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Philosophy 190: Plato Fall, 2014 Prof. Peter Hadreas Course website: PLATO: MENO. Probable date of dialogue: 402 B. C. E. - PowerPoint PPT Presentation

Transcript of Philosophy 190: Plato Fall, 2014 Prof. Peter Hadreas Course website:

  • Philosophy 190: PlatoFall, 2014Prof. Peter Hadreas

    Course website:


  • Probable date of dialogue:402 B. C. E.

    Three years later, Anytus, a democratic politician, whos also a character in the dialogue, with Meletus and Lycon, will accuse Socrates of impiety and corruption of the youth.

  • Who Was Meno? or MenonMenon was known to every reader at the time as one of the most notable mercenary generals in the service of the Persian prince, Cyrus, insurgent and pretender. If we may believe Xenophon (Anabasis II 6 21), who looked at him from close proximity with eyes of hatred, Menons was a base nature.A will-to-power and ambition served his avarice; he was a man without conscience, without loyalty, and without a capacity for friendship; he wasted his physical assets in debaucheries and exploited them for his ambition, i. e., for his avarice. Plato looks at Menon from a distance and, for this reason alone, sees him as a more resplendent and greater person, more the type of an Alkibiades or Kallikles, youthfully handsome and sensual, proud and greedy for power. _______________1. Friedlnder, Paul, Plato 2: The Dialogues, First Period, Meyerhoff trans., (New York: Bollingen Series, Random House, 1964), p. 273-4.

  • What sort of person did Meno become? From Xenophon, the Anabasis, Book II, Chapter 6

    As to Menon the Thessalian, the mainspring of his action was obvious; what he sought after insatiably was wealth. Rule he sought after only as a stepping stone to larger spoils. Honours and high estate he craved for simply that he might extend the area of his gains; and if he studied to be on friendly terms with the power, it was in order that he might commit wrong with impunity. The shortest road to the achievement of his desires lay, he thought, through false swearing, lying and cheating; for in his vocabulary simplicity and truth were synonyms of folly.

  • What sort of person did Meno become?

    . . . his whole conversation turned upon the ridicule of his associates. In like manner, the possessions of his foes were secure from his designs, since it was no easy task, he thought, to steal from people on their guard; but it was his particular good fortune to have discovered how easy it is to rob a friend in the midst of his security. If it were a perjured person or a wrongdoer, he dreaded him as well-armed and intrenched; but the honourable and the truth-loving he tried to practice on, regarding them as weaklings and devoid of manhood.

  • Who Was Gorgias?Ionian Greek. His native city is Leontini in Sicily. Tradition is that he was born at 490 B. C. or a few years after. And all authorities are agreed that he lived to a great age; their report varies between 105 and 109 years.)1His [Gorgias] rhetorical practices were based on, and justified by, a relativistic philosophy similar to that of Protagoras. If there were any universally valid truth which could be communicated to another, then no doubt only that truth, backed by incontrovertible evidence, ought to be conveyed.If everyone had a memory of all that is past, a conception of what is happening at present and a foreknowledge of the future . . . But as it is, there is no easy way of either recollecting the past or investigating the present or divining the future, so that on most subjects most men have only opinion to offer the mind as counselor; and opinion is slippery and insecure (Gorgias, Helen, II). 1. Guthrie, W. K. C., The Sophists, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1971), p. 269.

  • Who Was Gorgias?1 To express, with all the intellectual force at his command, this thesis that we are all at the mercy of opinion and the truth is for each of us whatever we can be persuaded to believe, because there is no permanent and stable truth to be known . . . Nothing is as Parmenides used the verb, that is, exists as at the same time an immutable reality and the object of human knowledge. If there were such a reality we could not grasp it, and even if we could, we could never communicate our knowledge to others. We live in a world where opinion (doxa) is supreme, and there is no higher criterion by which it can be verified or the reverse. This leaves the Sophist-orator, master of the art of persuasion both private and public, in command of the whole field of experience, for opinion can always be changed. Only knowledge, based on unshakable proof, could withstand the attacks of peitho, [persuasion, seduction] and there is no such thing.

    1. Guthrie, W. K. C., The Sophists, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1971), p. 269.

  • Isocrates, 436338 BCE)

  • IsocratesItinerant sophists such as Protagoras, Gorgias and Prodicus may be thought of as a first generation of sophists. Isocrates, a contemporary and critic of Plato, was of a different type. Around 392-390 BCE he founded his own school in Cius in what is now in Northwestern Turkey in near Bursa.Although often classified as a rhetorician, he contrasted his educational program with the Sophists who taught political debate techniques and the Eristics, who disputed theoretical and ethical matters. He referred his own curriculum as philosophy.

  • IsocratesIsocrates accepted a few students, no more than nine pupils at a time. Many of them went on to be philosophers, legislators and historians. Because his fees were so high, he amassed a considerable fortune. According to Pliny the Elder, he could sell a single oration for twenty talents. This is an enormous amount of money since the Athenian talent was equivalent to an object weighing 26 kilograms. This amount of silver today would today would be worth approximately $28,000. So twenty talents of silver would be worth (very) approximately $500,000.

  • IsocratesHis school lasted some fifty years. Isocrates school established the core of liberal arts education similarly to the way it is known today, including public speaking, composition, history, citizenship, culture and morality.Isocrates promotion of the ideals of freedom, virtue and self-control had longstanding influence. He was a primary influence on the Roman orators Cicero and Quintilian.

  • IsocratesUntil 1988, 21 of his orations were extant. Three more were found in a single codex during a 1988 excavation at Kellis, a site in the Dakhla Oasis of Egypt. His autobiographical work Antidosis, survived and he disputes there the value of impractical, as he saw them, disputes in metaphysics. He criticized the practices of Platos Academy. The search for necessary, as opposed to contingent truths, as we find clearly distinguished in the Meno, Isocrates saw as possibly useful preparation for the adult world, but no more than exercises and not directly useful for life.

  • It is, to be sure, a study more advanced than that which boys in school pursue, but it is for the most part the same sort of thing; for they also when they have labored through their lessons in grammar, music, and the other branches, are not a whit advanced in their ability to speak and deliberate on affairs, but they have increased their aptitude for mastering greater and more serious studies. From Isocrates Antidosis (351 B. C. E.)I do not, however, think it proper to apply the term "philosophy" to a training which is no help to us in the present either in our speech or in our actions, but rather I would call it a gymnastic of the mind and a preparation for philosophy.

  • I would, therefore, advise young men to spend some time on these disciplines, but not to allow their minds to be dried up by these barren subtleties, nor to be stranded on the speculations of the ancient sophists, who maintain, some of them, that the sum of things is made up of infinite elements; Empedocles that it is made up of four, with strife and love operating among them; Ion, of not more than three; Alcmaeon, of only two; Parmenides and Melissus, of one; and Gorgias, of none at all. For I think that such curiosities of thought are on a par with jugglers' tricks which, though they do not profit anyone, yet attract great crowds of the empty-minded, and I hold that men who want to do some good in the world must banish utterly from their interests all vain speculations and all activities which have no bearing on our lives.From Isocrates Antidosis (351 B. C. E.) continued

  • Sections of Dialogue

    I. pp. 871-880; 70A-80E: Meno asks Socrates if virtue can be taught. Socrates, in turn, asks Meno for a general definition of virtue [arete]. This section includes the paradox of analysis.II. pp. 880-887; 81A-86E: Socrates response to the paradox of analysis: knowing is a kind of recollection. This section includes the episode in which the boy doubles the area of a square.III. pp. 887- 897; 87A-100B: Following the regressive method of analysis, Socrates tries to establish if virtue is knowledge for if it is knowledge, then it can be taught. This section includes a questioning of Anytus.

  • In the first, second and third sections of the Meno, Socrates seeks definitions involving hypotheses from whichnecessary deduction may be drawn.

    In the Meno, a dialogue with clear Pythagorean influences that takes geometry as a model for good reasoning. It alludes to a methodology us by geometers of Platos day and after as the method of (regressive) analysis

  • Consider Two definitions of colorp. 875-6, 75B-76ESOCRATES: . . . Let us say that shape is that which alone of existing things always follows color. . . . MENO: But that is foolish Socrates.SOCRATES: How do you mean?MENO: That shape, you say, always follows color. Well then, if some were to say that he did not know what color is, but that he had the same difficulty as he had about shape, what do you think your answer would be?. . . . MENO: And what do you say color is?. . . .

  • Consider Two definitions of colorp. 875-6, 75B-76E. . . .SOCRATES: Do you want me to answer after the manner of Gorgias, which you would most easily follow?MENO: Of course I want that.SOCRATES: Do you both say there are channels through which the effluvia make their way? Certainly.SOCRATES: And some effluvia fit some of the channels, while others are too small or too big? That is soSOCRATES: And there is something you call sight? There is.SOCRATES: From this comprehend what I state, as Pindar said, for color is an effluvium from shapes which fits the sight and is perceived.

  • Consider Two definitions of colorp. 875-6, 75B-76E

    MENO: That seems to me to be an excellent answer, Socrates.SOCRATES: Perhaps it was given in manner to which you are accustomed. At the same time I think you can deduce from this answer what sound is, and smell, and many such things. Quite so.SOCRATES: It is a theatrical answer so it pleases you, Meno, more than that about shape. It does.QUESTIONHow does Socrates definition of color differ from the definition given after the manner of Gorgias involving effluvia and channels.

  • Method of Analysis as understood in ancient and medieval philosophy and mathematics In its original sense, analysis is a lusis [releasing, undoing, unravelling] ana [upward], that is, seeking a solution by an overriding higher principle from which the sought after truth might be derived. Once the releasing upwards to a fundamental truth has been established, the argument may be restructured so that the fundamental principle becomes first principle from which the original question may be determined. This traditional kind of analysis is often referred to as the regressive model of analysis. See Beaney, Michael, "Analysis", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2011 Edition), Edward N. Zalta(ed.), URL = .[my emphasis]

  • In the Second Section of the Meno, Socrates explicitly recommends regressive analysis as a way to establish if virtue can be taught.

    p. 867, 87A SOCRATES: However, please relax a bit for me and agree to investigate whether it is teachable or not by means of a hypothesis, I mean the way geometers often carry on investigations. For example, if they are asked whether a specific area can be inscribed in the form of a circle, one of them might say: I do not yet know whether that area has that property, but I think I have, as it were a hypothesis that is of use for the problem, namely this: If that area is such that when one has applied it as a rectangle to the given straight line in the circle it is deficient by the a figure similar to the very figure to which it is applied . . .

  • The geometric illustration of the method of analysis Socrates alludes to.Question: Can a triangle with a specific area be inscribed in a circle? p. 887;87B.1

    The demonstration follows the explanation of T. L. Heath, A History of Greek Mathematics, (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1921), Vol. I., pp. 298ff.

  • The geometric illustration of the method of analysis Socrates alludes to (continued).Question: Can a triangle with a specific area be inscribed in a circle? p. 887; 87B.

    The demonstration follows the explanation of T. L. Heath, A History of Greek Mathematics, (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1921), Vol. I., pp. 298ff.

  • The geometric illustration of the method of analysis Socrates alludes to (continued).Question: Can a triangle with a specific area be inscribed in a circle? p. 887; 87B.

  • Proposal of regressive analysis in the Meno to decide if virtue can be taught.

    SOCRATES: So let us speak about virtue also, since we do not know either what it is or what qualities it possesses, and let us investigate whether it is teachable or not by means of a hypothesis, and say this: Among the things existing in the soul, of what sort is virtue, that it should be teachable or not, or, as we were just saying recollectable? . . . Or is it plain to anyone that men cannot be taught anything but knowledge. p. 887, 87B

  • The Paradox of Analysisas introduced in the Meno

    SOCRATES: I know what you want to say, Meno. Do you realize what a debators argument you are bringing up, that a man cannot search either for what he knows or for what does not know? He cannot search for what he knows -- since he knows it, there is no need to search nor for what he does not know, for he does not know what to look for. p. 880, 80E

  • The Paradox of Analysisrephrased as a constructive dilemma:

    For any x, one either knows, or does not know, x.If one knows x, one cannot inquire into x.3. If one does not know x, one cannot inquire into x.4. Therefore, whether or not one knows x, one cannot inquire into x.1

    1. Reconstructed by Gail Fine, Inquiry in the Meno, in The Cambridge Companion to Plato, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992), p. 207.

  • The Paradox of Analysis -- Questions

    1. For any x, one either knows, or does not know, x.2. If one knows x, one cannot inquire into x.3. If one does not know x, one cannot inquire into x.4. Therefore, whether or not one knows x, one cannot inquire into x.

    1. Statement #1 seems true, but what of statement #2? In what senses of knowledge might it be true, in what senses of knowledge might it not be true.

    2. What about statement #3, if one does not know means total ignorance then it would seem to be true, but what in senses of not knowing might is not be true?

  • Example of Learning as Recollection: the boys doubling of a squarepp. 881-886; 82B-86A

  • 2 ft. 8 square feet.First the boy doubles the side, making a 16 square foot area. Then he guesses perhaps a side of 3 feet will work. But this produces a 9 square foot area. Then he comes to an impasse. He is led to overcome his impasse as Socrates has him draw the four diagonals. Then he can see the that diamond area must be of 16 feet or 8 square feet. pp. 881-886; 82B-86A.

  • The Paradox of AnalysisPlato answers the paradox of analysis with the theory of knowledge as recollection and the demonstration of the boy doubling the area of a square:

    Socrates: as the soul is immortal, has been born often, and has seen all things here in the underworld, there is nothing which it has not learned; so it is in no way surprising that it can recollect the things it knew before, both about virtue and about other things. p. 880, 81C.

    QUESTIONWhat does the boys solving how to double a square show that he knows, if anything?

  • Excursion: The term analysis in philosophy and science often presumes a second type of analysisAlong with philosophical and mathematical analysis being regressive there is a second analytic methodology that become prevalent in the during the Scientific Revolution, by scientists and philosophers of the 16th and 17th century. This second model of analysis is sometimes called the Decompositional Model of analysis. The model, for example, is offered first in the Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy. In the Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy, analysis is defined as the process of breaking a concept down into more simple parts, so that its logical structure is displayed.

  • Philosophical Analysisas Decompositional

    Consider the methodology Descartes articulates in Rules for Direction of the Mind (written in 1628, but published posthumously in 1684): If we perfectly understand a problem we must abstract it from every superfluous conception, reduce it to its simplest terms and, by means of an enumeration, divide it up into the smallest possible parts.

    Rule XIII, in Rules for the Direction of the Mind, Rene Descartes, trans. by Elizabeth Anscombe and Peter Thomas Geach in Descartes Philosophical Writings (1954).

  • The dominance of the Decompositional Model of analysis in the Scientific Revolution

    The Decompositional Model especially well fits the development of chemical analysis as knowledge of chemical reactions between elements and the development of the infinitesimal calculus known still in mathematics as analysis. The infinitesimal calculus presumes breaking quantities into infinitesimally small parts.

    Plato uses the decompositional model of analysis implicitly in the Meno in the analysis of knowledge. He explicitly discusses this method which is calls the Method of Division in the Sophist and Statesman.

  • Correct Opinion versus Knowledge of the Way to Larissap. 895, 97A-97E

    SOCRATES: But that one cannot guide correctly if one does not have knowledge, to this our agreement is likely incorrect. How do you means?SOCRATES: I will tell you. A man who knew the way to Larissa, or anywhere else you like, and went there and guided others would surely lead them well and correctly? CertainlySOCRATES: What if someone had had a correct opinion about that of which the other has knowledge, he will not be a worse guide than the one who knows, as he has a true opinion, though not knowledge. In no way worse.SOCRATES: So true opinion is in no way a worse guide to correct action than knowledge. It is this that we omitted in our investigation of the nature of virtue, when we said only knowledge can lead to correct action, for true opinion can do so also So it seems.

  • Correct Opinion versus Knowledge of the Way to Larissap. 895, 97A-97E[continued]SOCRATES: So correct opinion is no less useful than knowledge.MENO: Yes, to this extent Socrates. But the man who has knowledge will always succeed, whereas he who has true opinion will only succeed at times.SOCRATES: How do you mean? Will he who has the right opinion not always succeed, as long as his opinion is right?MENO: That appears to be so of necessity. and it makes me wonder, Socrates, this being the case, why knowledge is prized far more highly than right opinion, and why they are different.SOCRATES: Do you know why you wonder, or shall I tell you? By all means tell me.SOCRATES: It is perhaps because you have paid no attention to the statues of Daedalus, but perhaps there are none in Thessaly.. . .SOCRATES: For true opinions, as long as they remain, are a fine thing and all they do is good, but they are not willing to remain long, and they escape from a mans mind, so that they are not worth much until one ties them down by (giving) an account of the reason why.

  • Socrates/Plato does provide an analysis of knowledge in the exchange. As a type of analysis it is decompositional:

    Socrates: . . . For true opinions, as long as they remain are a fine thing and all they do is good, but they are not willing to remain long, and they escape from a mans mind, so that they are not worth much until one ties them down by (giving an) account of the reason why. p. 895, 98A

    knowledge true opinion + account of the reason why

  • As portrayed in the Meno, Socrates further suggests that Anytus would not mistakenly believe that Socrates slanders Pericles and Thucydides if he had even provisional analysis of what slander is. SOCRATES: I think, Meno, that Anytus is angry, and I am not at all surprised. He thinks, to begin with, that I am slandering those men, [Pericles, Thucydides (the statesman, not the historian)], and then he believes himself to be one of them. If he ever realizes what slander is, he will cease from anger, but he does not know it now. (p. 893, 95A)

  • Appendix

    The adoption of the term analytic philosophy in 20th century Anglo-American philosophy.

  • In early analytic philosophy.

    The work of the logician Gottlob Frege (1848 - 1925) and Bertrand Russell (18721970), in particular, came to establish that in order to adequately consider philosophical issues, the philosophical questions and issues had to first to be translated into their correct logical form. This method had elements of what we are calling regressive and decompositional analysis. Not too surprisingly, the new procedure came to be dubbed loosely analytic philosophy.

  • This paradigm of a useful philosophical analysis was an logical analysis of how words referred to proper names or definite descriptions. The celebrated case of analysis was first presented by Russell in On Denoting in 1905.

    The classic example turned on the question of the ontological status of the king of France in the sentence The present king of France is bald.

    Russell drawing upon Fregean logic transformed the sentence into its implicit logical form, namelyThere is one and only one King of France, and whatever is King of France is bald.Or in symbols: x [Kx & y(Ky y = x) & Bx].

    This logical analysis, so it was thought, overcame philosophical postulations of the property of non-existence, or subsistence, which might be attributed to the present king of France. The logical form of the sentence shows that the property of being the one and only king of France is simply not instantiated.

  • Russells logical analysis of denoting spawned an enormous literature which in various ways followed Russells lead. Although theories of reference, as offered perhaps most famously by Ludwig Wittgenstein and John Searle, varied as to proper names referred, with Russell that all were descriptivist. Whether by an implicit existential quantifier or the suggestion of a cluster of meanings, the referent of the proper name was singled out by a description.

    This paradigm of reference became controversial if not shifted by Saul Kripkes work dating from his John Locke Lectures at Oxford in 1973. In these lectures, and later in the book Naming and Necessity, published by Oxford University Press in 1980, Kripke argued that descriptions, in whatever form, would not suffice to model how the reference of proper names operates. Suppose Aristotle died at the age of two. Any description of the infant could not single out Aristotle. Yet that infant was nonetheless the infant Aristotle. Kripke propose a causal theory of reference. A proper name operates through the mediation of a community of speaker, present historically typically some time shortly after the birth of a person who name the person.

  • There were a multitude of variation theories on reference of proper names in Anglo-American analytic philosophy that continues into the 21st century.

    For example, since Kant it had been presumed that anything that is necessarily true will be known a priori. But if proper names operate causally, as Kripke argued, then there are necessary truths that were not a priori. According to Freges well-worn example, the the Morning Star (Phosphorus) and the Evening Star (Hesperus) have difference meanings but the same reference, i. e., the planet Venus. That the Evening Star is identical with the Evening Star is a contingent truth. But if those two locutions name the planet Venus, causally, their identity is not contingent but necessary. Other standard example were Cicero and Tully or H2O and water. We have then a necessary a posteriori truth.

  • Kripkes work in the 1970s and 1980s serves reopenned the domain of necessary truths as applied to objects, not epistemologically but metaphysically, for it was not only mathematical objects and logical inferences that had claim to necessary truth, but also objects that were known a posteriori. Since Kripke the door has been opened again to necessary truths which are not true a priori.

    Recommendation: We are very fortunate that one of the U. S. experts on the subject of necessary is on the SJSU, Prof. Anand Vaidya. For a full discussion of the topic see his entry in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

    Vaidya, Anand, "The Epistemology of Modality", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2011 Edition), Edward N. Zalta(ed.), URL = .

  • In sum, the current analyses of what constitutes necessary truth has bearing on the Meno inasmuch as Socrates/Plato in this dialogue seeks necessary truths. In the dialogue, Socrates introduces distinctions that are fundamental to the topic.

    Platos pursuit of this topic, among other things, distinguishes his school and philosophical approach from Isocrates and his school, who saw interest in such matters drying up minds through barren subtleties.

  • Conclusion of the MenoSince Pericles and Themistocles could not teach virtue, they had right opinion without an account of the reason why. So Socrates concludes:Socrates: It follows from this reasoning, Meno, that virtue appears to be a gift from the gods. We shall have clear knowledge of this when, before we investigate how it comes to be present in men, we first try to find out what virtue in itself is. But now the time has come for us to go. You convince your guest friend Anytus here of these very things of which you have yourself been convinced, in order that he may be more amenable. If you succeed, you will also confer benefit upon the Athenians. p. 897, 100B

    How does this final statement:1. discount the doctrine that knowledge is recollection.2. respond to Platos critic Isocrates that the proper training of Athenians is rhetoric.3. suggest a reason why Anytus accused Socrates of corruption of the young at his trial.

  • References to pictures used in this powerpoint

    slide #3, picture of first page of the Euthyphro, from the Clarke Plato (Codex Oxoniensis Clarkianus 39), 895 AD. The text is Greek minuscule. : #3, vase painting of the slide #4, slide #4, bust of Gorgias: #9, bust of Isocrates: slide #14, second bust of Isocrats: