CREDOS : Meno — II

The Meno as a dialogue is important because it gives an account of Socrates’ views on good and evil actions. It formulates a basic principle of Socratic philosophy which claims that evil is not a wilful act.

Socrates firmly believed that only ignorance and a lack of knowledge could induce a person into committing an evil action. Socrates explains this theory and in response to Meno’s definition of virtue, asks whether the acquisition of beauty can be done through any means possible.

Meno replies that virtue is the acquisition of beautiful things in a just and good manner. Once again Socrates points out that Meno has used properties of virtue, namely the just and good, in attempting to define virtue.

At this point, Meno expresses his exasperation and asks Socrates how he or anyone could enquire into that which we do not know. This presents an epistemological problem that asks how we can know anything we question if we do not have some understanding of what it is we are looking for. In other words, if one does not have some conception of the truth then how can one ever know when one has arrived at the truth?

This is a problem that has troubled the greatest minds in philosophy, for without some conception of what we are looking for, we can never ever be sure that we have actually found it. This is the paradoxical nature of truth that has keept us in constant uncertainty.