The Meno

1.       MENO: Can you tell me, Socrates, whether virtue can be taught, or is acquired by
2.       practice, not teaching? Or if neither by practice nor by learning, whether it comes
3.       to mankind by nature or in some other way?
4.       SOCRATES: Meno, of old the Thessalians were famous and admired among the Greeks for
5.       their riding and their riches; but now they have a name, I believe, for wisdom
6.       also, especially your friend Aristippus's people, the Larisaeans. For this you have
7.       to thank Gorgias: for when he came to that city he made the leading men of the
8.       Aleuadae--among them your lover Aristippus--and the Thessalians generally enamored
9.       of wisdom. Nay more, he has given you the regular habit of answering any chance
10.     question in a fearless, magnificent manner, as befits those who know: for he sets
11.     the example of offering himself to be questioned by any Greek who chooses, and on
12.     any point one likes, and he has an answer for everybody. Now in this place, my dear
13.     Meno, we have a contrary state of things: a drought of wisdom, as it were, has come
14.     on; and it seems as though wisdom had deserted our borders in favour of yours. You
15.     have only to ask one of our people a question such as that, and he will be sure to
16.     laugh and say: Stranger, you must think me a specially favoured mortal, to be able
17.     to tell whether virtue can be taught, or in what way it comes to one: so far am I
18.     from knowing whether it can be taught or not, that I actually do not even know what
19.     the thing itself, virtue, is at all. And I myself, Meno, am in the same case; I
20.     share my townsmen's poverty in this matter: I have to reproach myself with an utter
21.     ignorance about virtue; and if I do not know what a thing is, how can I know what
22.     its nature may be? Or do you imagine it possible, if one has no cognizance at all of
23.     Meno, that one could know whether he is handsome or rich or noble, or the reverse of
24.     these? Do you suppose that one could?
25.     MENO: Not I. But is it true, Socrates, that you do not even know what virtue is?
26.     Are we to return home with this report of you?
27.     SOCRATES: Not only this, my friend, but also that I never yet came across anybody
28.     who did know, in my opinion.
29.     MENO: What? You did not meet Gorgias when he was here?
30.     SOCRATES: I did.
31.     MENO: And you didn't consider that he knew?
32.     SOCRATES: I have not a very good memory, Meno, so I cannot tell at the moment how he
33.     struck me then. It may be that he did know, and that you know what he said: remind
34.     me therefore how he expressed it; or if you like, make your own statement, for I
35.     expect you share his views.
36.     MENO: I do.
37.     SOCRATES: Then let us pass him over, since in fact he is not present, and do you
38.     tell me, in heaven's name, what is your own account of virtue. Speak out frankly,
39.     that I may find myself the victim of a most fortunate falsehood, if you and Gorgias
40.     prove to have knowledge of it, while I have said that I never yet came across anyone
41.     who had.
42.     MENO: Why, there is no difficulty, Socrates, in telling. First of all, if you take
43.     the virtue of a man, it is easily stated that a man's virtue is this--that he be
44.     competent to manage the affairs of his city, and to manage them so as to benefit his
45.     friends and harm his enemies, and to take care to avoid suffering harm himself. Or
46.     take a woman's virtue: there is no difficulty in describing it as the duty of
47.     ordering the house well, looking after the property indoors, and obeying her
48.     husband. And the child has another virtue--one for the female, and one for the male;
49.     and there is another for elderly men--one, if you like, for freemen, and yet
50.     another for slaves. And there are very many other virtues besides, so that one
51.     cannot be at a loss to explain what virtue is; for it is according to each activity
52.     and age that every one of us, in whatever we do, has his virtue; and the same, I
53.     take it, Socrates, will hold also of vice.
54.     SOCRATES: I seem to be in a most lucky way, Meno; for in seeking one virtue I have
55.     discovered a whole swarm of virtues there in your keeping. Now, Meno, to follow this
56.     figure of a swarm, suppose I should ask you what is the real nature of the bee, and
57.     you replied that there are many different kinds of bees, and I rejoined: Do you say
58.     it is by being bees that they are of many and various kinds and differ from each
59.     other, or does their difference lie not in that, but in something else--for example,
60.     in their beauty or size or some other quality? Tell me, what would be your answer to
61.     this question?
62.     MENO: Why, this--that they do not differ, as bees, the one from the other.
63.     SOCRATES: And if I went on to say: Well now, there is this that I want you to tell
64.     me, Meno: what do you call the quality by which they do not differ, but are all
65.     alike? You could find me an answer, I presume?
66.     MENO: I could.
67.     SOCRATES: And likewise also with the virtues, however many and various they may be,
68.     they all have one common character whereby they are virtues, and on which one would
69.     of course be wise to keep an eye when one is giving a definitive answer to the
70.     question of what virtue really is. You take my meaning, do you not?
71.     MENO: My impression is that I do; but still I do not yet grasp the meaning of the
72.     question as I could wish.
73.     SOCRATES: Is it only in the case of virtue, do you think, Meno, that one can say
74.     there is one kind belonging to a man, another to a woman, and so on with the rest,
75.     or is it just the same, too, in the case of health and size and strength? Do you
76.     consider that there is one health for a man, and another for a woman? Or, wherever
77.     we find health, is it of the same character universally, in a man or in anyone
78.     else?
79.     MENO: I think that health is the same, both in man and in woman.
80.     SOCRATES: Then is it not so with size and strength also? If a woman is strong, she
81.     will be strong by reason of the same form and the same strength; by “the same” I
82.     mean that strength does not differ as strength, whether it be in a man or in a
83.     woman. Or do you think there is any difference?
84.     MENO: I do not.
85.     SOCRATES: And will virtue, as virtue, differ at all whether it be in a child or in
86.     an elderly person, in a woman or in a man?
87.     MENO: I feel somehow, Socrates, that here we cease to be on the same ground as in
88.     those other cases.
89.     SOCRATES: Why? Were you not saying that a man's virtue is to manage a state well,
90.     and a woman's a house?
91.     MENO: I was.
92.     SOCRATES: And is it possible to manage a state well, or a house, or anything at all,
93.     if you do not manage it temperately and justly?
94.     MENO: Surely not.
95.     SOCRATES: Then whoever manages temperately and justly will manage with temperance
96.     and justice?
97.     MENO: That must be.
98.     SOCRATES: Then both the woman and the man require the same qualities of justice and
99.     temperance, if they are to be good.
100.   MENO: Evidently.
101.   SOCRATES: And what of a child or an old man? Can they ever hope to be good if they
102.   are intemperate and unjust?
103.   MENO: Surely not.
104.   SOCRATES: Only if they are temperate and just?
105.   MENO: Yes.
106.   SOCRATES: So all mankind are good in the same way; for they become good when they
107.   acquire the same qualities.
108.   MENO: So it seems.
109.   SOCRATES: And I presume, if they had not the same virtue, they would not be good in
110.   the same way.
111.   MENO: No, indeed.
112.   SOCRATES: Seeing then that it is the same virtue in all cases, try and tell me, if
113.   you can recollect, what Gorgias--and you in agreement with him--say it is.
114.   MENO: Simply that it is the power of governing mankind-- if you want some single
115.   description to cover all cases.
116.   SOCRATES: That is just what I am after. But is virtue the same in a child, Meno, and
117.   in a slave--an ability to govern each his master? And do you think he who governed
118.   would still be a slave?
119.   MENO: I should say certainly not, Socrates.
120.   SOCRATES: No, indeed, it would be unlikely, my excellent friend. And again, consider
121.   this further point: you say it is “to be able to govern”; shall we not add to
122.   that--“justly, not unjustly”?
123.   MENO: Yes, I think so; for justice, Socrates, is virtue.
124.   SOCRATES: Virtue, Meno, or a virtue?
125.   MENO: What do you mean by that?
126.   SOCRATES: What I would in any other case. To take roundness, for instance; I should
127.   call it a figure, and not figure pure and simple. And I should name it so because
128.   there are other figures as well.
129.   MENO: You would be quite right--just as I say there are other virtues besides
130.   justice.
131.   SOCRATES: What are they? Tell me. In the same way as I can tell you of other
132.   figures, if you request me, so do you tell me of other virtues.
133.   MENO: Well then, courage, I consider, is a virtue, and temperance, and wisdom, and
134.   loftiness of mind; and there are a great many others.
135.   SOCRATES: Once more, Meno, we are in the same plight: again we have found a number
136.   of virtues when we were looking for one, though not in the same way as we did just
137.   now; but the one that runs through them all, this we are not able to find.
138.   MENO: No, for I am not yet able, Socrates, to follow your line of search, and find
139.   a single virtue common to all, as one can in other cases.
140.   SOCRATES: And no wonder; but I will make an effort, so far as I can, to help us
141.   onward. You understand, of course, that this principle of mine applies to
142.   everything: if someone asked you the question I put to you just now: What is figure,
143.   Meno? and you replied: Roundness; and then he said, as I did: Is roundness figure or
144.   a figure? I suppose you would answer: A figure.
145.   MENO: Certainly.
146.   SOCRATES: And for this reason--that there are other figures as well?
147.   MENO: Yes.
148.   SOCRATES: And if he went on to ask you of what sort they were, you would tell him?
149.   MENO: I would.
150.   SOCRATES: And if he asked likewise what color is, and on your answering “white” your
151.   questioner then rejoined: Is “white” color or a color? your reply would be: A color;
152.   because there are other colors besides.
153.   MENO: It would.
154.   SOCRATES: And if he bade you mention other colors, you would tell him of others
155.   that are colors just as much as white?
156.   MENO: Yes.
157.   SOCRATES: Now suppose that, like me, he pursued the argument and said: We are always
158.   arriving at a variety of things, but let me have no more of that: since you call
159.   these many things by one single name, and say they are figures, every one of them,
160.   even when they are opposed to one another, tell me what is that which comprises
161.   round and straight alike, and which you call figure-- including straight equally
162.   with round under that term. For that is your statement, is it not?
163.   MENO: It is.
164.   SOCRATES: And in making it, do you mean to say that round is no more round than
165.   straight, or straight no more straight than round?
166.   MENO: No, to be sure, Socrates.
167.   SOCRATES: What you mean is that the round shape is no more a figure than the
168.   straight, or the straight than the round.
169.   MENO: Quite right.
170.   SOCRATES: Then what can this thing be, which bears the name of figure? Try and tell
171.   me. Suppose that, on being asked this question by someone, either about figure or
172.   about color, you had replied: Why, I don't so much as understand what you want, sir,
173.   or even know what you are saying: he might well have shown surprise, and said: Do
174.   you not understand that I am looking for that which is the same common element in
175.   all these things? Or would you still be unable to reply, Meno, if you were
176.   approached on other terms, and were asked: What is it that is common to the round
177.   and the straight and everything else that you call figures--the same in all? Try and
178.   tell me it will be good practice for your answer about virtue.
179.   MENO: No, it is you who must answer, Socrates.
180.   SOCRATES: You wish me to do you the favour?
181.   MENO: By all means.
182.   SOCRATES: And then you will agree to take your turn and answer me on virtue?
183.   MENO: I will.
184.   SOCRATES: Well then, I must make the effort, for it is worth our while.
185.   MENO: Certainly.
186.   SOCRATES: Come now, let me try and tell you what figure is. Just consider if you
187.   accept this description of it: figure, let us say, is the only existing thing that
188.   is found always following color. Are you satisfied, or are you looking for something
189.   different? I am sure I should be content with a similar account of virtue from you.
190.   MENO: But it is such a silly one, Socrates.
191.   SOCRATES: How do you mean?
192.   MENO: Well, figure, as I understand by your account, is what always follows color.
193.   Very good; but if some one said he did not know color, and was in the same
194.   difficulty about it as about figure, what answer do you suppose would have come from
195.   you?
196.   SOCRATES: The truth, from me; and if my questioner were a professor of the eristic
197.   and contentious sort, I should say to him: I have made my statement; if it is
198.   wrong, your business is to examine and refute it. But if, like you and me on this
199.   occasion, we were friends and chose to have a discussion together, I should have to
200.   reply in some milder tone more suited to dialectic. The more dialectical way, I
201.   suppose, is not merely to answer what is true, but also to make use of those points
202.   which the questioned person acknowledges he knows. And this is the way in which I
203.   shall now try to argue with you. Tell me, is there something you call an end? Such a
204.   thing, I mean, as a limit, or extremity--I use all these terms in the same sense,
205.   though I daresay Prodicus might quarrel with us. But you, I am sure, refer to a
206.   thing as terminated or ended: something of that sort is what I mean--nothing
207.   complicated.
208.   MENO: Yes, I do, and I think I grasp your meaning.
209.   SOCRATES: Well then, you speak of a surface, and also of a solid--the terms
210.   employed in geometrical problems?
211.   MENO: I do.
212.   SOCRATES: So now you are able to comprehend from all this what I mean by figure. In
213.   every instance of figure I call that figure in which the solid ends; and I may put
214.   that more succinctly by saying that figure is “limit of solid.”
215.   MENO: And what do you say of color, Socrates?
216.   SOCRATES: How overbearing of you, Meno, to press an old man with demands for
217.   answers, when you will not trouble yourself to recollect and tell me what account
218.   Gorgias gives of virtue!
219.   MENO: When you have answered my question, Socrates, I will answer yours.
220.   SOCRATES: One might tell even blindfolded, Meno, by the way you discuss, that you
221.   are handsome and still have lovers.
222.   MENO: Why so?
223.   SOCRATES: Because you invariably speak in a peremptory tone, after the fashion of
224.   spoilt beauties, holding as they do a despotic power so long as their bloom is on
225.   them. You have also, I daresay, made a note of my weakness for handsome people. So
226.   I will indulge you, and answer.
227.   MENO: You must certainly indulge me.
228.   SOCRATES: Then would you like me to answer you in the manner of Gorgias, which you
229.   would find easiest to follow?
230.   MENO: I should like that, of course.
231.   SOCRATES: Do not both of you say there are certain effluences of existent things, as
232.   Empedocles held?
233.   MENO: Certainly.
234.   SOCRATES: And passages into which and through which the effluences pass?
235.   MENO: To be sure.
236.   SOCRATES: And some of the effluences fit into various passages, while some are too
237.   small or too large?
238.   MENO: That is so.
239.   SOCRATES: And further, there is what you call sight?
240.   MENO: Yes.
241.   SOCRATES: So now “conceive my meaning,” as Pindar says: color is an effluence of
242.   figures, commensurate with sight and sensible.
243.   MENO: Your answer, Socrates, seems to me excellently put.
244.   SOCRATES: Yes, for I expect you find its terms familiar; and at the same time I
245.   fancy you observe that it enables you to tell what sound and smell are, and numerous
246.   other things of the kind.
247.   MENO: Certainly.
248.   SOCRATES: It is an answer in the high poetic style, Meno, and so more agreeable to
249.   you than that about figure.
250.   MENO: Yes, it is.
251.   SOCRATES: But yet, son of Alexidemus, I am inclined to think the other was the
252.   better of the two; and I believe you also would prefer it, if you were not
253.   compelled, as you were saying yesterday, to go away before the mysteries, and could
254.   stay awhile and be initiated.
255.   MENO: But I should stay, Socrates, if you would give me many such answers.
256.   SOCRATES: Well then, I will spare no endeavor, both for your sake and for my own, to
257.   continue in that style; but I fear I may not succeed in keeping for long on that
258.   level. But come now, you in your turn must try and fulfil your promise by telling me
259.   what virtue is in a general way; and you must stop producing a plural from the
260.   singular, as the wags say whenever one breaks something, but leave virtue whole and
261.   sound, and tell me what it is. The pattern you have now got from me.
262.   MENO: Well, in my view, Socrates, virtue is, in the poet's words, “to rejoice in
263.   things honorable and be able for them” ; and that, I say, is virtue--to desire what
264.   is honorable and be able to procure it.
265.   SOCRATES: Do you say that he who desires the honorable is desirous of the good?
266.   MENO: Certainly.
267.   SOCRATES: Implying that there are some who desire the evil, and others the good? Do
268.   not all men, in your opinion, my dear sir, desire the good?
269.   MENO: I think not.
270.   SOCRATES: There are some who desire the evil?
271.   MENO: Yes.
272.   SOCRATES: Thinking the evil to be good, do you mean, or actually recognizing it to
273.   be evil, and desiring it nevertheless?
274.   MENO: Both, I believe.
275.   SOCRATES: Do you really believe, Meno, that a man knows the evil to be evil, and
276.   still desires it?
277.   MENO: Certainly.
278.   SOCRATES: What do you mean by “desires”? Desires the possession of it?
279.   MENO: Yes; what else could it be?
280.   SOCRATES: And does he think the evil benefits him who gets it, or does he know that
281.   it harms him who has it?
282.   MENO: There are some who think the evil is a benefit, and others who know that it
283.   does harm.
284.   SOCRATES: And, in your opinion, do those who think the evil a benefit know that it
285.   is evil?
286.   MENO: I do not think that at all.
287.   SOCRATES: Obviously those who are ignorant of the evil do not desire it, but only
288.   what they supposed to be good, though it is really evil; so that those who are
289.   ignorant of it and think it good are really desiring the good. Is not that so?
290.   MENO: It would seem to be so in their case.
291.   SOCRATES: Well now, I presume those who, as you say, desire the evil, and consider
292.   that the evil harms him who gets it, know that they will be harmed by it?
293.   MENO: They needs must.
294.   SOCRATES: But do they not hold that those who are harmed are miserable in
295.   proportion to the harm they suffer?
296.   MENO: That too must be.
297.   SOCRATES: And are not the miserable ill-starred?
298.   MENO: I think so.
299.   SOCRATES: Then is there anyone who wishes to be miserable and ill-starred?
300.   MENO: I do not suppose there is, Socrates.
301.   SOCRATES: No one, then, Meno, desires evil, if no one desires to be such an one: for
302.   what is being miserable but desiring evil and obtaining it?
303.   MENO: It seems that what you say is true, Socrates, and that nobody desires evil.
304.   SOCRATES: Well now, you were saying a moment ago that virtue is the desire and
305.   ability for good?
306.   MENO: Yes, I was.
307.   SOCRATES: One part of the statement--the desire--belongs to our common nature, and
308.   in this respect one man is no better than another?
309.   MENO: Apparently.
310.   SOCRATES: But it is plain that if one man is not better than another in this, he
311.   must be superior in the ability.
312.   MENO: Certainly.
313.   SOCRATES: Then virtue, it seems by your account, is ability to procure goods.
314.   MENO: I entirely agree, Socrates, with the view which you now take of the matter.
315.   SOCRATES: Then let us see whether your statement is true in another respect; for
316.   very likely you may be right. You say virtue is the ability to procure goods?
317.   MENO: I do.
318.   SOCRATES: And do you not mean by goods such things as health and wealth?
319.   MENO: Yes, and I include the acquisition of gold and silver, and of state honors and
320.   offices.
321.   SOCRATES: Are there any things besides this sort, that you class as goods?
322.   MENO: No, I refer only to everything of that sort.
323.   SOCRATES: Very well: procuring gold and silver is virtue, according to Meno, the
324.   ancestral friend of the Great King. Tell me, do you add to such procuring, Meno,
325.   that it is to be done justly and piously, or is this indifferent to you, but even
326.   though a man procures these things unjustly, do you call them virtue all the same?
327.   MENO: Surely not, Socrates.
328.   SOCRATES: Rather, vice.
329.   MENO: Yes, of course.
330.   SOCRATES: Then it seems that justice or temperance or holiness or some other part of
331.   virtue must accompany the procuring of these things; otherwise it will not be
332.   virtue, though it provides one with goods.
333.   MENO: Yes, for how, without these, could it be virtue?
334.   SOCRATES: And not to procure gold and silver, when it would be unjust--what we call
335.   the want of such things--is virtue, is it not?
336.   MENO: Apparently.
337.   SOCRATES: So the procuring of this sort of goods will be no more virtue than the
338.   want of them; but it seems that whatever comes accompanied by justice will be
339.   virtue, and whatever comes without any such quality, vice.
340.   MENO: I agree that it must be as you say.
341.   SOCRATES: And were we saying a little while ago that each of these things was a part
342.   of virtue--justice and temperance and the rest of them?
343.   MENO: Yes.
344.   SOCRATES: And here you are, Meno, making fun of me?
345.   MENO: How so, Socrates?
346.   SOCRATES: Because after my begging you not to break up virtue into small change, and
347.   giving you a pattern on which you should answer, you have ignored all this, and now
348.   tell me that virtue is the ability to procure good things with justice; and this,
349.   you tell me, is a part of virtue?
350.   MENO: I do.
351.   SOCRATES: Then it follows from your own admission that doing whatever one does with
352.   a part of virtue is itself virtue; for you say that justice is a part of virtue, and
353.   so is each of such qualities. You ask the meaning of my remark. It is that after my
354.   requesting you to speak of virtue as a whole, you say not a word as to what it is in
355.   itself, but tell me that every action is virtue provided that it is done with a
356.   part of virtue; as though you had told me what virtue is in the whole, and I must
357.   understand it forthwith--when you are really splitting it up into fragments! I think
358.   therefore that you must face the same question all over again, my dear Meno--What is
359.   virtue?--if we are to be told that every action accompanied by a part of virtue is
360.   virtue; for that is the meaning of the statement that every action accompanied by
361.   justice is virtue. Or do you not agree that you have to meet the same question
362.   afresh? Do you suppose that anyone can know a part of virtue when he does not know
363.   virtue itself?
364.   MENO: No, I do not.
365.   SOCRATES: And I daresay you remember, when I answered you a while ago about figure,
366.   how we rejected the sort of answer that attempts to proceed in terms which are still
367.   under inquiry and has not yet been admitted.
368.   MENO: Yes, and we were right in rejecting it, Socrates.
369.   SOCRATES: Well then, my good sir, you must not in your turn suppose that while the
370.   nature of virtue as a whole is still under inquiry you will explain it to anyone by
371.   replying in terms of its parts, or by any other statement on the same lines: you
372.   will only have to face the same question over again--What is this virtue, of which
373.   you are speaking all the time? Or do you see no force in what I say?
374.   MENO: I think what you say is right.
375.   SOCRATES: Then answer me again from the beginning: what do both you and your
376.   associate say that virtue is?
377.   MENO: Socrates, I used to be told, before I began to meet you, that yours was just
378.   a case of being in doubt yourself and making others doubt also: and so now I find
379.   you are merely bewitching me with your spells and incantations, which have reduced
380.   me to utter perplexity. And if I am indeed to have my jest, I consider that both in
381.   your appearance and in other respects you are extremely like the flat torpedo sea-
382.   fish; for it benumbs anyone who approaches and touches it, and something of the sort
383.   is what I find you have done to me now. For in truth I feel my soul and my tongue
384.   quite benumbed, and I am at a loss what answer to give you. And yet on countless
385.   occasions I have made abundant speeches on virtue to various people--and very good
386.   speeches they were, so I thought--but now I cannot say one word as to what it is.
387.   You are well advised, I consider, in not voyaging or taking a trip away from home;
388.   for if you went on like this as a stranger in any other city you would very likely
389.   be taken up for a wizard.
390.   SOCRATES: You are a rogue, Meno, and had almost deceived me.
391.   MENO: How is that, Socrates?
392.   SOCRATES: I perceive your aim in thus comparing me.
393.   MENO: What was it?
394.   SOCRATES: That I might compare you in return. One thing I know about all handsome
395.   people is this--they delight in being compared to something. They do well over it,
396.   since fine features, I suppose, must have fine similes. But I am not for playing
397.   your game. As for me, if the torpedo is torpid itself while causing others to be
398.   torpid, I am like it, but not otherwise. For it is not from any sureness in myself
399.   that I cause others to doubt: it is from being in more doubt than anyone else that
400.   I cause doubt in others. So now, for my part, I have no idea what virtue is, whilst
401.   you, though perhaps you may have known before you came in touch with me, are now as
402.   good as ignorant of it also. But none the less I am willing to join you in examining
403.   it and inquiring into its nature.
404.   MENO: Why, on what lines will you look, Socrates, for a thing of whose nature you
405.   know nothing at all? Pray, what sort of thing, amongst those that you know not, will
406.   you treat us to as the object of your search? Or even supposing, at the best, that
407.   you hit upon it, how will you know it is the thing you did not know?
408.   SOCRATES: I understand the point you would make, Meno. Do you see what a captious
409.   argument you are introducing--that, forsooth, a man cannot inquire either about what
410.   he knows or about whit he does not know? For he cannot inquire about what he knows,
411.   because he knows it, and in that case is in no need of inquiry; nor again can he
412.   inquire about what he does not know, since he does not know about what he is to
413.   inquire.
414.   MENO: Now does it seem to you to be a good argument, Socrates?
415.   SOCRATES: It does not.
416.   MENO: Can you explain how not?
417.   SOCRATES: I can; for I have heard from wise men and women who told of things
418.   divine that--
419.   MENO: What was it they said ?
420.   SOCRATES: Something true, as I thought, and admirable.
421.   MENO: What was it? And who were the speakers?
422.   SOCRATES: They were certain priests and priestesses who have studied so as to be
423.   able to give a reasoned account of their ministry; and Pindar also and many another
424.   poet of heavenly gifts. As to their words, they are these: mark now, if you judge
425.   them to be true. They say that the soul of man is immortal, and at one time comes to
426.   an end, which is called dying, and at another is born again, but never perishes.
427.   Consequently one ought to live all one's life in the utmost holiness. For from
428.   whomsoever Persephone shall accept requital for ancient wrong, the souls of these
429.   she restores in the ninth year to the upper sun again; from them arise glorious
430.   kings and men of splendid might and surpassing wisdom, and for all remaining time
431.   are they called holy heroes amongst mankind. Seeing then that the soul is immortal and
432.   has been born many times, and has beheld all things both in this world and in
433.   the nether realms, she has acquired knowledge of all and everything; so that it is no
434.   wonder that she should be able to recollect all that she knew before about virtue
435.   and other things. For as all nature is akin, and the soul has learned all things, there
436.   is no reason why we should not, by remembering but one single thing--an act
437.   which men call learning--discover everything else, if we have courage and faint not
438.   in the search; since, it would seem, research and learning are wholly recollection.
439.   So we must not hearken to that captious argument:
440.   it would make us idle, and is pleasing only to the indolent ear, whereas the other
441.   makes us energetic and inquiring. Putting my trust in its truth, I am ready to
442.   inquire with you into the nature of virtue.
443.   MENO: Yes, Socrates, but what do you mean by saying that we do not learn, and that
444.   what we call learning is recollection? Can you instruct me that this is so?
445.   SOCRATES: I remarked just now, Meno, that you are a rogue and so here you are asking
446.   if I can instruct you, when I say there is no teaching but only recollection: you
447.   hope that I may be caught contradicting myself forthwith.
448.   MENO: I assure you, Socrates; that was not my intention I only spoke from habit. But
449.   if you can somehow prove to me that it is as you say, pray do so.
450.   SOCRATES: It is no easy matter, but still I am willing to try my best for your sake.
451.   Just call one of your own troop of attendants there, whichever one you please, that
452.   he may serve for my demonstration.
453.   MENO: Certainly. You, I say, come here.
454.   SOCRATES: He is a Greek, I suppose, and speaks Greek?
455.   MENO: Oh yes, to be sure--born in the house.
456.   SOCRATES: Now observe closely whether he strikes you as recollecting or as learning
457.   from me.
458.   MENO: I will.
459.   SOCRATES: Tell me, boy, do you know that a square figure is like this?
460.   BOY: I do.
461.   SOCRATES: Now, a square figure has these lines, four in number, all equal?
462.   BOY: Certainly.
463.   SOCRATES: And these, drawn through the middle, are equal too, are they not?
464.   BOY: Yes.
465.   SOCRATES: And a figure of this sort may be larger or smaller?
466.   BOY: To be sure.
467.   SOCRATES: Now if this side were two feet and that also two, how many feet would the
468.   whole be? Or let me put it thus: if one way it were two feet, and only one foot the
469.   other, of course the space would be two feet taken once ?
470.   BOY: Yes.
471.   SOCRATES: But as it is two feet also on that side, it must be twice two feet?
472.   BOY: It is.
473.   SOCRATES: Then the space is twice two feet?
474.   BOY: Yes.
475.   SOCRATES: Well, how many are twice two feet? Count and tell me.
476.   BOY: Four, Socrates.
477.   SOCRATES: And might there not be another figure twice the size of this, but of the
478.   same sort, with all its sides equal like this one?
479.   BOY: Yes.
480.   SOCRATES: Then how many feet will it be?
481.   BOY: Eight.
482.   SOCRATES: Come now, try and tell me how long will each side of that figure be.
483.   This one is two feet long: what will be the side of the other, which is double in size?
484.   BOY: Clearly, Socrates, double.
485.   SOCRATES: Do you observe, Meno, that I am not teaching the boy anything, but merely
486.   asking him each time? And now he supposes that he knows about the line required to
487.   make a figure of eight square feet; or do you not think he does?
488.   MENO: I do.
489.   SOCRATES: Well, does he know?
490.   MENO: Certainly not.
491.   SOCRATES: He just supposes it, from the double size required?
492.   MENO: Yes.
493.   SOCRATES: Now watch his progress in recollecting, by the proper use of memory. Tell
494.   me, boy, do you say we get the double space from the double line? The space I speak
495.   of is not long one way and short the other, but must be equal each way like this
496.   one, while being double its size--eight square feet. Now see if you still think we
497.   get this from a double length of line.
498.   BOY: I do.
499.   SOCRATES: Well, this line is doubled, if we add here another of the same length?
500.   BOY: Certainly.
501.   SOCRATES: And you say we shall get our eight-foot space from four lines of this
502.   length?
503.   BOY: Yes.
504.   SOCRATES: Then let us describe the square, drawing four equal lines of that length.
505.   This will be what you say is the eight-foot figure, will it not?
506.   BOY: Certainly.
507.   SOCRATES: And here, contained in it, have we not four squares, each of which is
508.   equal to this space of four feet?
509.   BOY: Yes.
510.   SOCRATES: Then how large is the whole? Four times that space, is it not?
511.   BOY: It must be.
512.   SOCRATES: And is four times equal to double?
513.   BOY: No, to be sure.
514.   SOCRATES: But how much is it?
515.   BOY: Fourfold.
516.   SOCRATES: Thus, from the double-sized line, boy, we get a space, not of double, but
517.   of fourfold size.
518.   BOY: That is true.
519.   SOCRATES: And if it is four times four it is sixteen, is it not?
520.   BOY: Yes.
521.   SOCRATES: What line will give us a space of eight feet? This one gives us a fourfold
522.   space, does it not?
523.   BOY: It does.
524.   SOCRATES: And a space of four feet is made from this line of half the length?
525.   BOY: Yes.
526.   SOCRATES: Very well; and is not a space of eight feet double the size of this one,
527.   and half the size of this other?
528.   BOY: Yes.
529.   SOCRATES: Will it not be made from a line longer than the one of these, and shorter
530.   than the other?
531.   BOY: I think so.
532.   SOCRATES: Excellent: always answer just what you think. Now tell me, did we not draw
533.   this line two feet, and that four?
534.   BOY: Yes.
535.   SOCRATES: Then the line on the side of the eight-foot figure should be more than
536.   this of two feet, and less than the other of four?
537.   BOY: It should.
538.   SOCRATES: Try and tell me how much you would say it is.
539.   BOY: Three feet.
540.   SOCRATES: Then if it is to be three feet, we shall add on a half to this one, and so
541.   make it three feet? For here we have two, and here one more, and so again on that
542.   side there are two, and another one; and that makes the figure of which you speak.
543.   BOY: Yes.
544.   SOCRATES: Now if it be three this way and three that way, the whole space will be
545.   thrice three feet, will it not?
546.   BOY: So it seems.
547.   SOCRATES: And thrice three feet are how many?
548.   BOY: Nine.
549.   SOCRATES: And how many feet was that double one to be?
550.   BOY: Eight.
551.   SOCRATES: So we fail to get our eight-foot figure from this three-foot line.
552.   BOY: Yes, indeed.
553.   SOCRATES: But from what line shall we get it? Try and tell us exactly; and if you
554.   would rather not reckon it out, just show what line it is.
555.   BOY: Well, on my word, Socrates, I for one do not know.
556.   SOCRATES: There now, Meno, do you observe
557.   what progress he has already made in his recollection?
558.   At first he did not know what is the line that forms the figure of
559.   eight feet, and he does not know even now: but at any rate he thought he knew then,
560.   and confidently answered as though he knew, and was aware of no difficulty; whereas
561.   now he feels the difficulty he is in, and besides not knowing does not think he knows.
562.   MENO: That is true.
563.   SOCRATES: And is he not better off in respect of the matter which he did not know?
564.   MENO: I think that too is so.
565.   SOCRATES: Now, by causing him to doubt and giving him the torpedo's shock, have we
566.   done him any harm?
567.   MENO: I think not.
568.   SOCRATES: And we have certainly given him some assistance, it would seem, towards
569.   finding out the truth of the matter: for now he will push on in the search gladly,
570.   as lacking knowledge; whereas then he would have been only too ready to suppose he
571.   was right in saying, before any number of people any number of times, that the
572.   double space must have a line of double the length for its side.
573.   MENO: It seems so.
574.   SOCRATES: Now do you imagine he would have attempted to inquire or learn
575.   what he thought he knew, when he did not know it, until he had been reduced to
576.   the perplexity of realizing that he did not know, and had felt a craving to know?
577.   MENO: I think not, Socrates.
578.   SOCRATES: Then the torpedo's shock was of advantage to him?
579.   MENO: I think so.
580.   SOCRATES: Now you should note how, as a result of this perplexity, he will go on and
581.   discover something by joint inquiry with me, while I merely ask questions and do
582.   not teach him; and be on the watch to see if at any point you find me teaching him
583.   or expounding to him, instead of questioning him on his opinions. Tell me, boy: here
584.   we have a square of four feet, [ABCD] have we not? You understand?

One square

585.   BOY: Yes.
  SOCRATES: And here we add another square [DCFE] equal to it?
.One square
587.   BOY: Yes
588.   SOCRATES: And here a third, [CHGF] equal to either of them?
One square
589.   BOY: Yes.
590.   SOCRATES: Now shall we fill up this vacant space [BIHC] in the corner?
One square
591.   BOY: By all means.
592.   SOCRATES: So here we must have four equal spaces?
593.   BOY. Yes.
594.   SOCRATES: Well now, how many times larger is this whole space [AIGE] than this other [ABCD]?
One square            One square
595.   BOY: Four times.
596.   SOCRATES: But it was to have been only twice, you remember?
597.   BOY: To be sure.
598.   SOCRATES: And does this line [BD, green, etc..], drawn from corner to corner, cut in two each of these
599.   spaces?
One square
600.   BOY: Yes.
601.   SOCRATES: And have we here four equal lines [BD, DF, FH, HB, green] containing this [light green] space?
One square
602.   BOY: We have.
603.   SOCRATES: Now consider how large this space is. [BDFH, light green]
604.   BOY: I do not understand.
605.   SOCRATES: Has not each of the inside [diagonal green] lines cut off half [light blue] of each of these four spaces?
One square
606.   BOY: Yes.

607.   SOCRATES: And how many spaces of that size are there in this part? [Inside the green lines.]
One square
  BOY: Four.
609.   SOCRATES: And how many in this? [ABCD, pink]
One square
610.   BOY: Two..  
612.   SOCRATES: And four is how many times two?
613.   BOY: Twice.
SOCRATES: And how many [square] feet is this space [BDFH, light green]?
One square
614.   BOY: Eight feet.
615.   SOCRATES: From what line do we get this figure?
616.   BOY: From this. [BDFH, green]
617.   SOCRATES: From the line drawn corner-wise across the four-foot figure?
618.   BOY: Yes.
619.   SOCRATES: The professors call it the diagonal: so if the diagonal is its name, then
620.   according to you, Meno's boy, the double space is the square of the diagonal.
One square One square
621.   BOY: Yes, certainly it is, Socrates.
622.   SOCRATES: What do you think, Meno? Was there any opinion that he did not give as an
623.   answer of his own thought?
624.   MENO: No, they were all his own.
625.   SOCRATES: But you see, he did not know, as we were saying a while since.
626.   MENO: That is true.
627.   SOCRATES: Yet he had in him these opinions, had he not?
628.   MENO: Yes.
629.   SOCRATES: So that he who does not know about any matters, whatever they be, may have
630.   true opinions on such matters, about which he knows nothing?
631.   MENO: Apparently.
632.   SOCRATES: And at this moment those opinions have just been stirred up in him, like a
633.   dream; but if he were repeatedly asked these same questions in a variety of forms,
634.   you know he will have in the end as exact an understanding of them as anyone.
635.   MENO: So it seems.
636.   SOCRATES: Without anyone having taught him, and only through questions put to him,
637.   he will understand, recovering the knowledge out of himself?
638.   MENO: Yes.
639.   SOCRATES: And is not this recovery of knowledge, in himself and by himself,
640.   recollection?
641.   MENO: Certainly.
642.   SOCRATES: And must he not have either once acquired or always had the knowledge he
643.   now has?
644.   MENO: Yes.
645.   SOCRATES: Now if he always had it, he was always in a state of knowing; and if he
646.   acquired it all some time, he could not have acquired it in this life. Or has
647.   someone taught him geometry? You see, he can do the same as this with all geometry
648.   and every branch of knowledge. Now, can anyone have taught him all this? You ought
649.   surely to know, especially as he was born and bred in your house.
650.   MENO: Well, I know that no one has ever taught him.
651.   SOCRATES: And has he these opinions, or has he not?
652.   MENO: He must have them, Socrates, evidently.
653.   SOCRATES: And if he did not acquire them in this present life, is it not obvious at
654.   once that he had them and learnt them during some other time?
655.   MENO: Apparently.
656.   SOCRATES: And this must have been the time when he was not a human being?
657.   MENO: Yes.
658.   SOCRATES: So if in both of these periods--when he was and was not a human being--he
659.   has had true opinions in him which have only to be awakened by questioning to become
660.   knowledge, his soul must have had this cognizance throughout all time? For clearly
661.   he has always either been or not been a human being.
662.   MENO: Evidently.
663.   SOCRATES: And if the truth of all things that are is always in our soul, then
664.   the soul must be immortal; so that you should take heart and, whatever you do not happen
665.   to know at present--that is, what you do not remember--you must endeavor to search
666.   out and recollect?
667.   MENO: What you say commends itself to me, Socrates, I know not how.
668.   SOCRATES: And so it does to me, Meno. Most of the points I have made in support of
669.   my argument are not such as I can confidently assert; but that the belief in the
670.   duty of inquiring after what we do not know will make us better and braver and less
671.   helpless than the notion that there is not even a possibility of discovering what we
672.   do not know, nor any duty of inquiring after it--this is a point for which I am
673.   determined to do battle, so far as I am able, both in word and deed.
674.   MENO: There also I consider that you speak aright, Socrates.
675.   SOCRATES: Then since we are of one mind as to the duty of inquiring into what one
676.   does not know, do you agree to our attempting a joint inquiry into the nature of
677.   virtue?
678.   MENO: By all means. But still, Socrates, for my part I would like best of all to
679.   examine that question I asked at first, and hear your view as to whether in pursuing
680.   it we are to regard it as a thing to be taught, or as a gift of nature to mankind,
681.   or as arriving to them in some other way which I should be glad to know.
682.   SOCRATES: Had I control over you, Meno, as over myself, we should not have begun
683.   considering whether virtue can or cannot be taught until we had first inquired into
684.   the main question of what it is. But as you do not so much as attempt to control
685.   yourself--you are so fond of your liberty-- and both attempt and hold control over
686.   me, I will yield to your request--what else am I to do? So it seems we are to
687.   consider what sort of thing it is of which we do not yet know what it is! Well, the
688.   least you can do is to relax just a little of your authority, and allow the
689.   question--whether virtue comes by teaching or some other way--to be examined by
690.   means of hypothesis. I mean by hypothesis what the geometricians often do in dealing
691.   with a question put to them; for example, whether a certain area is capable of
692.   being inscribed as a triangular space in a given circle: they reply--“I cannot yet
693.   tell whether it has that capability; but I think, if I may put it so, that I have a
694.   certain helpful hypothesis for the problem, and it is as follows: If this area is
695.   such that when you apply it to the given line of the circle you find it falls short
696.   by a space similar to that which you have just applied, then I take it you have one
697.   consequence, and if it is impossible for it to fall so, then some other. Accordingly
698.   I wish to put a hypothesis, before I state our conclusion as regards inscribing this
699.   figure in the circle by saying whether it is impossible or not.” In the same way
700.   with regard to our question about virtue, since we do not know either what it is or
701.   what kind of thing it may be, we had best make use of a hypothesis in considering
702.   whether it can be taught or not, as thus: what kind of thing must virtue be in the
703.   class of mental properties, so as to be teachable or not? In the first place, if it
704.   is something dissimilar or similar to knowledge, is it taught or not--or, as we were
705.   saying just now, remembered? Let us have no disputing about the choice of a name:
706.   is it taught? Or is not this fact plain to everyone--that the one and only thing
707.   taught to men is knowledge?
708.   MENO: I agree to that.
709.   SOCRATES: Then if virtue is a kind of knowledge, clearly it must be taught?
710.   MENO: Certainly.
711.   SOCRATES: So you see we have made short work of this question--if virtue belongs to
712.   one class of things it is teachable, and if to another, it is not.
713.   MENO: To be sure.
714.   SOCRATES: The next question, it would seem, that we have to consider is whether
715.   virtue is knowledge, or of another kind than knowledge.
716.   MENO: I should say that is the next thing we have to consider.
717.   SOCRATES: Well now, surely we call virtue a good thing, do we not, and our
718.   hypothesis stands, that it is good?
719.   MENO: Certainly we do.
720.   SOCRATES: Then if there is some good apart and separable from knowledge, it may be
721.   that virtue is not a kind of knowledge; but if there is nothing good that is not
722.   embraced by knowledge, our suspicion that virtue is a kind of knowledge would be
723.   well founded.
724.   MENO: Quite so.
725.   SOCRATES: Now it is by virtue that we are good?
726.   MENO: Yes.
727.   SOCRATES: And if good, profitable; for all good things are profitable, are they
728.   not?
729.   MENO: Yes.
730.   SOCRATES: So virtue is profitable?
731.   MENO: That must follow from what has been admitted.
732.   SOCRATES: Then let us see, in particular instances, what sort of things they are
733.   that profit us. Health, let us say, and strength, and beauty, and wealth--these and
734.   their like we call profitable, do we not?
735.   MENO: Yes.
736.   SOCRATES: But these same things, we admit, actually harm us at times; or do you
737.   dispute that statement?
738.   MENO: No, I agree.
739.   SOCRATES: Consider now, what is the guiding condition in each case that makes them
740.   at one time profitable, and at another harmful. Are they not profitable when the use
741.   of them is right, and harmful when it is not?
742.   MENO: To be sure.
743.   SOCRATES: Then let us consider next the goods of the soul: by these you understand
744.   temperance, justice, courage, intelligence, memory, magnanimity, and so forth?
745.   MENO: Yes.
746.   SOCRATES: Now tell me; such of these as you think are not knowledge, but different
747.   from knowledge--do they not sometimes harm us, and sometimes profit us? For example,
748.   courage, if it is courage apart from prudence, and only a sort of boldness: when a
749.   man is bold without sense, he is harmed; but when he has sense at the same time, he
750.   is profited, is he not?
751.   MENO: Yes.
752.   SOCRATES: And the same holds of temperance and intelligence: things learnt and
753.   coordinated with the aid of sense are profitable, but without sense they are
754.   harmful?
755.   MENO: Most certainly.
756.   SOCRATES: And in brief, all the undertakings and endurances of the soul, when guided
757.   by wisdom, end in happiness, but when folly guides, in the opposite?
758.   MENO: So it seems.
759.   SOCRATES: Then if virtue is something that is in the soul, and must needs be
760.   profitable, it ought to be wisdom, seeing that all the properties of the soul are in
761.   themselves neither profitable nor harmful, but are made either one or the other by
762.   the addition of wisdom or folly; and hence, by this argument, virtue being
763.   profitable must be a sort of wisdom.
764.   MENO: I agree.
765.   SOCRATES: Then as to the other things, wealth and the like, that we mentioned just
766.   now as being sometimes good and sometimes harmful--are not these also made
767.   profitable or harmful by the soul according as she uses and guides them rightly or
768.   wrongly: just as, in the case of the soul generally, we found that the guidance of
769.   wisdom makes profitable the properties of the soul, while that of folly makes them
770.   harmful?
771.   MENO: Certainly.
772.   SOCRATES: And the wise soul guides rightly, and the foolish erroneously?
773.   MENO: That is so.
774.   SOCRATES: Then may we assert this as a universal rule, that in man all other things
775.   depend upon the soul, while the things of the soul herself depend upon wisdom, if
776.   they are to be good; and so by this account the profitable will be wisdom, and
777.   virtue, we say, is profitable?
778.   MENO: Certainly.
779.   SOCRATES: Hence we conclude that virtue is either wholly or partly wisdom?
780.   MENO: It seems to me that your statement, Socrates, is excellent.
781.   SOCRATES: Then if this is so, good men cannot be good by nature.
782.   MENO: I think not.
783.   SOCRATES: No, for then, I presume, we should have had this result: if good men were
784.   so by nature, we surely should have had men able to discern who of the young were
785.   good by nature, and on their pointing them out we should have taken them over and
786.   kept them safe in the citadel, having set our mark on them far rather than on our
787.   gold treasure, in order that none might have tampered with them, and that when they
788.   came to be of age, they might be useful to their country.
789.   MENO: Yes, most likely, Socrates.
790.   SOCRATES: So since it is not by nature that the good become good, is it by
791.   education?
792.   MENO: We must now conclude, I think, that it is; and plainly, Socrates, on our
793.   hypothesis that virtue is knowledge, it must be taught.
794.   SOCRATES: Yes, I daresay; but what if we were not right in agreeing to that?
795.   MENO: Well, it seemed to be a correct statement a moment ago.
796.   SOCRATES: Yes, but not only a moment ago must it seem correct, but now also and
797.   hereafter, if it is to be at all sound.
798.   MENO: Why, what reason have you to make a difficulty about it, and feel a doubt as
799.   to virtue being knowledge?
800.   SOCRATES: I will tell you, Meno. I do not withdraw as incorrect the statement that
801.   it is taught, if it is knowledge; but as to its being knowledge, consider if you
802.   think I have grounds for misgiving. For tell me now: if anything at all, not merely
803.   virtue, is teachable, must there not be teachers and learners of it?
804.   MENO: I think so.
805.   SOCRATES: Then also conversely, if a thing had neither teachers nor learners, we
806.   should be right in surmising that it could not be taught?
807.   MENO: That is so: but do you think there are no teachers of virtue?
808.   SOCRATES: I must say I have often inquired whether there were any, but for all my
809.   pains I cannot find one. And yet many have shared the search with me, and
810.   particularly those persons whom I regard as best qualified for the task. But look,
811.   Meno: here, at the very moment when he was wanted, we have Anytus sitting down
812.   beside us, to take his share in our quest. And we may well ask his assistance; for
813.   our friend Anytus, in the first place, is the son of a wise and wealthy father,
814.   Anthemion, who became rich not by a fluke or a gift--like that man the other day,
815.   Ismenias the Theban, who has come into the fortune of a Polycrates --but as the
816.   product of his own skill and industry ; and secondly, he has the name of being in
817.   general a well-conducted, mannerly person, not insolent towards his fellow-citizens
818.   or arrogant and annoying; and further, he gave his son a good upbringing and
819.   education, as the Athenian people think, for they choose him for the highest
820.   offices. This is the sort of man to whom one may look for help in the inquiry as to
821.   whether there are teachers of virtue or not, and who they may be. So please, Anytus,
822.   join with me and your family-friend Meno in our inquiry about this matter--who can
823.   be the teachers. Consider it thus: if we wanted Meno here to be a good doctor, to
824.   whom should we send him for instruction? Would it not be to the doctors?
825.   ANYTUS: Certainly.
826.   SOCRATES: And if we wanted him to become a good cobbler, should we not send him to
827.   the cobblers?
828.   ANYTUS: Yes.
829.   SOCRATES: And in the same way with every other trade?
830.   ANYTUS: Certainly.
831.   SOCRATES: Now let me ask you something more about these same instances. We should be
832.   right, we say, in sending him to the doctors if we wanted him to be a doctor. When
833.   we say this, do we mean that we should be wise in sending him to those who profess
834.   the art rather than those who do not, and to those who charge a fee for the
835.   particular thing they do, as avowed teachers of anyone who wishes to come and learn
836.   of them? If these were our reasons, should we not be right in sending him?
837.   ANYTUS: Yes.
838.   SOCRATES: And the same would hold in the case of flute-playing, and so on with the
839.   rest? What folly, when we wanted to make someone a flute-player, to refuse to send
840.   him to the professed teachers of the art, who charge a regular fee, and to bother
841.   with requests for instruction other people who neither set up to be teachers nor
842.   have a single pupil in that sort of study which we expect him, when sent, to pursue!
843.   Do you not consider this would be grossly unreasonable?
844.   ANYTUS: Yes, on my word, I do, and stupid to boot.
845.   SOCRATES: Quite right. And now there is an opportunity of your joining me in a
846.   consultation on my friend Meno here. He has been declaring to me ever so long,
847.   Anytus, that he desires to have that wisdom and virtue whereby men keep their house
848.   or their city in good order, and honor their parents, and know when to welcome and
849.   when to speed citizens and strangers as befits a good man. Now tell me, to whom
850.   ought we properly to send him for lessons in this virtue? Or is it clear enough,
851.   from our argument just now, that he should go to these men who profess to be
852.   teachers of virtue and advertise themselves as the common teachers of the Greeks,
853.   and are ready to instruct anyone who chooses in return for fees charged on a fixed
854.   scale?
855.   ANYTUS: To whom are you referring, Socrates?
856.   SOCRATES: Surely you know as well as anyone; they are the men whom people call
857.   sophists.
858.   ANYTUS: For heaven's sake hold your tongue, Socrates! May no kinsman or friend of
859.   mine, whether of this city or another, be seized with such madness as to let himself
860.   be infected with the company of those men; for they are a manifest plague and
861.   corruption to those who frequent them.
862.   SOCRATES: What is this, Anytus? Of all the people who set up to understand how to do
863.   us good, do you mean to single out these as conveying not merely no benefit, such as
864.   the rest can give, but actually corruption to anyone placed in their hands? And is
865.   it for doing this that they openly claim the payment of fees? For my part I cannot
866.   bring myself to believe you; for I know of one man, Protagoras, who amassed more
867.   money by his craft than Pheidias--so famous for the noble works he produced--or any
868.   ten other sculptors. And yet how surprising that menders of old shoes and furbishers
869.   of clothes should not be able to go undetected thirty days if they should return
870.   the clothes or shoes in worse condition than they received them, and that such
871.   doings on their part would quickly starve them to death, while for more than forty
872.   years all Greece failed to notice that Protagoras was corrupting his classes and
873.   sending his pupils away in a worse state than when he took charge of them! For I
874.   believe he died about seventy years old, forty of which he spent in the practice of
875.   his art; and he retains undiminished to this day the high reputation he has enjoyed
876.   all that time--and not only Protagoras, but a multitude of others too: some who
877.   lived before him, and others still living. Now are we to take it, according to you,
878.   that they wittingly deceived and corrupted the youth, or that they were themselves
879.   unconscious of it? Are we to conclude those who are frequently termed the wisest of
880.   mankind to have been so demented as that?
881.   ANYTUS: Demented! Not they, Socrates: far rather the young men who pay them money,
882.   and still more the relations who let the young men have their way; and most of all
883.   the cities that allow them to enter, and do not expel them, whether such attempt be
884.   made by stranger or citizen.
885.   SOCRATES: Tell me, Anytus, has any of the sophists wronged you? What makes you so
886.   hard on them?
887.   ANYTUS: No, heaven knows I have never in my life had dealings with any of them, nor
888.   would I let any of my people have to do with them either.
889.   SOCRATES: Then you have absolutely no experience of those persons?
890.   ANYTUS: And trust I never may.
891.   SOCRATES: How then, my good sir, can you tell whether a thing has any good or evil
892.   in it, if you are quite without experience of it?
893.   ANYTUS: Easily: the fact is, I know what these people are, whether I have experience
894.   of them or not.
895.   SOCRATES: You are a wizard, perhaps, Anytus; for I really cannot see, from what you
896.   say yourself, how else you can know anything about them. But we are not inquiring
897.   now who the teachers are whose lessons would make Meno wicked; let us grant, if you
898.   will, that they are the sophists: I only ask you to tell us, and do Meno a service
899.   as a friend of your family by letting him know, to whom in all this great city he
900.   should apply in order to become eminent in the virtue which I described just now.
901.   ANYTUS: Why not tell him yourself?
902.   SOCRATES: I did mention to him the men whom I supposed to be teachers of these
903.   things; but I find, from what you say, that I am quite off the track, and I daresay
904.   you are on it. Now you take your turn, and tell him to whom of the Athenians he is
905.   to go. Give us a name--anyone you please.
906.   ANYTUS: Why mention a particular one? Any Athenian gentleman he comes across,
907.   without exception, will do him more good, if he will do as he is bid, than the
908.   sophists.
909.   SOCRATES: And did those gentlemen grow spontaneously into what they are, and without
910.   learning from anybody are they able, nevertheless, to teach others what they did
911.   not learn themselves?
912.   ANYTUS: I expect they must have learnt in their turn from the older generation, who
913.   were gentlemen: or does it not seem to you that we have had many good men in this
914.   city?
915.   SOCRATES: Yes, I agree, Anytus; we have also many who are good at politics, and have
916.   had them in the past as well as now. But I want to know whether they have proved
917.   good teachers besides of their own virtue: that is the question with which our
918.   discussion is actually concerned; not whether there are, or formerly have been,
919.   good men here amongst us or not, but whether virtue is teachable; this has been our
920.   problem all the time. And our inquiry into this problem resolves itself into the
921.   question: Did the good men of our own and of former times know how to transmit to
922.   another man the virtue in respect of which they were good, or is it something not to
923.   be transmitted or taken over from one human being to another? That is the question I
924.   and Meno have been discussing all this time. Well, just consider it in your own way
925.   of speaking: would you not say that Themistocles was a good man?
926.   ANYTUS: I would, particularly so.
927.   SOCRATES: And if any man ever was a teacher of his own virtue, he especially was a
928.   good teacher of his?
929.   ANYTUS: In my opinion, yes, assuming that he wished to be so.
930.   SOCRATES: But can you suppose he would not have wished that other people should
931.   become good, honorable men--above all, I presume, his own son? Or do you think he
932.   was jealous of him, and deliberately refused to impart the virtue of his own
933.   goodness to him? Have you never heard how Themistocles had his son Cleophantus
934.   taught to be a good horseman? Why, he could keep his balance standing upright on
935.   horseback, and hurl the javelin while so standing, and perform many other wonderful
936.   feats in which his father had had him trained, so as to make him skilled in all that
937.   could be learnt from good masters. Surely you must have heard all this from your
938.   elders?
939.   ANYTUS: I have.
940.   SOCRATES: Then there could be no complaints of badness in his son's nature?
941.   ANYTUS: I daresay not.
942.   SOCRATES: But I ask you--did you ever hear anybody, old or young, say that
943.   Cleophantus, son of Themistocles, had the same goodness and accomplishments as his
944.   father?
945.   ANYTUS: Certainly not.
946.   SOCRATES: And can we believe that his father chose to train his own son in those
947.   feats, and yet made him no better than his neighbors in his own particular
948.   accomplishments--if virtue, as alleged, was to be taught?
949.   ANYTUS: On my word, I think not.
950.   SOCRATES: Well, there you have a fine teacher of virtue who, you admit, was one of
951.   the best men of past times. Let us take another, Aristeides, son of Lysimachus: do
952.   you not admit that he was a good man?
953.   ANYTUS: I do, absolutely, of course.
954.   SOCRATES: Well, did he not train his son Lysimachus better than any other Athenian
955.   in all that masters could teach him? And in the result, do you consider he has
956.   turned out better than anyone else? You have been in his company, I know, and you
957.   see what he is like. Or take another example-- the splendidly accomplished
958.   Pericles: he, as you are aware, brought up two sons, Paralus and Xanthippus.
959.   ANYTUS: Yes.
960.   SOCRATES: And, you know as well as I, he taught them to be the foremost horsemen of
961.   Athens, and trained them to excel in music and gymnastics and all else that comes
962.   under the head of the arts; and with all that, had he no desire to make them good
963.   men? He wished to, I imagine, but presumably it is not a thing one can be taught.
964.   And that you may not suppose it was only a few of the meanest sort of Athenians who
965.   failed in this matter, let me remind you that Thucydides' also brought up two sons,
966.   Melesias and Stephanus, and that besides giving them a good general education he
967.   made them the best wrestlers in Athens: one he placed with Xanthias, and the other
968.   with Eudorus--masters who, I should think, had the name of being the best exponents
969.   of the art. You remember them, do you not?
970.   ANYTUS: Yes, by hearsay.
971.   SOCRATES: Well, is it not obvious that this father would never have spent his money
972.   on having his children taught all those things, and then have omitted to teach them
973.   at no expense the others that would have made them good men, if virtue was to be
974.   taught? Will you say that perhaps Thucydides was one of the meaner sort, and had no
975.   great number of friends among the Athenians and allies? He, who was of a great house
976.   and had much influence in our city and all over Greece, so that if virtue were to be
977.   taught he would have found out the man who was likely to make his sons good, whether
978.   one of our own people or a foreigner, were he himself too busy owing to the cares
979.   of state! Ah no, my dear Anytus, it looks as though virtue were not a teachable
980.   thing.
981.   ANYTUS: Socrates, I consider you are too apt to speak ill of people. I, for one, if
982.   you will take my advice, would warn you to be careful: in most cities it is probably
983.   easier to do people harm than good, and particularly in this one; I think you know
984.   that yourself.
985.   SOCRATES: Meno, I think Anytus is angry, and I am not at all surprised: for he
986.   conceives, in the first place, that I am speaking ill of these gentlemen; and in the
987.   second place, he considers he is one of them himself. Yet, should the day come when
988.   he knows what “speaking ill” means, his anger will cease; at present he does not
989.   know. Now you must answer me: are there not good and honorable men among your people
990.   also?
991.   MENO: Certainly.
992.   SOCRATES: Well then, are they willing to put themselves forward as teachers of the
993.   young, and avow that they are teachers and that virtue is to be taught?
994.   MENO: No, no, Socrates, I assure you: sometimes you may hear them refer to it as
995.   teachable, but sometimes as not.
996.   SOCRATES: Then are we to call those persons teachers of this thing, when they do not
997.   even agree on that great question?
998.   MENO: I should say not, Socrates.
999.   SOCRATES: Well, and what of the sophists? Do you consider these, its only
1000. professors, to be teachers of virtue?
1001. MENO: That is a point, Socrates, for which I admire Gorgias: you will never hear him
1002. promising this, and he ridicules the others when he hears them promise it. Skill in
1003. speaking is what he takes it to be their business to produce.
1004. SOCRATES: Then you do not think the sophists are teachers of virtue?
1005. MENO: I cannot say, Socrates. I am in the same plight as the rest of the world:
1006. sometimes I think that they are, sometimes that they are not.
1007. SOCRATES: And are you aware that not only you and other political folk are in two
1008. minds as to whether virtue is to be taught, but Theognis the poet also says, you
1009. remember, the very same thing?
1010. MENO: In which part of his poems?
1011. SOCRATES: In those elegiac lines where he says--
1012. Eat and drink with these men; sit with them, and he pleasing unto them, who wield
1013. great power; for from the good wilt thou win thee lessons in the good; but mingle
1014. with the bad,
1015. and thou wilt lose even the sense that thou hast. Theognis - Bergk Do you observe
1016. how in these words he implies that virtue is to be taught?
1017. MENO: He does, evidently.
1018. SOCRATES: But in some other lines he shifts his ground a little, saying--
1019. Could understanding be created and put into a man
1020. Theognis - Bergk (I think it runs thus) many high rewards would they obtain
1021. for he would have followed the precepts of wisdom: but not by teaching wilt thou
1022. ever make the had man good Bergk -. You notice how in the second passage he
1023. contradicts himself on the same point?
1024. MENO: Apparently.
1025. SOCRATES: Well, can you name any other subject in which the professing teachers are
1026. not only refused recognition as teachers of others, but regarded as not even
1027. understanding it themselves, and indeed as inferior in the very quality of which
1028. they claim to be teachers; while those who are themselves recognized as men of worth
1029. and honor say at one time that it is teachable, and at another that it is not? When
1030. people are so confused about this or that matter, can you say they are teachers in
1031. any proper sense of the word?
1032. MENO: No, indeed, I cannot.
1033. SOCRATES: Well, if neither the sophists nor the men who are themselves good and
1034. honorable are teachers of the subject, clearly no others can be?
1035. MENO: I agree.
1036. SOCRATES: And if there are no teachers, there can be no disciples either?
1037. MENO: I think that statement is true.
1038. SOCRATES: And we have admitted that a thing of which there are neither teachers nor
1039. disciples cannot be taught?
1040. MENO: We have.
1041. SOCRATES: So nowhere are any teachers of virtue to be found?
1042. MENO: That is so.
1043. SOCRATES: And if no teachers, then no disciples?
1044. MENO: So it appears.
1045. SOCRATES: Hence virtue cannot be taught?
1046. MENO: It seems likely, if our investigation is correct. And that makes me wonder, I
1047. must say, Socrates, whether perhaps there are no good men at all, or by what
1048. possible sort of process good people can come to exist?
1049. SOCRATES: I fear, Meno, you and I are but poor creatures, and Gorgias has been as
1050. faulty an educator of you as Prodicus of me. So our first duty is to look to
1051. ourselves, and try to find somebody who will have some means or other of making us
1052. better. I say this with special reference to our recent inquiry, in which I see
1053. that we absurdly failed to note that it is not only through the guidance of
1054. knowledge that human conduct is right and good; and it is probably owing to this
1055. that we fail to perceive by what means good men can be produced.
1056. MENO: To what are you alluding, Socrates?
1057. SOCRATES: I mean that good men must be useful: we were right, were we not, in
1058. admitting that this must needs be so?
1059. MENO: Yes.
1060. SOCRATES: And in thinking that they will be useful if they give us right guidance in
1061. conduct: here also, I suppose, our admission was correct?
1062. MENO: Yes.
1063. SOCRATES: But our assertion that it is impossible to give right guidance unless one
1064. has knowledge looks very like a mistake.
1065. MENO: What do you mean by that?
1066. SOCRATES: I will tell you. If a man knew the way to Larisa, or any other place you
1067. please, and walked there and led others, would he not give right and good guidance?
1068. MENO: Certainly.
1069. SOCRATES: Well, and a person who had a right opinion as to which was the way, but
1070. had never been there and did not really know, might give right guidance, might he
1071. not?
1072. MENO: Certainly.
1073. SOCRATES: And so long, I presume, as he has right opinion about that which the other
1074. man really knows, he will be just as good a guide--if he thinks the truth instead of
1075. knowing it--as the man who has the knowledge.
1076. MENO: Just as good.
1077. SOCRATES: Hence true opinion is as good a guide to rightness of action as knowledge;
1078. and this is a point we omitted just now in our consideration of the nature of
1079. virtue, when we stated that knowledge is the only guide of right action; whereas we
1080. find there is also true opinion.
1081. MENO: So it seems.
1082. SOCRATES: Then right opinion is just as useful as knowledge.
1083. MENO: With this difference, Socrates, that he who has knowledge will always hit on
1084. the right way, whereas he who has right opinion will sometimes do so, but sometimes
1085. not.
1086. SOCRATES: How do you mean? Will not he who always has right opinion be always right,
1087. so long as he opines rightly?
1088. MENO: It appears to me that he must; and therefore I wonder, Socrates, this being
1089. the case, that knowledge should ever be more prized than right opinion, and why they
1090. should be two distinct and separate things.
1091. SOCRATES: Well, do you know why it is that you wonder, or shall I tell you?
1092. MENO: Please tell me.
1093. SOCRATES: It is because you have not observed with attention the images of Daedalus.
1094. But perhaps there are none in your country.
1095. MENO: What is the point of your remark?
1096. SOCRATES: That if they are not fastened up they play truant and run away; but, if
1097. fastened, they stay where they are.
1098. MENO: Well, what of that?
1099. SOCRATES: To possess one of his works which is let loose does not count for much in
1100. value; it will not stay with you any more than a runaway slave: but when fastened up
1101. it is worth a great deal, for his productions are very fine things And to what am I
1102. referring in all this? To true opinion. For these, so long as they stay with us, are
1103. a fine possession, and effect all that is good; but they do not care to stay for
1104. long, and run away out of the human soul, and thus are of no great value until one
1105. makes them fast with causal reasoning. And this process, friend Meno, is
1106. recollection, as in our previous talk we have agreed. But when once they are
1107. fastened, in the first place they turn into knowledge, and in the second, are
1108. abiding. And this is why knowledge is more prized than right opinion: the one
1109. transcends the other by its trammels.
1110. MENO: Upon my word, Socrates, it seems to be very much as you say.
1111. SOCRATES: And indeed I too speak as one who does not know but only conjectures: yet
1112. that there is a difference between right opinion and knowledge is not at all a
1113. conjecture with me but something I would particularly assert that I knew: there are
1114. not many things of which I would say that, but this one, at any rate, I will include
1115. among those that I know.
1116. MENO: Yes, and you are right, Socrates, in so saying.
1117. SOCRATES: Well, then, am I not right also in saying that true opinion leading the
1118. way renders the effect of each action as good as knowledge does?
1119. MENO: There again, Socrates, I think you speak the truth.
1120. SOCRATES: So that right opinion will be no whit inferior to knowledge in worth or
1121. usefulness as regards our actions, nor will the man who has right opinion be
1122. inferior to him who has knowledge.
1123. MENO: That is so.
1124. SOCRATES: And you know that the good man has been admitted by us to be useful.
1125. MENO: Yes.
1126. SOCRATES: Since then it is not only because of knowledge that men will be good and
1127. useful to their country, where such men are to be found, but also on account of
1128. right opinion; and since neither of these two things--knowledge and true opinion--
1129. is a natural property of mankind, being acquired--or do you think that either of
1130. them is natural?
1131. MENO: Not I.
1132. SOCRATES: Then if they are not natural, good people cannot be good by nature either.
1133. MENO: Of course not.
1134. SOCRATES: And since they are not an effect of nature, we next considered whether
1135. virtue can be taught.
1136. MENO: Yes.
1137. SOCRATES: And we thought it teachable if virtue is wisdom?
1138. MENO: Yes.
1139. SOCRATES: And if teachable, it must be wisdom?
1140. MENO: Certainly.
1141. SOCRATES: And if there were teachers, it could be taught, but if there were none,
1142. it could not?
1143. MENO: Quite so.
1144. SOCRATES: But surely we acknowledged that it had no teachers?
1145. MENO: That is true.
1146. SOCRATES: Then we acknowledged it neither was taught nor was wisdom?
1147. MENO: Certainly.
1148. SOCRATES: But yet we admitted it was a good?
1149. MENO: Yes.
1150. SOCRATES: And that which guides rightly is useful and good?
1151. MENO: Certainly.
1152. SOCRATES: And that there are only two things-- true opinion and knowledge--that
1153. guide rightly and a man guides rightly if he have these; for things that come about
1154. by chance do not occur through human guidance; but where a man is a guide to what is
1155. right we find these two things--true opinion and knowledge.
1156. MENO: I agree.
1157. SOCRATES: Well now, since virtue is not taught, we no longer take it to be
1158. knowledge?
1159. MENO: Apparently not.
1160. SOCRATES: So of two good and useful things one has been rejected: knowledge cannot
1161. be our guide in political conduct.
1162. MENO: I think not.
1163. SOCRATES: Therefore it was not by any wisdom, nor because they were wise, that the
1164. sort of men we spoke of controlled their states--Themistocles and the rest of them,
1165. to whom our friend Anytus was referring a moment ago. For this reason it was that
1166. they were unable to make others like unto themselves--because their qualities were
1167. not an effect of knowledge.
1168. MENO: The case is probably as you say, Socrates.
1169. SOCRATES: And if not by knowledge, as the only alternative it must have been by good
1170. opinion. This is the means which statesmen employ for their direction of states,
1171. and they have nothing more to do with wisdom than soothsayers and diviners; for
1172. these people utter many a true thing when inspired, but have no knowledge of
1173. anything they say.
1174. MENO: I daresay that is so.
1175. SOCRATES: And may we, Meno, rightly call those men divine who, having no
1176. understanding, yet succeed in many a great deed and word?
1177. MENO: Certainly.
1178. SOCRATES: Then we shall be right in calling those divine of whom we spoke just now
1179. as soothsayers and prophets and all of the poetic turn; and especially we can say of
1180. the statesmen that they are divine and enraptured, as being inspired and possessed
1181. of God when they succeed in speaking many great things, while knowing nought of what
1182. they say.
1183. MENO: Certainly.
1184. SOCRATES: And the women too, I presume, Meno, call good men divine; and the
1185. Spartans, when they eulogize a good man, say--“He is a divine person.”
1186. MENO: And to all appearance, Socrates, they are right; though perhaps our friend
1187. Anytus may be annoyed at your statement.
1188. SOCRATES: For my part, I care not. As for him, Meno, we will converse with him some
1189. other time. At the moment, if through all this discussion our queries and statements
1190. have been correct, virtue is found to be neither natural nor taught, but is imparted
1191. to us by a divine dispensation without understanding in those who receive it,
1192. unless there should be somebody among the statesmen capable of making a statesman of
1193. another. And if there should be any such, he might fairly be said to be among the
1194. living what Homer says Teiresias was among the dead--“He alone has comprehension;
1195. the rest are flitting shades.” In the same way he on earth, in respect of virtue,
1196. will be a real substance among shadows.
1197. MENO: I think you put it excellently, Socrates.
1198. SOCRATES: Then the result of our reasoning, Meno, is found to be that virtue comes
1199. to us by a divine dispensation, when it does come. But the certainty of this we
1200. shall only know when, before asking in what way virtue comes to mankind, we set
1201. about inquiring what virtue is, in and by itself. It is time now for me to go my
1202. way, but do you persuade our friend Anytus of that whereof you are now yourself
1203. persuaded, so as to put him in a gentler mood; for if you can persuade him, you
1204. will do a good turn to the people of Athens also.