Analysis “Meno” by Plato

In Meno, Socrates poses the query ‘if a factor had neither teachers nor learners, we should be right in surmising that it couldn’t be taught’ (Meno, 89e). Thus, we’ll start to look into Socrates talking on how advantage can’t be taught through the use of several rich and good males as examples to prove his concept. First, speaking of Themistocles and his son Cleophantus, Socrates lays out his theory that virtue can’t be taught. ‘Have you never heard how Themistocles had his son Cleophantus taught to be a good horseman? Why, he might maintain his steadiness standing upright on horseback, and hurl the javelin while so standing and carry out many different fantastic feats by which his father had had him trained, so as to make him expert in all that could possibly be learnt from good masters’ (Meno, 93d).

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Socrates begins to allude to the reality that fathers who spend their wealth to have their sons trained to amass expertise to make them a better citizen may have no downside paying for a instructor who may possibly train them to be virtuous.

‘And can we consider that his father chose to coach his own son in those feats, and yet made him no higher than his neighbors in his own explicit accomplishment-if advantage, as alleged, was to be taught’ (Meno, 93e). Here, Socrates proves what he was alluding to in his earlier quote which is such that a good father will guarantee his son to develop up virtuous if it was something that could possibly be taught.

Next; Socrates continues to talk of two extra fathers; Pericles & Thucydides and their sons, who have spared no expense to make sure their sons are discovered. ‘he taught them to be the foremost horsemen of Athens, and educated them to excel in music and gymnastics and all else that comes beneath the head of the humanities let me remind you that Thucydides additionally introduced up two sons and that besides giving them an excellent common schooling he made them one of the best wrestlers in Athens’ (Meno, 94c).

Socrates reaffirms his theory with two more examples that if ethics was a teachable subject, fathers would be positive that their sons have been taught by the best masters. ‘Well, is it not obvious that this father would never have spent his money on having his kids taught all those things, after which have omitted to show them at no expense the others that would have made them good males, if advantage was to be taught’ (Meno, 94d).

By giving two different examples; Socrates confirms that it’s not only one man; however in fact, many men who have not had their sons study from masters of advantage as a result of it’s not one thing that may be taught. In Protagoras, Socrates uses politics to prove his theory to be right. When politicians are in want of advisement from craftsmen, they may consult these males who have been discovered of their commerce, but if the politicians need advisement on advantage, they will not seek out someone who is not a craftsman in that commerce and will solely be ridiculed as a outcome of ‘they hold that here the thing cannot be taught’ (Protagoras, 319c-d).

With great element given in each Meno and Protagoras, Socrates’ explanations of why advantage cannot be taught has confirmed his theory to be right. Next, we will have a glance at Protagoras’ view of why virtue may be taught. We will now take a glance at Protagoras’ evaluation of why virtue may be taught. Protagoras disagrees with Socrates on politics by saying ‘they have good cause for admitting all people as advisor on this virtue, owing to their belief that everybody has a few of it; and subsequent, that they don’t regard it as natural or spontaneous, but as something taught and acquired’ (Protagoras, 323d). Protagoras’ uses a proof of civic advantage as to why he believes advantage to be teachable, but then delves further into detail as to how it’s being taught. Protagoras proceeds to make use of youngsters as a method to prove his level, ‘that the kid could excel, and as each act and word happens they educate and impress upon him that that is just, and that unjust, one factor noble, another base, one holy, another unholy, and that he is to do that, and never do that’ (Protagoras, 325d).

Using the technique of disciplining children by household and fellow citizens, Protagoras pleads his case that virtue is teachable. Then, he continues to clarify who the trainer is and by doing so rebukes Socrates’ declare that there is no trainer of advantage, ‘because everyone is a trainer of advantage to the extent of his powers’ (Protagoras, 327e). In essence, Protagoras is claiming that it’s the accountability of all citizens to ensure everyone participates in the teaching of all to be virtuous males. Protagoras goes on to further clarify ‘you may as properly ask who’s a trainer of Greek; you’ll find none anywhere’ (Protagoras 328a).

To show his level that virtue can be taught with out having a proper teacher he makes use of their language as an illustration to indicate that everyone may be taught the essential life abilities with out having to hire somebody to offer instruction on the subject. Both Socrates and Protagoras gave compelling arguments as as to if or not ethics is one thing which can or cannot be taught.


Plato. Protagoras and Meno. Translated by Robert C. Bartlett, Cornell University Press, 2004.

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