His book begins with an Introduction in which he offers a concise and accurate synopsis of the dialogue, followed by a defense of J. The Introduction is followed by fourteen rather short chapters that track the course of the dialogue sequentially. The final three chapters—15, 16, and the Conclusion—raise and address critical interpretive issues: whether there is irony in the Meno ; whether Meno progresses morally and intellectually; how the two unifying themes of the dialogue are themselves unified; what the function of the dialogue form is; and why the dialogue ends with the injunction to Meno to persuade Anytus of the things of which Meno himself has been persuaded. The book concludes with three appendices, the first concerned with the compatibility of Meno 77bb with Rep. On several issues, he strikes out boldly on his own.
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His book begins with an Introduction in which he offers a concise and accurate synopsis of the dialogue, followed by a defense of J. The Introduction is followed by fourteen rather short chapters that track the course of the dialogue sequentially. The final three chapters—15, 16, and the Conclusion—raise and address critical interpretive issues: whether there is irony in the Meno ; whether Meno progresses morally and intellectually; how the two unifying themes of the dialogue are themselves unified; what the function of the dialogue form is; and why the dialogue ends with the injunction to Meno to persuade Anytus of the things of which Meno himself has been persuaded.
The book concludes with three appendices, the first concerned with the compatibility of Meno 77bb with Rep. On several issues, he strikes out boldly on his own. Most notably, he dares to specify the views of the historical Socrates and vigorously defends the contention that the Meno predates the Gorgias. It is no straightforward exercise to extract the views of the historical Socrates from the Platonic dramatizations and fictionalizations of Socratic conversations.
With respect to 1 , it is unlikely that Plato would criticize Socrates for adopting the unitarian assumption. Second, Socrates in the Meno seeks no more than the virtue common to all human beings—he surely would not hold that the virtue of, say, a knife, involves justice and temperance.
And, third, it is far from evident that Meno actually challenges the unitarian assumption. That he resists its application to the case of virtue must signal, then, something other than his rejection of it. Perhaps the reason he resists this further application is that the only thing he regards as genuine virtue is ruling others and having power and money, and not whatever it is that women, old men, children, and slaves might have that goes by that name.
With respect to 2 , it is certainly possible that Plato is troubled by the way in which Socratic examination tends to result in stand-offs between Socrates and his interlocutors. Are we to think that Plato sides with Meno in this instance, believing him to have a legitimate complaint against Socrates? Moreover, the numbing effect need not be paralyzing: both here and in other dialogues Socrates somehow manages to find a way to proceed. As early as the Apology Socrates is aware that he is alienating those he questions and even entertains the possibility that he is corrupting the young, albeit unintentionally.
But even if this critique is apt, it is hard to see what alternatives to elenchus Socrates has—if indeed he is as lacking in wisdom as he claims to be. As far as 4 is concerned, might it not be that Socrates insists on the priority of definition because asking for a definition is the best way to elicit the views and commitments of his interlocutors? It is not as if Socrates is unable to test virtue for teachability without considering first what it is—in the Meno he does so by raising the question of whether there are teachers of it, and it is the answer to this question that finally settles the matter.
Nevertheless he pretends, even as he proceeds without a definition in hand, that this is something that cannot be done. Indeed, it is just before the alleged change in Meno that Socrates is at pains to emphasize that Meno has not changed, that, on the contrary, wishing to hold onto his freedom cf. Callicles at Gorg. Meno remains the same bully now as before, and Socrates in effect warns us not to be taken in by his current turn to politeness and collegiality.
There is every reason to expect that he would have cooperatively followed Socrates from the start had Socrates assumed the role of teacher. We have indeed seen instances where Meno is pleased to continue the discussion so long as Socrates gives him what he wants—for example, a definition of color that he likes see 77a; for other instances of his agreeableness when not confronted see 76d, 81a7, a9. It is only when Meno is made to venture an answer which is then subjected to intense scrutiny—that is, when he is made to look like a fool—that he becomes belligerent and offensive.
In the Meno , as in other dialogues, it is not the interlocutor who changes, but Socrates. It is Socrates who adapts to his interlocutor and tries taking a more obliging and conciliatory approach in the second round.
Scott thinks Meno reverses course in part in reaction to the example of Anytus. It is likely that Plato already knew when he wrote the Meno that Meno had become a villainous and unrestrained man. The Meno then turns out to be yet another instance in which we are shown that Socrates, no matter how hard he tries to improve his interlocutor, fails time and again.
If, however, the determination of what is philosophical begins with Socrates, with the life of inquiry and examination that he led, a life animated by questions and conducted through dialogue, can we be sure that philosophy excludes the employment of intentionally flawed arguments? That for us philosophy has ceased to be a way of life or a practice, and has come to be instead a series of answers, that is, of doctrines and dogmas, has inevitably colored—and skewed—what we regard as properly philosophical.
Are not all of these no less prerequisites for being taught? Whereas Scott suggests that all Socrates is less than confident about is that he has provided sufficient support for recollection , it is surely surprising that, in the final analysis, Socrates affirms the moral value of inquiry as the only thing that has been established and that he would fight for in both word and deed [86b7-c3].
Does the demonstration not in fact suggest that, in the absence of a teacher who knows, recollection is insufficient to yield knowledge, yet that recollection is hardly needed at all if such a teacher is present? Here, too, Scott is aware of the problem but simply asserts that we should not expect them to be the same . Is this mere coincidence? I close with one final problem that I believe bears mentioning, namely, the assimilation of the beneficial to the instrumental.
Scott contends that there is no final good in the Meno , that, indeed, such goods are conspicuously absent from this dialogue Good things, even final goods, are beneficial and profitable.
They are not, however, instrumental. Skip to content BMCR Dominic Scott, Plato's Meno. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, Review by Roslyn Weiss , Lehigh University.
Bryn Mawr Classical Review
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Dominic Scott: Plato's Meno
Dominic Scott has produced a monograph on the Meno that in its fluency and succinctness does justice to its subject and, like its subject, makes for a reading experience that is both pleasurable and challenging. The work is part of the series Cambridge Studies in the Dialogues of Plato , which places special emphasis on reading individual Platonic dialogues as integrated wholes. Scott has written very much in this spirit, and I would like to focus here on two related aspects of the way he sees continuity within the dialogue. First, there is the character of Meno; and second, what Scott labels as "Socrates on trial" -- the claim that in a number of important instances Socratic positions are subject to challenge by Meno, such that Socrates is thereby compelled to offer an explicit philosophical defense for theses that may previously have had the status of undefended assumptions. Scott takes a somewhat downbeat view of Meno's character, though he also suggests that Socrates manages to initiate some limited improvement by the dialogue's end. In the main sections of the dialogue where Scott detects Socrates being put on philosophical trial, Meno's own character is variously "undisciplined … obtuse … resentful … and obstructive" -- quite a litany.