Picking A Fight With Plato
Ed Fraser argues that the theory of recollection presented by Socrates in the Meno is circular.
The primary objective of Plato’s Meno is an inquiry into the nature of virtue. Accordingly, Socrates, acting as usual as Plato’s mouthpiece, and Meno, a student of the sophists, attempt to answer the question ‘What is virtue?’ Their initial failure to understand what virtue is prompts Meno to ask whether they should even suppose that an answer is possible. The problem is, how do you find something, such as virtue, when you don’t know what it is you’re looking for? If you already know what it is, then you don’t need to find it; but if you don’t know what it is, how will you know when you have found it? This problem of finding a definition of something is known as ‘the paradox of enquiry’.
Socrates argues that in order for a person to enquire into something it must be knowable. Meno’s criticism is in effect that in order for a person to enquire into something it must also be known.