Change Your World-NOT your Body

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The difference between virtue and pornography

Plato begins his dialogue Meno with Meno questioning Socrates as to how one goes about acquiring virtue. Through a few questions and answers and a bit of playing dumb Socrates says to Meno that before the answer to Meno's first question regarding how one obtains virtue, they surely must define exactly what virtue is. Socrates continues with his playing dumb ploy and says to Meno that he doesnt know and could Meno define virtue for them both.

Meno believes he can define virtue and sets about giving Socrates various examples of what he believes virtue to be. Meno believes there are different virtues for different people such as virtue being different for a man as opposed to a women or people of different ages or a master or a slave. Socrates counters this by juxtaposing Meno's "swarm"(23) of virtue examples with something else which swarms; the bee. Socrates utilizes the bee metaphor leading Meno to agree that this swarm of seemingly different virtues are similar to the swarm of bees which really are not all that different. Socrates then asks of Meno what exactly is it that these different virtues share?

Meno then suggests to Socrates that virtue is the ability to rule over people. Socrates counters this with reminding Meno that earlier he had said that virtue is different for different peoples, men, women, children, slaves etc, and that surely it cannot be virtuous for slaves or children to rule as well as virtue requires justice and not all rulers are just. At this point Meno tells Socrates that virtue is justice. After a little more leading by Socrates, Meno believes that justice is merely "a virtue"(24) rather than virtue itself.

I feel Socrates' dismantlings of Meno's virtue claims are fair and spot on. From Socrates' conclusions regarding virtue's inability to be precisely pinned down, perhaps Socrates could agree with my juxtaposing virtue with pornography in that I might not be able to define it, but I know it when I see it!


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