What Human Virtue Means as Explained in Plato's Book Meno

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About this sample


Words: 832 |

Pages: 2|

5 min read

Published: Mar 14, 2019

Words: 832|Pages: 2|5 min read

Published: Mar 14, 2019

The goal within the Meno is to discover what the concept of virtue resembles. Within the opening lines of the Meno, Socrates begins his questioning of the initial definition of human virtue that is proposed. In typical Socratic fashion, Socrates addresses some of the problems inherent in the definition of virtue that Meno presents by asking a series of leading questions. In so doing, Socrates lays out a logical argument composed of a number of premises which build upon one another. Through deductive reasoning, Socrates shows to Meno that the basic nature of virtue, as revealed by his definition, shows that virtue of all people is the same.

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At the beginning of this particular argument, Socrates directly questions Meno’s definition of virtue. According to Meno, the virtue of man is to manage a city well, whereas for a woman, virtue is to manage a household well, among a number of other particular statements. It is a loose collection of particular statements that attempts cover a variety of individuals. According to this definition, personal, rigid qualities such as gender and age can change how virtue applies to human beings. This is a troublesome matter due to the great disparity that human beings can have relative to one another in the qualities they possess. From this perspective, any attempt at finding an essential virtue that may be present among all human beings appears doubtful.

Socrates was not convinced that the nature of virtue was subjective. He subsequently asks Meno if it is possible to manage a city, household, or anything else well if one does not perform their duty in a moderate and just fashion. Therefore, to be good, one must be moderate and just.

In order to manage and act moderately and justly, Socrates says we can only do so by means of moderation and justice. In other words, there is no way of practicing these virtues except by moving in the direction of them. After Meno readily assents to this point, Socrates states that if managing a city, household or otherwise requires justice and moderation, men and women can move towards being virtuous by exemplifying the same qualities. Considering that the actions are bridged together by these, virtues are not necessarily gendered. Meno agrees that this appears to be the case.

To further support his position, Socrates poses the negative of his previous question: “What then? Could a child and an elder ever become good by being licentious and unjust” (73b). Socrates shows the mistake of Meno’s definition by revealing that virtue is not separated along the lines of age either. In order to build towards his next assertion, Socrates again confirms with Meno that this notion of all people being able to approach virtue in a similar manner is true.

After ensuring the solidity of his argument, Socrates then uses his previous premises to support the idea that all human beings are good in the same way because their attainment of the same good things make them so. By virtue of all individuals possessing the same good individual qualities such as justice and moderation, all human beings are necessarily good in the same way. People can only be good in the same way, however, if all individuals move in the direction of the same virtues. Socrates goes on to say that if people moved towards different virtues, then people would not be good in the same way. This portion suggests that virtue has a direct connection to one’s goodness. This idea that one can differ in the extent that they are good implies that there may be some virtues that are more desirable and lead us more towards virtue in itself. Therefore, we would not be good in the same way if virtue itself was not the same.

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In this argument, Socrates and Meno face head-on the question of whether virtue can be defined. The lack of a substantive conclusion in the end of the dialogue shows that this is an altogether difficult endeavor. By virtue of this particular argument, however, it can be seen that some truth can be derived in this pursuit. Beginning with the premise that in order to be good, human beings must possess individual virtues such as moderation and justice. If everyone exhibits these same individuals virtues of moderation and justice, we can necessarily become good in the same way. In the opposite respect, all human beings would not be good in the same way if virtue were not the same. Taking consideration of these numerous premises, Socrates finishes with his conclusion that the virtue of all people is the same. This discovery is not a particularly significant conclusion in itself, yet it functions to make an important point about argumentation. Through his well-laid out argument, Socrates serves to orient Meno’s thinking and, in so doing, our own thinking towards the similarities that individual virtues share in order to move towards finding what this singular, unifying virtue possesses.

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What Human Virtue Means As Explained In Plato’s Book Meno. (2019, March 12). GradesFixer. Retrieved February 21, 2024, from
“What Human Virtue Means As Explained In Plato’s Book Meno.” GradesFixer, 12 Mar. 2019,
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