Defining Excellence in "Meno"

1998 Words 8 Pages
In Plato’s Meno, Socrates purposefully uses ignorance and irony to insufficiently define excellence for Meno. Initially, Meno argues a particular definition, which is a universally inconsistent proof, is sufficient to define excellence. However, Socrates asserts that the definition of excellence must be consistent and applicable to all individuals, by comparing individuals in a society to bees in a colony. Socrates demonstrates the failure of a particular proof to define all constituents of a group. In order to exemplify the errors of inconsistent and universally inapplicable definition, Socrates uses a universally inconsistent proof to erroneously assert a figure is not a shape. Socrates purposefully applies an inconsistent proof to …show more content…
This assumption reflects a folly in Meno’s logic because his inquiry was into a single definition of excellence. Socrates ironically guides Meno by generating questions that relate to excellence as a universally consistent value. Socrates inquires if “bees [are] all no different from one another, but the same?” (Meno, pg 100, ln 72b). By answering “yes”, Meno perpetuates Socrates’ use of irony. Socrates knows the definition of excellence, but he is going to make Meno arrive at a resolution by himself. Socrates coerces Meno to agree that a bee colony is defined by a universally consistent definition of excellence. Socrates continues his deliberate inquiry by asking Meno “do you think health is different in a man and a woman?” (Meno, pg 100, ln 72e). Once again, Meno considers Socrates’ inquiry and concludes that health must be equal for all human beings. Socratic irony compels the student to examine an argument and consider its validity. Meno agrees with Socrates that formerly individual entities, like human health and bees, can be defined by the same confines. Therefore, a distinct entity, like excellence in human beings, can be defined by a consistent and universal definition. Excellence can be defined under a single proof applicable to all human characteristics because human health is not differentiable. As a result a result of Socratic irony, Meno should abandon distinct definitions of excellence and consider a universal definition. Socratic irony forces Meno to

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