Meno is a Socratic dialogue written by Plato. It is aporetic in that even though Socrates does present conclusions, they do not resolve the problems rose at the beginning. Meno first asks Socrates whether virtue can be taught. That is apparently not the good way to set the problem according to Socrates: he finds it absurd to wonder whether virtue can be taught before knowing what virtue is itself that is without having a prior knowledge of its essence. Meno cleverly objects that any gain of knowledge and even any access to knowledge is strictly impossible, which amounts to deny any science. Basically, one does not need to search for what one already knows and one cannot search for something he is unaware of since one ignores what to search. According to Meno, two possibilities may be envisaged: either access to knowledge is impossible or one has to know everything already. Socrates bravely tries to solve the problem introducing the theory of anamnesis, which would become the basis of Plato's conception of knowledge. Socrates tries it out on Meno's young slave who proves to be able to resolve the problem about the duplication of the square. The experience with the slave is meaningful as it illustrates the central point of the Meno: knowledge is recollection. The theory of anamnesis is really complex as it has to do with the very formation of ideas. It incites us to think upon the notion of knowledge. What mechanisms are concealed behind knowledge? Where does it come from in the first place? What is learning? How can the soul know about knowledge? Does it possess innate ideas? Can one wish for knowing something one has not the faintest idea? It seems to be impossible. With Socrates' experience on the slave, one can experimentally observe that he had true opinions apart from any previous kind of teaching. This mere observation prompts the reader to go further away in the reflection and to wonder where these true opinions come from. How did they arise in the slave's soul and why cannot they be considered yet as knowledge or science? After a brief summary of the experiment Socrates carries out on Meno's slave boy, I will be discussing the main important points developed in the Meno, more particularly those highlighted by Socrates' experiment. First of all, I am going to examine Socrates' method of questioning, stimulating the slave's soul and leading to the acknowledgment of his ignorance. Then I will look into the doctrine of anamnesis imposing a new definition of knowledge, which is not obtained from experience and the senses, but instead is a mere recollection of the soul. This will lead to the last part of this reflection: hhow do true opinions appear in one's soul first? I will be discussing how the theory of anamnesis seems to call for the pre-existence of the soul.
[...] The doctrine of anamnesis implemented by Socrates is the central point of the Meno and this is through the slave boy experiment that Plato presents it, in an effort to illustrate that the slave already possessed certain knowledge of geometric rules. Only once Socrates has brought the slave boy to this state of perplexity and only once the slave boy knows that he does not know his soul is able to recollect. The experience seems to be working out and leads him along the path of recollection: Socrates claims that his knowledge is a consequence of recollecting something his soul already knew. [...]
[...] That is why Socrates is trying to get away with the temporal limits of language and the slave boy experiment, as an experience, is a way for him to show something that transcends them. If the young slave is only recalling something he already knew and if he has never been taught anything before, where do his opinions come from? And how do they appear in his soul first? Let us explore Socrates' argument in more details. As opinions reappear through the process of recollection, it means they already existed in the soul even before being stirred up by questions. [...]
[...] Therefore the pre-existence of the soul is for Socrates the only possibility at this point in the reasoning. The immortality of the soul is to become the precondition to science and the foundation of Plato's theory of knowledge. And it results in proving that Meno's paradox is inaccurate and that knowledge is definitely worth seeking as it is within us. means that if there's something you happen not to know right now, or rather, not to have remembered yet, you must not be afraid to try and find out about 86b] The theory of anamnesis is the chief point of the Meno. [...]
[...] This is another important conclusion that what one has to infer from the slave boy experiment. Essentially because the urge to learn arises only after having recognized one's own ignorance. According to Plato, knowledge does not come from teaching but from questioning oneself. And the first thing one must admit is that one does not know. At the beginning the young slave did not know but thought he did. That what leaded him to answer boldly and to be wrong. [...]
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