Written by Plato, the famous philosopher, Meno is the title of a dialogue between two characters, Meno and Socrates. Virtue is the subject matter of the conversation. Meno begins the talk by posing a question to Socrates of whether a virtue can be acquired. This is not the only question Meno asks but in all the cases, he fails to begin by defining the basis of his questions. For instance, he cannot begin by addressing the key term, virtue. This is what Socrates wants to know first and in turn, he poses the question back to Meno. This, among other reasons, explains why Socrates does not respond directly to Meno’s question about how virtue is acquired.
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Commencing the conversation with a general, rather than a specific question induces nervousness to Socrates. Any standard person in such a situation can be interested in knowing why the question is open and not specific. It can be mistaken for a trick of capturing the mind of a person. Socrates is concerned with the idea behind the question. That Meno does not explain his motives preceding it makes Socrates return it to him. Socrates now becomes the interviewer and not the reverse.
Their difference forces Socrates to suggest that they address the issue of virtue but differently from how Meno wants it. He dances into this tune. He claims that a virtue is a variable that relies much on gender, age, literacy, among other factors. Citing an example of men, who ought to lead their families providing the basic requirements and women taking care of the head and the children, Socrates rejects it. He posits that there should be a virtue portrayed by all people regardless of the aforementioned factors. The question goes back to Meno when he is required to identify this virtue. It is noticeable that Socrates does not suggest a comment on whether Meno’s claims were true.
Socrates’ rejection of the notion that virtues are dependent variables tempts Meno to conclude that all people possess similar virtues. He provides the illustration of their capacity to lead claiming that this prevails among all people no matter their differences. Socrates views it as too general saying that it is not leading that matters but the way it is done. He throws the question back demanding to know whether leading well is common in relation to captives and the liberated people. He declares him as one led by many instead of one, or else too open rather than specific which is his area of interest.
Sticking to the subject of virtue, Meno introduces a third party, Gorgias, though not live in the discussion, which is conversant with the field of virtues. He demands to know from Socrates how Gorgias treated a virtue. Socrates claims to have forgotten but when he asks him whether he knew it, Meno said he did, only for Socrates to order him to exclude Gorgias from the discussion and provide him with the meaning of a virtue from Gorgias point of view.
The fact that Socrates knows all the answers to Meno’s questions stands out clear throughout the dialogue. The questions asked are too general from Socrates point of view. Though dead, Plato’s lesson is still alive, holding that people ought to be specific rather than broad when handling their issues. This provides the reason why Socrates fails to respond directly to Meno’s questions.