Socrates and Meno’s Paradox

The Plato’s Meno demonstrates that questioning is not possible. The arguments, which are used to demonstrate this, are called “Meno’s Paradox”. The paper analysis proposes that Socrates’ Theory of Recollectionis inadequate and unsuccessful answer to the paradox, however, the idea is quite unusual and promising.

Meno introduces a paradox to Socrates, which brings in question the foundation of Socrates’ scheme and mode of reaching at expertness of unexplored or undiscovered issues with the help of inquiry. The asked question concerns the issue of how Socrates can investigate something, which he knows nothing about. In fact, Socrates constantly appears to be questioning various individuals in endeavors of gaining information and practice and constantly states that he does not know anything. Such Meno’s criticism concerns Socrates’ statements and the method of obtaining knowledge via inquiry. In fact, the paradox is enunciated in two manners, by Meno and by Socrates. The first asks Socrates how he will search for cognizance if he does not recognize what it is. In addition, Meno is particularly interested how Socrates will comprehend that the found information is the one that has been required (Cohen, Curd, and Reeve 80e). On the other hand, Socrates’ renunciation of the paradox is the fact that a person cannot look for a thing which is already known, as it is already known and familiar to a person (Cohen, Curd, and Reeve 81a). The argument, which is known to be ‘Meno’s Paradox’, may be formulated differently in the following way. Firstly, if a person knows what he/she is searching for, the inquiry as such is needless. Secondly, if a person does not know what he/she is searching for, the inquiry as such is not possible. Thus, an absolute conclusion demonstrates that either a person knows what he/she is searching for, or a person does not know that. Therefore, the inquiry is either unnecessary or impossible. The result of this paradox in both formulations demonstrates that the investigation is meaningless.

Socrates refutes to the argument by utilizing the method, which Meno actually desired to provoke by the claim. The reaction of Socrates appeared in a form of ‘eristikon logon’ or ‘debater’s argument’, which depicted that Socrates does not actually know what he is doing. It appears due to the fact that in the case if he is acquainted with some information, he cannot look for it as research is unnecessary. In fact, Meno’s argument does not seem to be any kind of a deceit. It is merely ascertaining truth in terms of the emergence of Socrates’ statements. The Meno’s argument depicts that if Socrates genuinely desires to obtain knowledge of what no one knows, then inquiry into the contexture of that “undiscovered” issue will merely induce nothing. Thus, it is obvious that Socrates presents the Theory of Recollection in his response. According to Socrates, the soul is important (81a-b). This belief is fundamental and primarily belief upon which the rest of the theory rests. The soul has been born a lot of times and has experienced an enormous amount of things. Thus, when people make inquiries or perform ‘learning’, they merely recollect knowledge, which their souls have acquired before the human lifetime. Then, Socrates demonstrates the experiment with the slave boy. The very experiment contemplates to precisely depict the fact that belief can lead inquiry. Socrates uses a Greek speaking slave from Meno’s housekeeping for the manifestation. The slave has not been taught mathematics. The slave boy responses Socrates’ interrogations courageously, however, he is unable of finding the answer to the geometric question. Thus, the slave boy accepts that he does not know the response. Then, Meno is returned into the dialogue, and Socrates states that the slave boy had reaped rewards from being transfixed. In addition, Socrates is sure that the boy will come out of his intricacy in the process of looking for the geometric answer with Socrates (Cohen, Curd, and Reeve 84c). All in all, it is obvious that Socrates helped the boy with all answers and actually lifted the boy to the understanding. On the other hand, in fact, Socrates does not state that the boy had uttered any knowledge, which had not been his own. Moreover, Socrates states that the boy had uttered opinions. In fact, Socrates states that if a person does not know the information, they still have genuine opinions concerning the things in the world, which are unknown to them (Cohen, Curd, and Reeve 85c). Nevertheless, these ‘opinions’ are not the same as knowledge.

The fact that learning is an illusion supports Socrates’ position. In fact, while using proper questions, Socrates demonstrates that even a person who does not know the discipline can understand the study and provide accurate questions. Socrates is sure that the source of the illusion is the caducity of memory. Such an explanation resolves the issues of learning and Meno’s Paradox in one with one sweep. Socrates is sure that people produce new knowledge by remembering rather than learning. Thus, the inquiry is required despite the fact that people already know the answers to the questions that are asking, due to the fact that inquiry stimulates reminiscence. Therefore, Socrates believes that the recollection of the knowledge depends on a properly asked question (Cohen, Curd, and Reeve 73a).

In fact, the usage of the slave boy example and geometry can be used as an argument, which argues against Socrates. This example made Socrates’ method of knowledge even more seriously defective. Each time Socrates asks the slave boy a question, he continues to lead the boy towards the answer. In addition, the chosen example of geometry and the method of inquiry actually demonstrated that it is required to have some knowledge regarding the contexture of what is considered to be unknown. Without this knowledge, Socrates could not have helped the slave boy to reach the answers. Thus, the whole example cannot provide a rightful answer to Meno’s question. Instead, it seams that Socrates invented an incomprehensible story by using which his method could be endorsed. It is not clear how it is possible to know something that a person has not experienced in the past. And secondly, it is not clear how the experience of a person could lead him/her to knowing something that he/she did not know before. Socrates does not provide the answers to these questions, therefore, when they are combined with Meno’s paradox, the readers appear before a tight knot.

The current paper demonstrates Meno’s paradox and Socrates’ attempts to solve it. In fact, Socrates utilized the Theory of Recollection, according to which people do not learn information, but rather recall it from the precious experience. Nevertheless, the example of the slave boy did not clearly demonstrate that the boy recalled the information; he was rather driven to the answers by Socrates himself. Therefore, Socrates does not understand the paradox successfully. Instead, his Theory of Recollection and its combination with Meno’s paradox created more questions and incomprehension.