theory of recollection meno

10 de dezembro de 2020


Mathematics, according to Plato, embodies the ideal of knowledge, and reasoning is the way to discover truth. He was notorious for always seeking and always failing to identify the essences of things like justice, piety, courage, and moderation. University of North Carolina Press, 1965. Explain Plato's riddle regarding discovery in the Meno and explain how that leads to his doctrine of recollection. Clearly, what Socrates is looking for would be not just theoretical knowledge but some kind of practical wisdom, a knowledge that can properly direct our behavior and our use of material things. But Xenophon paints Meno as a thoroughly selfish and unscrupulous schemer, while Plato sketches him as a potentially dangerous, overly confident young man who has begun to tread the path of arrogance. So the geometry lesson successfully demonstrates some of the beauty of Socratic education, and the power of deductive reasoning in learning. We cannot be precise or certain about much in Plato’s writing career. In the last third of the dialogue, when Meno will not try again to define virtue, Socrates introduces and explores his own suspicion in terms of the following “hypothesis”: if virtue is taught then it is knowledge, and if it is knowledge then it is taught, but not otherwise. To understand what Plato intends with his sketchy theory, we should compare the initial statement of the idea (81a-e), the alleged illustration of it (82a-85b), and the restatement of it after the illustration (85b-86b). Or what kind of wisdom? The contemporary historian Xenophon (who also wrote Socratic dialogues) survived Cyrus’ failed campaign, and he wrote an account whose description of Meno resonates with Plato’s portrait here: ambitious yet lazy for the hard work of doing things properly, and motivated by desire for wealth and power while easily forgetting friendship and justice. Plato also explores other models of innate knowledge elsewhere, such as an innate mental pregnancy in the Symposium (206c-212b; compare Phaedrus 251a ff.) Socrates is drawn to the idea that the essence of all virtue is some kind of knowledge. Socrates argues that only knowledge is necessarily good, and the goodness or badness of everything else depends on whether it is directed by knowledge. As they work at the definition, alleged examples of aretê range from political power to good taste and from justice to getting lots of money. Much of the best Greek art still familiar to us today—the sculpture and architecture, the tragedy and comedy—comes from the Athens of that time. Socrates says he will not vouch for the details, but recommends it as encouraging us to work hard at learning what we do not now know. He reminds Meno that even professional teachers and good men themselves disagree about whether virtue can be taught. If a mind could always be in a state of having learned something, then there would be no point at which it learned that thing. The dialogue opens with Meno’s challenge to Socrates about how “virtue” (aretê) is achieved. There are three main parts to this dialogue, which are three main stages in the argumentation that leads to the tentative conclusion about how virtue is acquired. But the geometry lesson with the slave clearly does not demonstrate the reminding of something that was learned in a previous life. Socrates replies by reformulating that objection as a paradoxical dilemma, then arguing that the dilemma is based on a false dichotomy. On behalf of the rest of the theory, I wouldn’t much insist. The task is more difficult than it first seems, even for things like shape and color (see 75b-76e); it is even harder to accomplish for something like virtue. But there it is countered by a long explanation from the sophist Protagoras of how virtue is in fact taught to everyone by everyone, not with definitions or by mere verbal instruction, but in a life-long training of human nature through imitation, storytelling, and rewards and punishments of many kinds. Socrates does not object to this theory of moral education (instead he objects to other parts of Protagoras’ account), and elements of it are included in the system of education outlined by Socrates in Plato’s Republic. Much of their influence came through their expensive courses in public speaking, which in Athens prepared young men of old aristocratic families for success in democratic politics. And see esp. His natural talents and his privileged but unphilosophical education are not guided by wisdom or even patience, and he prefers “good things” like money over genuine understanding and moral virtue. And then he just wants to hear Socrates’ answers, and keeps resisting the hard work of definition that Socrates keeps encouraging. But then Anytus cannot explain Socrates’ long list of counterexamples: famous Athenians who were widely considered virtuous, but who did not teach their virtue even to their own sons. The soul is repeatedly reincarnated 3. Anytus departs in annoyance at Socrates’ seemingly dismissive treatment of Athens’ political heroes, so Socrates continues the issue with Meno. Through many reversals of fortune, Athens both suffered greatly and flourished culturally, using some of that tribute for her own development and adornment. (Forgotten-but-capable-of-being-remembered is a state of cognition between complete knowledge and pure ignorance.) Gabbie Chartier 1,598 views. Their executions, expropriations, and expulsions earned them the hatred of most Athenians; later “the Thirty” became known as “the Thirty Tyrants.” The extremists among them first purged their more obvious enemies, then turned to the moderates who resisted their cruelty and wanted a broader oligarchy or restricted democracy that included the thousands in the middle class. Woodruff, Paul. In this final portion of the dialogue, Socrates twice again asks Meno whether “if there are no teachers, there are no learners.” And Meno keeps affirming it, though no longer with full confidence: “I think … So it seems … if we have examined this correctly” (96c-d). and self-control: “rule yourself,” he says, “so that you may be free” (86d). Democratic and oligarchic factions might then still have been negotiating terms of reconciliation in order to prevent further civil war. Moravcsik, Julius. One of the most famous passages in all of Plato 's works—indeed, in all of philosophy —occurs in the middle of the Meno. And Socrates’ basic suggestion, that “being good and great” requires some important kind of knowledge, would seem both attractive and puzzling. Shortly before this dialogue takes place, some leading Spartans and allies considered killing all the Athenian men and enslaving the women and children. But there is something wrong with the hypothesis that all and only knowledge is taught. (And two other dialogues attempt and fail to define terms that are related to virtue: friendship in the Lysis and beautiful/good/fine (to kalon) in the Hippias Major.) As Meno and Socrates discuss the nature of virtue and how it might be acquired, the Athenian success story is not over. Next, Socrates offers an independent argument (based on a different hypothesis) that virtue must in fact be some kind of knowledge, because virtue is necessarily good and beneficial, and only knowledge could be necessarily good and beneficial. The Meno seems to be philosophically transitional between rough groupings of dialogues that are often associated in allegedly chronological terms, though these groupings have been qualified and questioned in various ways. In his Socratic dialogues The Phaedo and The Meno, Plato advances a theory concerning the acquisition of human knowledge. To that end we are asking whether good men past or present know how to bestow on another this virtue which makes them good, or whether it just isn’t something a man can give or receive from another. Whatever else might prove true or false about the notion that learning is a kind of recollection, these practical implications are what Socrates insists upon. Anytus in the Meno will be one of the three men who prosecute Socrates, which is specifically foreshadowed in the Meno at 94e. We discover these truths through our innate knowledge, that is, knowledge that is within us and that can be discovered. But in the third stage of the dialogue, Meno nonetheless resists, and asks Socrates instead to answer his initial question: is virtue something that is taught, or is it acquired in some other way? But the style and substance of the Meno changes somewhat with the formulation of Meno’s Paradox about the possibility of learning anything with such inquiries, which prompts Socrates to introduce the notions that the human soul is immortal, that genuine learning requires some form of innate knowledge, and that progress can be made with a kind of hypothetical method that is related to mathematical sciences. The dilemma is that we cannot learn either what we know or what we do not know, because there is no need to learn what we already know, and we cannot recognize what we do not yet know. Hackett Publishing, 1980. Fine, Gail. Unfortunately, the theory of recollection presents an infinite space regress of how the soul first obtains the knowledge to “recollect.” Despite the fallacy in Plato’s theory of recollection, Glenn Rawson Science, English, History, Civics, Art, Business, Law, Geography, all free! Or is he just throwing up an abstract, defensive obstacle, so that he does not have to keep trying? The resulting agreement included a general amnesty for crimes committed up to that time, excluding only the Thirty and a few other officials. All of that resembles what we see in early dialogues like the Euthyphro, Laches, Charmides, and Lysis. Ed Fraser argues that the theory of recollection presented by Socrates in the Meno is circular. The passage about recollection in the Phaedo even begins by alluding to the one in the Meno, but then it discusses recollection not of specific beliefs or propositions (like the theorem about doubling the square in the Meno), but of basic general concepts like Equality and Beauty, which Socrates argues cannot be learned from our experiences in this life. The Phaedo and the Meno are consistent, though, and the presentation of the theory in each dialogue can stand on its own. As the first Platonic dialogue that our freshmen read, it is the gateway to all the philosophic works to come, both ancient and modern. The Meno does not end up specifying just what kind of innate resources enable genuine learning about geometry or virtue: Socrates infers from the geometry lesson both that the slave had innate knowledge (85d), and that he had innate beliefs that can be converted to knowledge (85c, 86a), but the dialogue ends with an agreement that “men have neither of these by nature, neither knowledge nor true belief” (98c-d). Platonis Opera, vol. This argument for recollection is taken a step further in the Phaedo, as Plato claims there are two aspects of recollection. This is a fundamental belief from which the basis of theory rests. Correct belief can direct our behavior well, too, though not nearly as reliably as knowledge. The first third of our dialogue takes the time to show that Meno’s list of examples will not do, because it does not reveal what is common to them all and makes them be virtue while other things are not (72a ff. The second argument is otherwise called the theory of recollection, this hypothesis tries to clarify that human have some knowledge that is non exact sample of this knowledge is the knowledge during childbirth. This line is pursued with the further “firm hypothesis” that virtue must always be a good thing. This leads up to Meno’s famous paradox, in which he asks Socrates how he can learn anything if he does not know what he is searching for. When Anytus withdraws from the conversation in anger, Socrates reminds Meno that sometimes people’s actions are guided not by knowledge but by mere true belief, which has not been “tied down by working out the reason.” He provisionally concludes that when people act virtuously, it is not by knowledge but by true belief, which they receive not by teaching but by some kind of divine gift. ...The theory of recollection, according to Socrates, means that before we are born we possess all knowledge.We are never taught anything new, but instead reminded of things we already know. Later in the conversation, Socrates even seems to identify “recollection” with this latter part of the process (98a). “Plato’s Earlier Theory of Knowledge.” In Essays on the Philosophy of Socrates, edited by Hugh Benson, 86-106. Meno refuses to pursue knowledge of virtue the hard way, and he thinks that what he hears about virtue the easy way is knowledge. The second stage of the dialogue begins with that momentous, twofold objection: if someone does not already know what virtue is, how could he even look for it, and how could he even recognize it if he were to happen upon it? The soul has seen al things here and in the underworld, so it has learned everything. After finally being defeated by Sparta, Athens has narrowly escaped total destruction, and is now ruled by a Spartan-backed oligarchy. And what about Socrates: does he teach virtue in the Meno? These questions are addressed in the subject of epistemology, the theory of knowledge. And “excellence” is rather weak and abstract for the focus of these Socratic dialogues, which is something people spent a lot of time thinking and worrying about. Of the world of the senses, Plato believes that knowledge of the strict sense is not possible, but merely opinions. This reformulation of Meno’s objection has come to be known as “Meno’s Paradox.” It is Plato’s first occasion for introducing his notorious “theory of recollection,” which is an early example of what would later be called a theory of innate ideas. Summary: Plato 's theory which postulate s that all knowledge that has ever been known and will ever be known is already preexistent in your memory; thus time is an illusion, merely the unfolding process of remembering everything. Nehamas, Alexander. That is why in response to it he proposes his famous "Theory of Recollection." But after the war, Socrates continued his uniquely nondemocratic yet anti-elitist, unconventional yet anti-sophistic interrogations. Cambridge University Press, 2006. Weiss, Roslyn. III. There are three main parts to this dialogue, which are three main stages in the argumentation that leads to the tentative conclusion about how virtue is acquired. In closing, Socrates reminds Meno that their confusion about whether aretê is taught is a result of their confusion about the nature of aretê itself. That could be the whole dialogue’s answer to Meno’s opening challenge, which specifies three options: Tell me if you can, Socrates: Is virtue something that’s taught? When the conversation returns to Meno’s initial question of whether virtue can be taught, Socrates introduces another manner of investigation, a method of “hypotheses,” by which he argues that virtue must be some kind of knowledge, and so it must be something that’s taught. Meno finds Socrates’ explanation somehow compelling, but puzzling. This paradoxical phrasing turns the initial statement of the theory of recollection, which stretched a common-sense notion of learning from experience over a number of successive lifetimes, into the beginnings of a theory of innate ideas, because the geometrical beliefs or concepts somehow belong to the mind at all times. Although Plato was not a fan of most sophists either, he portrays Anytus’ attitude as clearly prejudicial. According to Xenophon, when Cyrus was killed and his other commanders were quickly beheaded by the King’s men, Meno was separated and tortured at length before being killed, because of his special treachery (see Xenophon’s Anabasis II, 6). The Meno holds a distinguished place in the St. John’s curriculum. At first, Meno wants to deny that all aretai share some common nature, but he quickly becomes ambivalent about that. The theory of recollection purports to explain the possibility of successful learning when no one is available from whom to learn the knowledge sought, but it offers no recommendation or advice on the method to be employed in seeking this knowledge. He gathers well-known examples of allegedly virtuous men who did not teach their virtue even to their own children, which indicates that virtue is not something that is taught. Meno’s host Anytus now arrives at just the right moment, since Anytus is passionately opposed to the sophists who claim to teach wisdom and virtue with their traveling lectures and verbal displays. Other characters in Plato’s dialogues usually have difficulty understanding what Socrates is asking for; in fact, the historical Socrates may have been the first person to be rigorous about such definitions. He was portrayed with different emphases by different authors, including Xenophon, Aeschines, Antisthenes, Phaedo, Euclides, and others. In this connection, Socrates’ introduction of a “hypothetical” method of inquiry, adopted from mathematics, is developed somewhat in the Phaedo and in Republic Book VI. Socrates criticizes Meno for still wanting to know how virtue is acquired without first understanding what it is. In conclusion, through the analysis of Plato’s theory of innate knowledge and recollection, coming to know what one does not know, we might say that there is a truism to innate knowledge. Summary of Arguments, in Three Main Stages, Relations of the Meno to Other Platonic Dialogues, Some Articles and Essays on the Major Themes. The epistemological thesis is about reason. Near this point in the dialogue, Socrates also states that after employing such ideas to elicit the relevant true beliefs, more work is still required for converting them to knowledge (85c-d). The dialogue closes with the surprising suggestion that virtue as practiced in our world both depends on true belief rather than knowledge and is received as some kind of divine gift. It seems to be tacitly dropped from the rest of the dialogue, and when Meno later revisits his opening challenge, he omits the option about training (86c-d). Thousands of Athenians were killed or fled the city, and many who stayed acquiesced in fear for their lives. He offers a theory that “there is no teaching but recollection” (82a). But again, Socrates’ position in the conflict is not obvious. But while Socrates clearly knows more than Meno about how to investigate the essence of virtue, he has not been able to discover exactly what it is. After persuading Meno to take seriously his own favorite notion—that virtue is achieved through some kind of knowledge, rather than through wealth and political power—Socrates endeavors to convince Meno that learning just by hearing from others does not provide real knowledge or real virtue. He invites Meno to observe the slave as he recollects the correct answer. What sort of thing, among the things you don’t know, will you propose to look for? (after Anytus’ return from exile in 403 B.C.E., before Meno’s departure for Persia by early 401 B.C.E., and shortly before annual rites of initiation to the religious Mysteries, which are mentioned at Meno 76e). Meno 98a: recollection = giving an account of the reasons why.) Plato believes that by asking the right question, one can jog his memory and recollect things that he doesn’t aware of knowing. But for now, the recently restored democracy is anxious about continuing class conflict, and fearful of renewed civil war. In these dialogues, Plato asserts that people acquire knowledge through recollection; that is, nothing is learned new, from experience. By carefully questioning the slave boy, Socrates is able to get him to recognize that the way to construct a square double in area to a given square is to use the diagonal of the given square as a base. The Forms, however, are perfectly definite realities, hanging together in perfectly rational ways. In any case, the phrase “always in a state of having learned” is unusual and striking. Later, he supported the moderate faction among the Thirty Tyrants, and was banished by the extremists. Meno was young for such a position, about twenty years old, but he was a favorite of the powerful Aristippus, a fellow aristocrat who had borrowed thousands of troops from Cyrus for those power struggles in Thessaly, and was now returning many of them. The Theory of Recollection. Rhode Island College In each case, since Meno accepts these claims that contradict his proposed definitions, he is shown not to know what he thought he knew about virtue. Here Socrates leads Meno to two opposed conclusions. The notion of learning as recollection is revisited most conspicuously in Plato’s Phaedo (72e-76e) and Phaedrus (246a ff. But beyond it lies a deeper problem. Anchor Books, 1971. Second Edition. While the Formalists held the belief that mathematical formulas and truths were invented by man to explain the universe, Plato believed that mathematics was not invented by man to explain the nature of universal experience, but instead a kind of metaphysical divine reality to be discovered by man as his Forms. A further reason for the inconclusiveness of the Meno is the inherent difficulty of providing the kind of definition that Socrates seeks. Cambridge Texts in the History of Philosophy. In fact, our dialogue as a whole shows that Meno will not acquire the wisdom that is virtue until after he already practices some measure of virtue: at least the kind of humility, courage, and industriousness that are necessary for genuine learning. So what sort of thing is this aretê that they are trying to understand? And that is why Plato does not dismiss it out of hand. Dec 10, 2010. The question of how this knowledge can be discovered is answered through Plato’s process of recollection. After those Persian invasions, many independent cities had asked Athens to replace Sparta in leading a united defense and reprisal against the Persian empire. Unless we admit that we do not know anything, then we will never know anything. Accordingly, Socrates, acting as usual as Plato’s mouthpiece, and Meno, a student of the … When Meno resists yet again after the theory of recollection and the geometry lesson (86c), Socrates cleverly investigates this hypothesis, implicit in Meno’s behavior, to redirect Meno’s attention from his question about how virtue is acquired (Is it taught?) In just a few years, he would be convicted and executed for the crime of corrupting the youth of Athens. Cambridge University Press, 2011. It is commonly thought that in the Meno we see Plato transitioning from (a) a presumably earlier group of especially “Socratic” dialogues, which defend Socrates’ ways of refuting unwarranted claims to knowledge and promoting intellectual humility, and so are largely inconclusive concerning virtue and knowledge, to (b) a presumably “middle” group of more constructively theoretical dialogues, which involve Plato’s famous metaphysics and epistemology of transcendent “Forms,” such Justice itself, Equality itself, and Beauty or Goodness itself. First, he argues, on the hypothesis that virtue is necessarily good, that it must be some kind of knowledge, and therefore must be something that is taught. Brickhouse, Thomas C., and Nicholas D. Smith. In this dialogue, Plato imagines Meno encountering Socrates shortly before that disastrous Persian adventure, when he has not yet proved himself to be the “scoundrel” and “tyrant” that Socrates suspects and Xenophon later confirms. When Anytus enters the discussion, his father is praised as a man who, unlike Anytus himself, did not receive his prosperity as a gift from his father, but earned it “by his own skill and hard work” (90a). And Socrates emphatically alleges that when the slave becomes aware of his own ignorance, he properly desires to overcome it by learning; this too is supposed to be an object lesson for Meno (84a-d). (80d). But then Socrates also argues to the contrary that since virtue is never actually taught, it seems not to be knowledge after all. In Plato’s Meno (c.385 BC), Plato writes in the voice of Socrates, who performs in the role of a “midwife,” employing systematic questioning to draw out, from the minds of his pupils, Meno and the slave boy, the seeds of true and reliable knowledge. Tutor and Freelance Writer. Then he tries to illustrate this “theory of recollection” with the example of a geometry lesson, in which Socrates refutes a slave’s incorrect answers much as he had refuted Meno, and then leads him to recognize that the correct answer is implied by his own prior true beliefs. The cumulative meaning ranges from knowledge and intelligence to understanding and wisdom. Isn’t Socrates trying to teach Meno, by leading him to a correct definition of virtue, as he led Meno’s slave to the correct answer in the geometry lesson? In the context, that “always” does seem to include many lifetimes, though it could in principle refer just to however long the mind has existed, perhaps since some point of development in the womb. Plato, a classical Greek philosopher who is a famous writer. Cambridge University Press, 1994. Socrates was then about sixty-seven years old, and had long been famous for his difficult questions about virtue and knowledge. He asks again whether virtue is something that is taught, and once again he wants to be taught about this just by being told (86c-d; compare 70a, 75b, 76a-b, 76d). Scolnicov, Samuel. Some wanted to try refuting him in public. Concedes that, in some sense, inquiry is impossible. First, he introduces a notion that the human soul has learned in previous lives, and suggests that learning is therefore possible by remembering what has been known but forgotten. (That was a traditional aristocratic notion, but it has a democratic shape at Meno 92e, Apology 24d ff., and Protagoras 325c ff.) So why would Socrates use the faulty hypothesis that knowledge and only knowledge is taught, when it contradicts his notion of recollection and his model geometry lesson? But what kind of knowledge? (91a). Similarly, geometrical forms make up a perfectly systematic whole. That is enough to refute Meno’s Paradox, which inferred the impossibility of learning from a false dichotomy between complete knowledge and pure ignorance. Socrates tries to expose the false dichotomy by identifying states of cognition between complete knowledge and pure ignorance. Email: The Doctrine of Recollection in Plato's Meno - Philosophy Core Concepts - Duration: 13:22. and 480 B.C.E. Certainly, if one’s soul was transmigrated eight times, the individual would be extremely knowledgeable. Philosophical portraits thesis, reason includes some knowledge and when we were born that... Courage, and that is within us and that it recollects truths it in. And says the boy how to double the area of the dialogue with... Working out the explanation for oneself ( 82d, 83d, 84b-c theory of recollection meno 85c-d ; Compare 98a.! Sense is not over even seems to identify “ recollection ” ( aretê is. Recollection was proposed to clarify things about the historical Socrates, edited Richard... 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