What are they like, those who associate with Socrates?
413. What can Socrates' art do to and for these people?
419. What does Socrates suspect about Theaetetus?
421. What does Socrates want Theaetetus to do?
423. What does Socrates think could happen to any of the things Theaetetus says?
426. What happened to many before this?
427. What did Socrates do to these people?
427. Does Socrates think he is being kind or unkind in doing this?
430. What two things are quite out of the question for Socrates?

Thinky Questions
What does Socrates think Theatetus is "pregnant" with?
What fundemental analogy is Socrates drawing here?
Why do you think other people describe Socrates the way they do?
What problem does "midwife" Socrates have that "other" midwives do not have?
What does Socrates mean by "a mere image, an imposture?"
What does Socrates mean by "a real and genuine offering?"
Is Socrates a "wise man" who thinks stuff up and then dispenses his "wisdom" to others?
What does Socrates say he does to and for others?
What does Socrates say happens to people who hang around with him?
What does Socrates say is his role in this process?
Why is it important that Theaetetus do what Socrates told him to do?
What is the thing that Socrates thinks he does in kindness?
Why are some people angry with Socrates when he does this?
Why, exactly, does Socrates do this thing that makes some people angry?

Helpful questions on the Meno, indexed by line number:

425. What do all these guys say?
432. What does Socrates say has happened to the soul?
432. What does Socrates say the soul has beheld?
433. What does Socrates say the soul has acquired?
434. What does Socrates say the soul should be able to do?
435. What does Socrates say the soul has done?
436. What is this act which, according to Socrates, men call "learning?"
438. What exactly does Socrates say about research and learning?
443. What question does Meno ask of Socrates?
451. What does Socrates ask Meno to do?
456. What does Socrates ask Meno to observe?
459. What is Socrates's first question for the boy? (It might help to draw a 2" by 2" square at this point.)
461. What is Socrates's second question for the boy?
463. What is Socrates's third question for the boy? (It might help to draw diagonal lines in your 2x2 square.)
465. What is Socrates's fourth question for the boy?
476. What does the slave think is the area, in square feet, of a square that is two feet on a side?
481. What does the slave think is the area, of a square that is twice the size of the first square?
483. What question does Socrates ask next? (For "side" read "length of side.")
484. How long does the slave boy think the sides should be to make a square that is double in area?
485. What does Socrates say he is not doing?
510. When the square's sides are doubled, what happens to its area? (Maybe draw a 4" by 4" square.)
513. Does the boy now think that doubling the sides also doubles the area?
521. What crucial question does Socrates ask the boy at this point?
535. What does Socrates say about the length of side in an eight-square-feet figure?
539. What is the boy's next guess? (Maybe draw a 3" by 3" square as well.)
551. Does this work?
553. What is Socrates' next question?
554. How does Socrates instruct the boy to give his answer?
557. What exactly does Socrates say the boy has made progress in?
596. Why doesn't doubling the side of the figure solve the problem?
620. What does solve the problem?
620. Who does Socrates think came up with this solution?
624. Who does Meno think came up with this solution?
625. When they started, a while ago, did the boy know the answer?
627. According to Socrates, what was in the slave boy all along?
629. What exactly does Socrates say about people who don't know stuff?
632. According to Socrates, what happens when you ask people lots of questions in lots of ways?
636. According to Socrates, do people have to be taught stuff in order to know stuff?
637. According to Socrates, where does knowledge come from?
640. According to Socrates, what exactly is recovery of knowledge?
642. According to Socrates, what are the two possibilities for how he came to have this knowledge?
645. According to Socrates, when could the boy not have acquired this knowledge?
650. According to Meno, did anyone ever teach the slave geometry?
653. According to Socrates, when must the boy have acquired this knowledge?
656. Same question.
660. What first conclusion does Socrates draw from all this?
664. What second conclusion does Socrates draw from all this?

Argument for Innate Ideas (From the Meno, and discussed in Palmer 48)

As part of this week's "lecture," I will explain, discuss and criticize Plato's argument for innate ideas (the slave boy example).

I want you to assume that Plato could be absolutely certain that the slave had not studied mathematics. This is for two reasons. The first reason is that it would have been relatively simple for Plato to make absolutely certain that the slave did not know mathematics. Generally, Greeks would know where their slaves came from, particularly the young ones who were usually born in slavery. Although some slaves were educated, the vast majority of them were used exclusively for manual labor, and so it is very unlikely that any master would waste money educating a slave. Second, criticizing the example is much more interesting if we assume that the slave did not cheat.

The slave boy argument depends crucially on the following claims.

1. Socrates made no statements to the slave. Instead, he merely asked questions. Based on this, Plato argues that the slave simply could not have gotten the solution from Socrates because questions do not convey information, and Socrates only asked questions.

2. The slave had not previously studied mathematics, and no one had given him the solution to the problem before he met Socrates and Plato in the garden. (We are assuming that this is true.)

3. There were only two ways that the slave could come up with the answer. Either someone told it to him, or it was already installed in his mind before he was born.

4. At the end of the questioning process, in which Socrates did not tell the slave anything, the slave knew the answer.

I want you to look very closely at claim number three.
1. Can you think of another way the slave could've come up with the answer?
2. If you can, what does that do to Plato's argument?

Practice questions for Quiz

To practice for the quiz that will take place at the beginning of the class on this reading, copy these questions and instructions on to a piece of paper. Then turn off your computer put away your book and notes, and answer these questions from memory in your own words.

Remember, all answers to all questions must be in your own words. When you take the in-class quiz, if the answer you give is a straight quote from the book, that answer will be wrong!

  1. Explain the Socrateic meaning of "pregnant" as Socrates uses the term to describe Theaetetus.
  2. How exactly is Socrates like a midwife?
  3. What do other people describe Socrates?
  4. What does Socrates do that "other" midwives do not do?
  5. For Socrates, what two kinds of ideas are there?
  6. Is Socrates a "wise man," or if he isn't wise, what exactly does he do for others?
  7. What exactly does Socrates tell Theaetetus to do?
  8. What is the thing that Socrates thinks he does in kindness?
  9. Why, exactly, does Socrates do the thing that makes some people angry?
  10. What is Socrates' overall thesis about the soul?
  11. What does Socrates say is actually happening in the act men call "learning?"
  12. What operation does Socrates require the boy to perform?
  13. According to Socrates, what has happened when the boy has given the answer?
  14. According to Socrates, what are the two possibile sources for this knowledge?
  15. What is Socrates' first (or second) conclusion?
  16. What is Socrates' second (or first) conclusion?

When you check your answers against the book and notes, you should find that your answers say pretty much the same things as what is said in the text, this reading, and the notes, but in different words.

If you find that you have quoted a sentence from the book, or from this online reading, sit down and try to write out the meaning of that sentence in your own words.

If you find that an explanation in the reading is more complicated than the explanation you've given as an answer to one of these questions, that means that you've left something out, and you should add that missing detail to your answer.

Your quiz answers are supposed to demonstrate understanding, not mere memorization. Thus, by definition, a straight quote from the book is a wrong answer.

If for some reason, (illness, family emergency, conflicting academic obligation, sudden discovery that you have superpowers coupled with the need to save the Earth from a hurtling asteroid that only you can deflect), you miss one of my delightful quizzes, you can make up the lost points by writing up a clear, precise, and deeply insightful answer to one of the potential exam questions and turning the results in as "make-up quiz." Illustrations are not absolutely necessary, but would add a nice touch.

Potential Exam Questions

The following questions may appear on the next exam. Your answer should demonstrate that you understand all the logical relationships between all the relevant facts for that particular question. The deeper the understanding you demonstrate, the better your grade will be.

Many of the topics in this class involve doctrines that are mistakenly supported or, more interestingly, mistakenly criticized by others.

Understanding is best demonstrated by something like the following:
1. Explaining a doctrine clearly and completely, including all relevant details and nuances. And,
2. Explaining at least one criticism of that doctrine clearly and completely. And,
3a. Explaining clearly and completely why that criticism fails. (This will usually involve showing that the critic has made some unfounded logical assumption, has mischaracterized or misunderstood the doctrine he is criticising, or has made some other logical or factual mistake.) or
3b. Explaining clearly and completely why the original doctrine fails. (This will usually involve showing that the thinker involved has made some unfounded logical assumption, has mischaracterized or misunderstood the doctrine he is criticising, or has made some other logical or factual mistake.)

It is pointing out people's real logical mistakes that does the most to demonstrate your understanding of an issue, so do your best to follow the logic of these issues all the way out to the end.

If you're not sure how to address an exam question, at least try to fully explain and properly organize all the information relevant to the question. This will include a variety of ideas developed in response to the above questions in your personal reading and in class discussions.

I have added some hint questions to the first question to indicate the kind of things you should think about for your answer.

1. Clearly and completely explain the idea of a "philosophical midwife." How is Socrates like and unlike a traditional midwife? What are the most important ways in which Socrates is different from a regular midwife? What does Socrates say about ideas and how is this important? What does Socrates' metaphor of a midwife tell us about what philosophy is and how it should be done? What might it also tell us about how teaching should be done, and about life in general?

2. Explain and critique Plato's argument for innate ideas. What are "innate ideas?" What problem is the doctrine of innate ideas supposed to solve? How does Socrates supposedly demonstrate that innate ideas exist? Why is this demonstration supposed to prove that innate ideas exist? Give the basic facts that Plato relies on in his argument and explain how they're supposed to prove that innate ideas exist. Explain the possibility that Plato seems to ignore in his argument, and explain how the existance of this possibility might defeat his argument.

3. Clearly and completely develop the picture of philosophy so far developed in this class. You can base your answer on my lectures, on this part of the Theaetetus, or on some of my rules of philosophy. Explain what you think I think I mean when I use the word "philosophy" in its most proper and important sense. Say how actual philosophy is different from what many other people seem to think "philosophy" is, and make any other comments you can think of.

Any exam answer can be enhanced by addition of any comments that occur to you. The more you think about a topic, the more likely you are to come up with something that can earn you a little more credit for your answer. I never deduct points, so it can't hurt to add your own thoughts.

See examgrading.htm for more information on how I will grade your exam answers.

How To Make Up Quizzes
As you may know, I try to live in a complete fantasy world populated with good-looking elves and friendly dragons, where my jokes are funny and students have nothing else to do but study for my class and get there in plenty of time. Unfortunately, it has come to my attention that some of you live in something called the "real world" where people have jobs, families and other things that get in the way of meeting my every whim. The quizzes are designed to get you to study the reading before class, and it is still my earnest desire that you do this. However, I realize it's not fair to those who can't get to class on time to hold to my policy of do it now or never. So, here's the deal. If you miss a quiz you can make it up by a clear, precise, and deeply insightful answer to one of the potential exam questions.

This deal only applies if I get your make up within the week. (Miss a quiz on Monday, make it up on or before the next Monday. If it comes in with the quiz you take that day, you're cool.) If you're over a week behind, do two exam questions. Or talk to me, and we'll work something out.

Copyright © 2011 by Martin C. Young

Next page.

This Site is Proudly Hosted By:
WEBster Computing Services