IN FOUR WEB-PAGE PARTS - PART ONE
Benjamin Jowett (1817-1893)
Benjamin Jowett was an English scholar, classicist
and theologian. Noted as one of the greatest
British educators of the 19th century, he
was renowned for his translations of Plato
and as an outstanding and influential tutor.
He was Master of Balliol College, Oxford.
Plato (Greek Pláton, "broad" 428/427
BC - 348/347 BC), was a Classical Greek philosopher,
mathematician, student of Socrates, writer
of philosophical dialogues, and founder of
the Academy in Athens, the first institution
of higher learning in the Western world.
Along with his mentor, Socrates, and his
student, Aristotle, Plato helped to lay the
foundations of Western philosophy and science
Meno is full text Socratic dialogue written
by Plato. Written in the Socratic dialectic
style, it attempts to determine the definition
of virtue, or arete, meaning in this case
virtue in general, rather than particular
virtues, such as justice or temperance. The
goal is a common definition that applies
equally to all particular virtues. Socrates
moves the discussion past the philosophical
confusion, or aporia, created by Meno's paradox
(aka the learner's paradox) with the introduction
of new Platonic ideas: the theory of knowledge
as recollection, anamnesis, and in the final
lines a movement towards Platonic idealism.
Plato's Meno is a Socratic dialogue in which
the two main speakers, Socrates and Meno,
discuss human virtue: whether or not it can
be taught, whether it is shared by all human
beings, and whether it is one quality or
many. As is typical of a Socratic dialogue,
there is more than one theme discussed within
Meno. One feature of the dialogue is Socrates'
use of one of Meno's slaves to demonstrate
his idea of anamnesis, that certain knowledge
is innate and "recollected" by
the soul through proper inquiry. Another
often noted feature of the dialogue is the
brief appearance of Anytus, a member of a
prominent Athenian family who later participated
in the prosecution of Socrates.
PERSONS OF THE DIALOGUE
MENO; SOCRATES; A SLAVE OF MENO; ANYTUS
Meno: Can you tell me, Socrates, whether
virtue is acquired by teaching or by practice;
or if neither by teaching nor practice, then
whether it comes to man by nature, or in
what other way?
Socrates: O Meno, there was a time when the
Thessalians were famous among the other Hellenes
only for their riches and their riding; but
now, if I am not mistaken, they are equally
famous for their wisdom, especially at Larisa,
which is the native city of your friend Aristippus.
And this is Gorgias' doing; for when he came
there, the flower of the Aleuadae, among
them your admirer Aristippus, and the other
chiefs of the Thessalians, fell in love with
his wisdom. And he has taught you the habit
of answering questions in a grand and bold
style, which becomes those who know, and
is the style in which he himself answers
all comers; and any Hellene who likes may
ask him anything. How different is our lot!
my dear Meno. Here at Athens there is a dearth
of the commodity, and all wisdom seems to
have emigrated from us to you. I am certain
that if you were to ask any Athenian whether
virtue was natural or acquired, he would
laugh in your face, and say: "Stranger,
you have far too good an opinion of me, if
you think that I can answer your question.
For I literally do not know what virtue is,
and much less whether it is acquired by teaching
And I myself, Meno, living as I do in this
region of poverty, am as poor as the rest
of the world; and I confess with shame that
I know literally nothing about virtue; and
when I do not know the "quid" of
anything how can I know the "quale"?
How, if I knew nothing at all of Meno, could
I tell if he was fair, or the opposite of
fair; rich and noble, or the reverse of rich
and noble? Do you think that I could?
Meno: No, Indeed. But are you in earnest,
Socrates, in saying that you do not know
what virtue is? And am I to carry back this
report of you to Thessaly?
Socrates: Not only that, my dear boy, but
you may say further that I have never known
of any one else who did, in my judgment.
Meno: Then you have never met Gorgias when
he was at Athens?
Socrates: Yes, I have.
Meno: And did you not think that he knew?
Socrates: I have not a good memory, Meno,
and therefore I cannot now tell what I thought
of him at the time. And I dare say that he
did know, and that you know what he said:
please, therefore, to remind me of what he
said; or, if you would rather, tell me your
own view; for I suspect that you and he think
Meno: Very true.
Socrates: Then as he is not here, never mind
him, and do you tell me: By the gods, Meno,
be generous, and tell me what you say that
virtue is; for I shall be truly delighted
to find that I have been mistaken, and that
you and Gorgias do really have this knowledge;
although I have been just saying that I have
never found anybody who had.
Meno: There will be no difficulty, Socrates,
in answering your question. Let us take first
the virtue of a man-he should know how to
administer the state, and in the administration
of it to benefit his friends and harm his
enemies; and he must also be careful not
to suffer harm himself. A woman's virtue,
if you wish to know about that, may also
be easily described: her duty is to order
her house, and keep what is indoors, and
obey her husband. Every age, every condition
of life, young or old, male or female, bond
or free, has a different virtue: there are
virtues numberless, and no lack of definitions
of them; for virtue is relative to the actions
and ages of each of us in all that we do.
And the same may be said of vice, Socrates.
Socrates: How fortunate I am, Meno! When
I ask you for one virtue, you present me
with a swarm of them, which are in your keeping.
Suppose that I carry on the figure of the
swarm, and ask of you, What is the nature
of the bee? and you answer that there are
many kinds of bees, and I reply: But do bees
differ as bees, because there are many and
different kinds of them; or are they not
rather to be distinguished by some other
quality, as for example beauty, size, or
shape? How would you answer me?
Meno: I should answer that bees do not differ
from one another, as bees.
Socrates: And if I went on to say: That is
what I desire to know, Meno; tell me what
is the quality in which they do not differ,
but are all alike;-would you be able to answer?
Meno: I should.
Socrates: And so of the virtues, however
many and different they may be, they have
all a common nature which makes them virtues;
and on this he who would answer the question,
"What is virtue?" would do well
to have his eye fixed: Do you understand?
Meno: I am beginning to understand; but I
do not as yet take hold of the question as
I could wish.
Socrates: When you say, Meno, that there
is one virtue of a man, another of a woman,
another of a child, and so on, does this
apply only to virtue, or would you say the
same of health, and size, and strength? Or
is the nature of health always the same,
whether in man or woman?
Meno: I should say that health is the same,
both in man and woman.
Socrates: And is not this true of size and
strength? If a woman is strong, she will
be strong by reason of the same form and
of the same strength subsisting in her which
there is in the man. I mean to say that strength,
as strength, whether of man or woman, is
the same. Is there any difference?
Meno: I think not.
Socrates: And will not virtue, as virtue,
be the same, whether in a child or in a grown-up
person, in a woman or in a man?
Meno: I cannot help feeling, Socrates, that
this case is different from the others.
Socrates: But why? Were you not saying that
the virtue of a man was to order a state,
and the virtue of a woman was to order a
Meno: I did say so.
Socrates: And can either house or state or
anything be well ordered without temperance
and without justice?
Meno: Certainly not.
Socrates: Then they who order a state or
a house temperately or justly order them
with temperance and justice?
Socrates: Then both men and women, if they
are to be good men and women, must have the
same virtues of temperance and justice?
Socrates: And can either a young man or an
elder one be good, if they are intemperate
Meno: They cannot.
Socrates: They must be temperate and just?
Socrates: Then all men are good in the same
way, and by participation in the same virtues?
Meno: Such is the inference.
Socrates: And they surely would not have
been good in the same way, unless their virtue
had been the same?
Meno: They would not.
Socrates: Then now that the sameness of all
virtue has been proven, try and remember
what you and Gorgias say that virtue is.
Meno: Will you have one definition of them
Socrates: That is what I am seeking.
Meno: If you want to have one definition
of them all, I know not what to say, but
that virtue is the power of governing mankind.
Socrates: And does this definition of virtue
include all virtue? Is virtue the same in
a child and in a slave, Meno? Can the child
govern his father, or the slave his master;
and would he who governed be any longer a
Meno: I think not, Socrates.
Socrates: No, indeed; there would be small
reason in that. Yet once more, fair friend;
according to you, virtue is "the power
of governing"; but do you not add "justly
and not unjustly"?
Meno: Yes, Socrates; I agree there; for justice
Socrates: Would you say "virtue,"
Meno, or "a virtue"?
Meno: What do you mean?
Socrates: I mean as I might say about anything;
that a round, for example, is "a figure"
and not simply "figure," and I
should adopt this mode of speaking, because
there are other figures.
Meno: Quite right; and that is just what
I am saying about virtue-that there are other
virtues as well as justice.
Socrates: What are they? tell me the names
of them, as I would tell you the names of
the other figures if you asked me.
Meno: Courage and temperance and wisdom and
magnanimity are virtues; and there are many
Socrates: Yes, Meno; and again we are in
the same case: in searching after one virtue
we have found many, though not in the same
way as before; but we have been unable to
find the common virtue which runs through
Meno: Why, Socrates, even now I am not able
to follow you in the attempt to get at one
common notion of virtue as of other things.
Socrates: No wonder; but I will try to get
nearer if I can, for you know that all things
have a common notion. Suppose now that some
one asked you the question which I asked
before: Meno, he would say, what is figure?
And if you answered "roundness,"
he would reply to you, in my way of speaking,
by asking whether you would say that roundness
is "figure" or "a figure";
and you would answer "a figure."
Socrates: And for this reason-that there
are other figures?
Socrates: And if he proceeded to ask, What
other figures are there? you would have told
Meno: I should.
Socrates: And if he similarly asked what
colour is, and you answered whiteness, and
the questioner rejoined, Would you say that
whiteness is colour or a colour? you would
reply, A colour, because there are other
colours as well.
Meno: I should.
Socrates: And if he had said, Tell me what
they are?-you would have told him of other
colours which are colours just as much as
Socrates: And suppose that he were to pursue
the matter in my way, he would say: Ever
and anon we are landed in particulars, but
this is not what I want; tell me then, since
you call them by a common name, and say that
they are all figures, even when opposed to
one another, what is that common nature which
you designate as figure-which contains straight
as well as round, and is no more one than
the other-that would be your mode of speaking?
Socrates: And in speaking thus, you do not
mean to say that the round is round any more
than straight, or the straight any more straight
Meno: Certainly not.
Socrates: You only assert that the round
figure is not more a figure than the straight,
or the straight than the round?
Meno: Very true.
Socrates: To what then do we give the name
of figure? Try and answer. Suppose that when
a person asked you this question either about
figure or colour, you were to reply, Man,
I do not understand what you want, or know
what you are saying; he would look rather
astonished and say: Do you not understand
that I am looking for the "simile in
multis"? And then he might put the question
in another form: Mono, he might say, what
is that "simile in multis" which
you call figure, and which includes not only
round and straight figures, but all? Could
you not answer that question, Meno? I wish
that you would try; the attempt will be good
practice with a view to the answer about
Meno: I would rather that you should answer,
Socrates: Shall I indulge you?
Meno: By all means.
Socrates: And then you will tell me about
Meno: I will.
Socrates: Then I must do my best, for there
is a prize to be won.
Socrates: Well, I will try and explain to
you what figure is. What do you say to this
answer?-Figure is the only thing which always
follows colour. Will you be satisfied with
it, as I am sure that I should be, if you
would let me have a similar definition of
Meno: But, Socrates, it is such a simple
Socrates: Why simple?
Meno: Because, according to you, figure is
that which always follows colour. (
Meno: But if a person were to say that he
does not know what colour is, any more than
what figure is-what sort of answer would
you have given him?
Socrates: I should have told him the truth.
And if he were a philosopher of the eristic
and antagonistic sort, I should say to him:
You have my answer, and if I am wrong, your
business is to take up the argument and refute
me. But if we were friends, and were talking
as you and I are now, I should reply in a
milder strain and more in the dialectician's
vein; that is to say, I should not only speak
the truth, but I should make use of premisses
which the person interrogated would be willing
to admit. And this is the way in which I
shall endeavour to approach you. You will
acknowledge, will you not, that there is
such a thing as an end, or termination, or
extremity?-all which words use in the same
sense, although I am aware that Prodicus
might draw distinctions about them: but still
you, I am sure, would speak of a thing as
ended or terminated-that is all which I am
saying-not anything very difficult.
Meno: Yes, I should; and I believe that I
understand your meaning.
Socrates: And you would speak of a surface
and also of a solid, as for example in geometry.
Socrates: Well then, you are now in a condition
to understand my definition of figure. I
define figure to be that in which the solid
ends; or, more concisely, the limit of solid.
Meno: And now, Socrates, what is colour?
Socrates: You are outrageous, Meno, in thus
plaguing a poor old man to give you an answer,
when you will not take the trouble of remembering
what is Gorgias' definition of virtue.
Meno: When you have told me what I ask, I
will tell you, Socrates.
Socrates: A man who was blindfolded has only
to hear you talking, and he would know that
you are a fair creature and have still many
Meno: Why do you think so?
Socrates: Why, because you always speak in
imperatives: like all beauties when they
are in their prime, you are tyrannical; and
also, as I suspect, you have found out that
I have weakness for the fair, and therefore
to humour you I must answer.
Meno: Please do.
Socrates: Would you like me to answer you
after the manner of Gorgias, which is familiar
Meno: I should like nothing better.
Socrates: Do not he and you and Empedocles
say that there are certain effluences of
Socrates: And passages into which and through
which the effluences pass?
Socrates: And some of the effluences fit
into the passages, and some of them are too
small or too large?
Socrates: And there is such a thing as sight?
Socrates: And now, as Pindar says, "read
my meaning" colour is an effluence of
form, commensurate with sight, and palpable
Meno: That, Socrates, appears to me to be
an admirable answer.
Socrates: Why, yes, because it happens to
be one which you have been in the habit of
hearing: and your wit will have discovered,
I suspect, that you may explain in the same
way the nature of sound and smell, and of
many other similar phenomena.
Meno: Quite true.
Socrates: The answer, Meno, was in the orthodox
solemn vein, and therefore was more acceptable
to you than the other answer about figure.
Socrates: And yet, O son of Alexidemus, I
cannot help thinking that the other was the
better; and I am sure that you would be of
the same opinion, if you would only stay
and be initiated, and were not compelled,
as you said yesterday, to go away before
Meno: But I will stay, Socrates, if you will
give me many such answers.
Socrates: Well then, for my own sake as well
as for yours, I will do my very best; but
I am afraid that I shall not be able to give
you very many as good: and now, in your turn,
you are to fulfil your promise, and tell
me what virtue is in the universal; and do
not make a singular into a plural, as the
facetious say of those who break a thing,
but deliver virtue to me whole and sound,
and not broken into a number of pieces: I
have given you the pattern.
Meno: Well then, Socrates, virtue, as I take
it, is when he, who desires the honourable,
is able to provide it for himself; so the
poet says, and I say too- Virtue is the desire
of things honourable and the power of attaining
Socrates: And does he who desires the honourable
also desire the good?
Socrates: Then are there some who desire
the evil and others who desire the good?
Do not all men, my dear sir, desire good?
Meno: I think not.
Socrates: There are some who desire evil?
Socrates: Do you mean that they think the
evils which they desire, to be good; or do
they know that they are evil and yet desire
Meno: Both, I think.
Socrates: And do you really imagine, Meno,
that a man knows evils to be evils and desires
Meno: Certainly I do.
Socrates: And desire is of possession?
Meno: Yes, of possession.
Socrates: And does he think that the evils
will do good to him who possesses them, or
does he know that they will do him harm?
Meno: There are some who think that the evils
will do them good, and others who know that
they will do them harm.
Socrates: And, in your opinion, do those
who think that they will do them good know
that they are evils?
Meno: Certainly not.
Socrates: Is it not obvious that those who
are ignorant of their nature do not desire
them; but they desire what they suppose to
be goods although they are really evils;
and if they are mistaken and suppose the
evils to be good they really desire goods?
Meno: Yes, in that case.
Socrates: Well, and do those who, as you
say, desire evils, and think that evils are
hurtful to the possessor of them, know that
they will be hurt by them?
Meno: They must know it.
Socrates: And must they not suppose that
those who are hurt are miserable in proportion
to the hurt which is inflicted upon them?
Meno: How can it be otherwise?
Socrates: But are not the miserable ill-fated?
Meno: Yes, indeed.
Socrates: And does any one desire to be miserable
Meno: I should say not, Socrates.
Socrates: But if there is no one who desires
to be miserable, there is no one, Meno, who
desires evil; for what is misery but the
desire and possession of evil?
Meno: That appears to be the truth, Socrates,
and I admit that nobody desires evil.
Socrates: And yet, were you not saying just
now that virtue is the desire and power of
Meno: Yes, I did say so.
Socrates: But if this be affirmed, then the
desire of good is common to all, and one
man is no better than another in that respect?
Socrates: And if one man is not better than
another in desiring good, he must be better
in the power of attaining it?
Socrates: Then, according to your definition,
virtue would appear to be the power of attaining
Meno: I entirely approve, Socrates, of the
manner in which you now view this matter.
Socrates: Then let us see whether what you
say is true from another point of view; for
very likely you may be right:-You affirm
virtue to be the power of attaining goods?
Socrates: And the goods which mean are such
as health and wealth and the possession of
gold and silver, and having office and honour
in the state-those are what you would call
Meno: Yes, I should include all those.
Socrates: Then, according to Meno, who is
the hereditary friend of the great king,
virtue is the power of getting silver and
gold; and would you add that they must be
gained piously, justly, or do you deem this
to be of no consequence? And is any mode
of acquisition, even if unjust and dishonest,
equally to be deemed virtue?
Meno: Not virtue, Socrates, but vice.
Socrates: Then justice or temperance or holiness,
or some other part of virtue, as would appear,
must accompany the acquisition, and without
them the mere acquisition of good will not
Meno: Why, how can there be virtue without
Socrates: And the non-acquisition of gold
and silver in a dishonest manner for oneself
or another, or in other words the want of
them, may be equally virtue?
Socrates: Then the acquisition of such goods
is no more virtue than the non-acquisition
and want of them, but whatever is accompanied
by justice or honesty is virtue, and whatever
is devoid of justice is vice.
Meno: It cannot be otherwise, in my judgment.
Socrates: And were we not saying just now
that justice, temperance, and the like, were
each of them a part of virtue?
Socrates: And so, Meno, this is the way in
which you mock me.
Meno: Why do you say that, Socrates?
Socrates: Why, because I asked you to deliver
virtue into my hands whole and unbroken,
and I gave you a pattern according to which
you were to frame your answer; and you have
forgotten already, and tell me that virtue
is the power of attaining good justly, or
with justice; and justice you acknowledge
to be a part of virtue.
Socrates: Then it follows from your own admissions,
that virtue is doing what you do with a part
of virtue; for justice and the like are said
by you to be parts of virtue.
Meno: What of that?
Socrates: What of that! Why, did not I ask
you to tell me the nature of virtue as a
whole? And you are very far from telling
me this; but declare every action to be virtue
which is done with a part of virtue; as though
you had told me and I must already know the
whole of virtue, and this too when frittered
away into little pieces. And, therefore,
my dear I fear that I must begin again and
repeat the same question: What is virtue?
for otherwise, I can only say, that every
action done with a part of virtue is virtue;
what else is the meaning of saying that every
action done with justice is virtue? Ought
I not to ask the question over again; for
can any one who does not know virtue know
a part of virtue?
Meno: No; I do not say that he can.
Socrates: Do you remember how, in the example
of figure, we rejected any answer given in
terms which were as yet unexplained or unadmitted?
Meno: Yes, Socrates; and we were quite right
in doing so.
Socrates: But then, my friend, do not suppose
that we can explain to any one the nature
of virtue as a whole through some unexplained
portion of virtue, or anything at all in
that fashion; we should only have to ask
over again the old question, What is virtue?
Am I not right?
Meno: I believe that you are.
Socrates: Then begin again, and answer me,
What, according to you and your friend Gorgias,
is the definition of virtue?
Meno: O Socrates, I used to be told, before
I knew you, that you were always doubting
yourself and making others doubt; and now
you are casting your spells over me, and
I am simply getting bewitched and enchanted,
and am at my wits' end. And if I may venture
to make a jest upon you, you seem to me both
in your appearance and in your power over
others to be very like the flat torpedo fish,
who torpifies those who come near him and
touch him, as you have now torpified me,
I think. For my soul and my tongue are really
torpid, and I do not know how to answer you;
and though I have been delivered of an infinite
variety of speeches about virtue before now,
and to many persons-and very good ones they
were, as I thought-at this moment I cannot
even say what virtue is. And I think that.
you are very wise in not voyaging and going
away from home, for if you did in other places
as do in Athens, you would be cast into prison
as a magician.
Socrates: You are a rogue, Meno, and had
all but caught me.
Meno: What do you mean, Socrates?
Socrates: I can tell why you made a simile
Socrates: In order that I might make another
simile about you. For I know that all pretty
young gentlemen like to have pretty similes
made about them-as well they may-but I shall
not return the compliment. As to my being
a torpedo, if the torpedo is torpid as well
as the cause of torpidity in others, then
indeed I am a torpedo, but not otherwise;
for I perplex others, not because I am clear,
but because I am utterly perplexed myself.
And now I know not what virtue is, and you
seem to be in the same case, although you
did once perhaps know before you touched
me. However, I have no objection to join
with you in the enquiry.
Meno: And how will you enquire, Socrates,
into that which you do not know? What will
you put forth as the subject of enquiry?
And if you find what you want, how will you
ever know that this is the thing which you
did not know?
Socrates: I know, Meno, what you mean; but
just see what a tiresome dispute you are
introducing. You argue that man cannot enquire
either about that which he knows, or about
that which he does not know; for if he knows,
he has no need to enquire; and if not, he
cannot; for he does not know the, very subject
about which he is to enquire.
Meno: Well, Socrates, and is not the argument
Socrates: I think not.
Meno: Why not?
Socrates: I will tell you why: I have heard
from certain wise men and women who spoke
of things divine that-
Meno: What did they say?
Socrates: They spoke of a glorious truth,
as I conceive.
Meno: What was it? and who were they?
Socrates: Some of them were priests and priestesses,
who had studied how they might be able to
give a reason of their profession: there,
have been poets also, who spoke of these
things by inspiration, like Pindar, and many
others who were inspired. And they say-mark,
now, and see whether their words are true-they
say that the soul of man is immortal, and
at one time has an end, which is termed dying,
and at another time is born again, but is
never destroyed. And the moral is, that a
man ought to live always in perfect holiness.
"For in the ninth year Persephone sends
the souls of those from whom she has received
the penalty of ancient crime back again from
beneath into the light of the sun above,
and these are they who become noble kings
and mighty men and great in wisdom and are
called saintly heroes in after ages."
The soul, then, as being immortal, and having
been born again many times, rand having seen
all things that exist, whether in this world
or in the world below, has knowledge of them
all; and it is no wonder that she should
be able to call to remembrance all that she
ever knew about virtue, and about everything;
for as all nature is akin, and the soul has
learned all things; there is no difficulty
in her eliciting or as men say learning,
out of a single recollection -all the rest,
if a man is strenuous and does not faint;
for all enquiry and all learning is but recollection.
And therefore we ought not to listen to this
sophistical argument about the impossibility
of enquiry: for it will make us idle; and
is sweet only to the sluggard; but the other
saying will make us active and inquisitive.
In that confiding, I will gladly enquire
with you into the nature of virtue.
Meno: Yes, Socrates; but what do you mean
by saying that we do not learn, and that
what we call learning is only a process of
recollection? Can you teach me how this is?
Socrates: I told you, Meno, just now that
you were a rogue, and now you ask whether
I can teach you, when I am saying that there
is no teaching, but only recollection; and
thus you imagine that you will involve me
in a contradiction.
Meno: Indeed, Socrates, I protest that I
had no such intention. I only asked the question
from habit; but if you can prove to me that
what you say is true, I wish that you would.
Socrates: It will be no easy matter, but
I will try to please you to the utmost of
my power. Suppose that you call one of your
numerous attendants, that I may demonstrate
Meno: Certainly. Come hither,
Socrates: He is Greek, and speaks Greek,
does he not?
Meno: Yes, indeed; he was born in the house.
Socrates: Attend now to the questions which
I ask him, and observe whether he learns
of me or only remembers.
Meno: I will.
Socrates: Tell me, boy, do you know that
a figure like this is a square?
Boy: I do.
Socrates: And you know that a square figure
has these four lines equal?
Socrates: And these lines which I have drawn
through the middle of the square are also
Socrates: A square may be of any size?
Socrates: And if one side of the figure be
of two feet, and the other side be of two
feet, how much will the whole be? Let me
explain: if in one direction the space was
of two feet, and in other direction of one
foot, the whole would be of two feet taken
Socrates: But since this side is also of
two feet, there are twice two feet?
Boy: There are.
Socrates: Then the square is of twice two
Socrates: And how many are twice two feet?
count and tell me.
Boy: Four, Socrates.
Socrates: And might there not be another
square twice as large as this, and having
like this the lines equal?
Socrates: And of how many feet will that
Boy: Of eight feet.
Socrates: And now try and tell me the length
of the line which forms the side of that
double square: this is two feet-what will
Boy: Clearly, Socrates, it will be double.
Socrates: Do you observe, Meno, that I am
not teaching the boy anything, but only asking
him questions; and now he fancies that he
knows how long a line is necessary in order
to produce a figure of eight square feet;
does he not?
Socrates: And does he really know?
Meno: Certainly not.
Socrates: He only guesses that because the
square is double, the line is double.
Socrates: Observe him while he recalls the
steps in regular order. (To the
Boy: ) Tell me, boy, do you assert that a
double space comes from a double line? Remember
that I am not speaking of an oblong, but
of a figure equal every way, and twice the
size of this-that is to say of eight feet;
and I want to know whether you still say
that a double square comes from double line?
Socrates: But does not this line become doubled
if we add another such line here?
Socrates: And four such lines will make a
space containing eight feet?
Socrates: Let us describe such a figure:
Would you not say that this is the figure
of eight feet?
Socrates: And are there not these four divisions
in the figure, each of which is equal to
the figure of four feet?
Socrates: And is not that four times four?
Socrates: And four times is not double?
Boy: No, indeed.
Socrates: But how much?
Boy: Four times as much.
Socrates: Therefore the double line, boy,
has given a space, not twice, but four times
Socrates: Four times four are sixteen-are
Socrates: What line would give you a space
of right feet, as this gives one of sixteen
feet;-do you see?
Socrates: And the space of four feet is made
from this half line?
Socrates: Good; and is not a space of eight
feet twice the size of this, and half the
size of the other?
Socrates: Such a space, then, will be made
out of a line greater than this one, and
less than that one?
Boy: Yes; I think so.
Socrates: Very good; I like to hear you say
what you think. And now tell me, is not this
a line of two feet and that of four?
Socrates: Then the line which forms the side
of eight feet ought to be more than this
line of two feet, and less than the other
of four feet?
Boy: It ought.
Socrates: Try and see if you can tell me
how much it will be.
Boy: Three feet.
Socrates: Then if we add a half to this line
of two, that will be the line of three. Here
are two and there is one; and on the other
side, here are two also and there is one:
and that makes the figure of which you speak?
Socrates: But if there are three feet this
way and three feet that way, the whole space
will be three times three feet?
Boy: That is evident.
Socrates: And how much are three times three
Socrates: And how much is the double of four?
Socrates: Then the figure of eight is not
made out of a of three?
Socrates: But from what line?-tell me exactly;
and if you would rather not reckon, try and
show me the line.
Boy: Indeed, Socrates, I do not know.
Socrates: Do you see, Meno, what advances
he has made in his power of recollection?
He did not know at first, and he does not
know now, what is the side of a figure of
eight feet: but then he thought that he knew,
and answered confidently as if he knew, and
had no difficulty; now he has a difficulty,
and neither knows nor fancies that he knows.
Socrates: Is he not better off in knowing
Meno: I think that he is.
Socrates: If we have made him doubt, and
given him the "torpedo's shock,"
have we done him any harm?
Meno: I think not.
Socrates: We have certainly, as would seem,
assisted him in some degree to the discovery
of the truth; and now he will wish to remedy
his ignorance, but then he would have been
ready to tell all the world again and again
that the double space should have a double
Socrates: But do you suppose that he would
ever have enquired into or learned what he
fancied that he knew, though he was really
ignorant of it, until he had fallen into
perplexity under the idea that he did not
know, and had desired to know?
Meno: I think not, Socrates.
Socrates: Then he was the better for the
Meno: I think so.
Socrates: Mark now the farther development.
I shall only ask him, and not teach him,
and he shall share the enquiry with me: and
do you watch and see if you find me telling
or explaining anything to him, instead of
eliciting his opinion. Tell me, boy, is not
this a square of four feet which I have drawn?
Socrates: And now I add another square equal
to the former one?
Socrates: And a third, which is equal to
either of them?
Socrates: Suppose that we fill up the vacant
Boy: Very good.
Socrates: Here, then, there are four equal
Socrates: And how many times larger is this
space than this other?
Boy: Four times.
Socrates: But it ought to have been twice
only, as you will remember.
Socrates: And does not this line, reaching
from corner to corner, bisect each of these
Socrates: And are there not here four equal
lines which contain this space?
Boy: There are.
Socrates: Look and see how much this space
Boy: I do not understand.
Socrates: Has not each interior line cut
off half of the four spaces?