Plato, "Menon" - one of Plato's dialogues: summary, analysis

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Plato, "Menon" - one of Plato's dialogues: summary, analysis
Plato, "Menon" - one of Plato's dialogues: summary, analysis

The proverb says it takes two to tango. But not only for tango. Two are also needed for the search for truth. So did the philosophers of ancient Greece. Socrates did not record discussions with his students. His discoveries could have been lost if the students had not recorded the dialogues in which they were participants. An example of this is Plato's dialogues.

Friend and student of Socrates

A person who does not have a true friend is not worthy to live. So did Democritus. The basis of friendship, in his opinion, is reasonableness. Creates its unanimity. It follows that one intelligent friend is better than a hundred others.

Plato fresco
Plato fresco

As a philosopher, Plato was a student and follower of Socrates. But not only. Following the definitions of Democritus, they were also friends. Both acknowledged this fact more than once. But there are things higher on the value ladder.

"Plato is my friend, but the truth is dearer." The highest virtue of the philosopher is the goal, the pursuit of which is the meaning of life. Philosophy could not ignore this subject. It is mentioned in Plato's dialogue "Menon".

Socrates, Anita and…

Although dialogue requiresonly two, often a third is needed. He is not a participant, but is necessary to demonstrate the validity of the arguments. The slave Anita serves this purpose in Plato's Meno. Socrates with his help proves the innateness of some knowledge.

Any thought must be proven. Where does our knowledge come from? Socrates believed that their source is the past life of a person. But this is not the theory of reincarnation. The past life, according to Socrates, is the sojourn of the human soul in the divine world. Memories of him are knowledge.

Briefly about the main things

It all starts with Menon's question about how to achieve virtue. Is it given by nature or can it be learned? Socrates proves that neither one nor the other can be accepted. Because virtue is divine. Therefore, it cannot be taught. Still less can virtue be a gift of nature.

Virtue can be understood as
Virtue can be understood as

Plato's "Menon" is divided into three parts:

  1. Defining the subject of research.
  2. Source of knowledge.
  3. The nature of virtue.

The analysis in Plato's "Menon" is based on a sequence of actions, each of which is a necessary link in the chain of evidence.

This approach ensures that nothing is left unexplored, left unsaid and uncertain. If you do not understand where knowledge comes from, you can not say anything about its truth. It is useless to discuss a phenomenon without knowing its nature. And there is nothing to discuss if everyone imagines the subject of the dispute in their own way.


The subject of the dialogue should be understood by both sides in the same way. Otherwise, it may turn out, as in the parable of the three blind men who decided to find out what an elephant is. One held on to the tail and thought it was a rope. Another touched the leg and likened the elephant to a pillar. The third felt the trunk and claimed that it was a snake.

Elephant and blind wise men
Elephant and blind wise men

Socrates in Plato's "Menon" from the very beginning was engaged in the definition of what is the subject of discussion. He refuted the widespread idea of many kinds of virtue: for men and women, old people and children, slaves and free people.

Menon adhered to a similar idea, but Socrates compared such a set to a swarm of bees. It is impossible to determine the essence of a bee by referring to the existence of different bees. Thus, the concept under investigation can only be the idea of virtue.

Idea is the source of knowledge

Having the idea of virtue, it is easy to understand its different types. Moreover, there is no such phenomenon in the existing world that can be understood without having its idea.

But there is no idea as such in the surrounding reality. It means that it is in the person who knows the world. And where does it come from? Only one answer is possible: the divine, perfect and beautiful world of ideas.

divine essence
divine essence

The soul, eternal and immortal, is, as it were, his imprint. She saw, she knew, she remembered all the ideas while she was in their world. But the mixing of the soul with the material body "roughens" it. Ideas fade, become silted with reality, forgotten.

But they don't disappear. Awakeningpossibly. It is necessary to ask questions correctly so that the soul, trying to answer them, remembers what it knew from the beginning. This is what Socrates demonstrates.

He asks Anita about the properties of the square and gradually leads the latter to understand its essence. Moreover, Socrates himself did not give clues, only asked questions. It turns out that Anit just remembered the geometry that he did not study, but knew before.

The divine essence is the nature of things

The essence of geometry is no different from any other. The same reasoning applies to virtue. Cognition is impossible if one does not possess its idea. Likewise, virtue cannot be learned or found in innate qualities.

A carpenter can teach another person his art. The tailor skill can be purchased from a specialist who has it. But there is no such art as virtue. There are no "specialists" who have it. Where will students come from if there are no teachers?

If so, argues Menon, where do good people come from? It is impossible to learn this, and good people are not born. How to be?

Socrates counters these objections by saying that a person who is guided by the right opinion can also be called a well-behaved person. If it leads to the goal, just like the mind, then the result will be the same.

For example, someone, not knowing the way, but having a true opinion, will lead people from one city to another. The result will be no worse than if he had an innate knowledge of the path. So he did the right thing and well.

The Purpose of Virtue

Because divinethe origin of virtue is fully proven, it becomes obvious that it cannot be its own goal.

At the same time, many things of the material world are self-directed. Thus, the accumulation of money requires that they be put into circulation. The grass reproduces itself. Endless repetition becomes nonsense that has no purpose.

It is not that which is inspired by the divine principle. Because it is directed not at itself, but at the eternal and enduring good.

Several centuries after the thinker studied, this wisdom was embodied in the saying: "I am the way and the truth and the life".

Vault of Wisdom
Vault of Wisdom

This is the summary of Plato's "Menon". Millennia have already passed, but people do not stop turning to the heritage of the Greek sages. Maybe because they continue to find answers to eternal questions.