How The Idea of Recollection in "Meno" Differs from "Phaedo"

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About this sample


Words: 810 |

Pages: 2|

5 min read

Published: Mar 14, 2019

Words: 810|Pages: 2|5 min read

Published: Mar 14, 2019

Table of contents

  1. Recollection in "Meno"
  2. Recollection in "Phaedo"
  3. Key Differences
  4. Conclusion
  5. References

In Plato's dialogues "Meno" and "Phaedo," the concept of recollection plays a significant role in addressing questions about knowledge, learning, and the nature of the soul. While both dialogues involve Socratic discussions on this topic, they differ in their emphasis and approach. This essay aims to explore how the idea of recollection differs in "Meno" compared to "Phaedo."

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Recollection in "Meno"

In the dialogue "Meno," Plato introduces the idea of recollection as a response to Meno's question: "Can you tell me, Socrates, whether virtue is something that can be taught?" Socrates' response is not a straightforward explanation of virtue but rather an exploration of the nature of knowledge and learning.

Socrates begins by questioning an uneducated slave boy about geometry. Although the boy initially has no knowledge of geometry, Socrates guides him through a series of questions, helping the boy arrive at correct answers without being taught any specific geometrical theorems. Socrates argues that this process demonstrates that the boy must have known the answers all along, and the act of recollecting this knowledge through questioning is what leads to understanding.

In "Meno," recollection is presented as a form of innate knowledge that the soul possesses before birth. Socrates suggests that all learning is a process of recollecting what the soul already knows but has forgotten due to the distractions of the physical world. This view aligns with Plato's theory of the immortality of the soul and its preexistence in the world of Forms.

Recollection in "Phaedo"

In contrast, "Phaedo" explores the idea of recollection in the context of the immortality of the soul and the philosophical journey toward wisdom. This dialogue takes place on the day of Socrates' execution, and the central theme is the immortality of the soul. Socrates argues that the soul is immortal and that it has existed before birth and will continue to exist after death.

While "Meno" focuses on the recollection of general knowledge, "Phaedo" extends the concept to the recollection of eternal truths and the nature of reality itself. Socrates argues that the soul, being immortal and connected to the realm of Forms, possesses knowledge of abstract concepts like justice, beauty, and equality. Through philosophical contemplation and dialectical reasoning, individuals can recollect and awaken this innate knowledge, gradually ascending towards wisdom.

In "Phaedo," recollection is not just about retrieving previously learned information but about reconnecting with the eternal truths that underlie the physical world. The pursuit of philosophy, according to Socrates, is a journey of the soul towards this recollection and understanding of the Forms.

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Key Differences

  1. Scope of Recollection: One of the primary differences between the two dialogues is the scope of recollection. In "Meno," recollection pertains mainly to general knowledge and is illustrated through a practical example involving geometry. In "Phaedo," recollection extends to the realm of eternal truths, encompassing abstract concepts and the nature of reality itself.
  2. Purpose: The purpose of recollection also differs between the dialogues. In "Meno," recollection serves as an explanation for the acquisition of knowledge and as an argument for the existence of the soul's preexistent knowledge. In "Phaedo," recollection is tied to the immortality of the soul and the philosophical pursuit of wisdom and truth.
  3. Context: The context in which recollection is discussed varies significantly. "Meno" primarily addresses questions about education and virtue, while "Phaedo" is concerned with metaphysical and existential questions about the nature of the soul and its relationship to the world of Forms.
  4. Outcome: In "Meno," the outcome of recollection is a form of learning or relearning, where the soul regains forgotten knowledge. In "Phaedo," the outcome of recollection is the philosophical ascent toward wisdom and the soul's realization of its connection to the eternal and unchanging realm of Forms.


The idea of recollection in Plato's "Meno" and "Phaedo" differs in terms of scope, purpose, context, and outcome. While "Meno" focuses on recollecting general knowledge to explain the acquisition of wisdom, "Phaedo" extends the concept to encompass the recollection of eternal truths and the soul's journey toward wisdom and immortality. Both dialogues, however, share the underlying belief in the existence of preexistent knowledge within the soul, emphasizing the significance of philosophical inquiry and the pursuit of truth.


  1. Plato. (2002). Meno. In G. M. A. Grube (Trans.), Five dialogues: Euthyphro, Apology, Crito, Meno, Phaedo (2nd ed.). Hackett Publishing Company.
  2. Plato. (2005). Phaedo. In G. M. A. Grube (Trans.), Five dialogues: Euthyphro, Apology, Crito, Meno, Phaedo (2nd ed.). Hackett Publishing Company.
  3. Jowett, B. (1892). The Dialogues of Plato (Vol. 3). Oxford University Press.
  4. Fine, G. (1999). Plato on Knowledge and Forms: Selected Essays. Oxford University Press.
  5. Waterlow, S. (2002). The Oxford Aristotle. In C. Shields (Ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Aristotle (pp. 75-98). Oxford University Press.
  6. Nehamas, A. (2006). Virtues of Authenticity: Essays on Plato and Socrates. Princeton University Press.
  7. Taylor, C. C. W. (2014). Plato. In E. N. Zalta (Ed.), The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2014 Edition). Stanford University.
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How The Idea of Recollection in “Meno” Differs from “Phaedo”. (2019, March 12). GradesFixer. Retrieved March 2, 2024, from
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