Tag Archives: Meno

Experience This

In the reading we were assigned for Monday, John Dewey put a lot of emphasis on the importance of experience in education. His connection between personal experience and education remind me of my first blog post, “To Practice or To Preach?”

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Being Good Is a Choice

In Meno, Socrates gives several examples of fathers who worked their hardest to try and teach their sons how to be good. However, the teachings do not work. (Meno, 94a-e) Then, Socrates says that teaching cannot be taught. Well, I disagree. As children are growing up, they pick up habits from their parents and family, who are the principal people that teach them. Whatever children are being taught to do is what they will do unless they choose not to. You see, in my opinion, being good boils down to a choice- whether or not you will follow the habits and teachings of the people closest to you or not.

There are four types of outcomes that people can choose based on the habits of their parents: good habits from parents = good habits from children, bad habits from parents = bad habits from children, good habits from parents = bad habits from children, and finally, bad habits from parents = good habits from children. Parents can teach their children habits that are either good or bad, and children can learn from those habits and decide which habits they want to continue doing for the rest of their life. In society today, there are two different types of stories that are frequently heard. The first is the story about the parents that give their children a fabulous upbringing and are nurturing and caring, and their child(ren) end up making a mess of their life by practicing bad habits. The second is the story about a child who had a rough start in life (like the deadbeat parent, the “always drunk” parent, the abusive parent, or the uncaring/unsupportive parent) and made it a goal to become successful and, by practicing good habits, achieved that goal.

Everything about a person’s character, which determines if they are good or not, depends on the choices that he or she makes. It is not a matter of you not being receptive to good things that causes you to be a bad person, but a matter of if you decide to be receptive to the things that you were taught, whether they be good or bad.

Is “Meno’s Paradox” Really a Paradox?

I do not believe that “Meno’s Paradox” is truly a paradox. When he says that you cannot find out about something that you know about because you already know it, he is completely wrong. One reason why this is wrong is because we are human beings, and we will never know everything about one thing. Many times, the subjects that we want to know about are too broad. For example, we can want to know everything about math, or everything about a person, but that can never happen because the information is simply too much for our brains to handle. Another reason why we will never know everything is because knowledge is relative. One person can think that knowing everything about Obama does not include knowing how many pieces of hair he has on his head, while another person thinks that knowing everything about Obama does include knowing that. Finally, we will never know everything about a specific subject or topic because knowledge is not static; it is dynamic. What is thought to be true and knowledgeable now can change in the future. New discoveries on different subjects are made everyday, some of which are proven true or false. Let’s say a person really did know everything about math. If they are on their deathbed, and five seconds before they die a new mathematical discovery is approved as being true and knowledgeable, then that person died not knowing everything about math. Another example is if you want to focus only on knowing what Bill eats for lunch every Wednesday. If Bill has eaten a chicken salad sandwich every Wednesday for the past ten years, then you will think that you know what Bill eats for lunch every Wednesday. But what if Bill decides that he wants to try the tuna salad sandwich one Wednesday and decides that since he likes it so much, he will eat that sandwich from then on instead of the chicken sandwich? Then your knowledge of what Bill likes to eat for lunch every Wednesday will have to change.

Meno also believes that you can’t find out about something that you do not know about because you do not even know what it is you are trying to find out about, and he is wrong in this case as well. For one thing, this statement is bogus, because if you are trying to find out about something, then you already know what you want to find out about. Also, you can find out about something that you previously knew nothing about. What people have to do is look at how they obtained information about something that they knew nothing about in the past. You could have asked someone who you thought was knowledgeable on the subject, or you could have gone to the library and gotten a book on what you want to know about. You would do the same when you are trying to learn about new things- either ask a person or read a book or look for answers on the internet. Of course, there are always questions that people ask that not a single person has any knowledge on. This is when I refer to my saying that knowledge is dynamic. You could do research- whether it is looking at different books on topics that relate to that subject or getting opinions from people that know some things on that subject- and come up with an answer on your own. This is what people did in the past, and it is what people will continue to do in the future. Of course, people that come behind you will test your discovery that supposedly adds new knowledge, and it will either become approved or rejected by the masses.

To Practice or to Preach?

Would you be able to learn how to ride a bicycle from being told? Or by practice alone? Being taught to ride isn’t the same as practicing riding, but the two supplement each other and are necessary to help the student eventually acquire the real sense and skills to actually maneuver the machine. Continue reading

The Perplexity in Learning or Knowing

Write about the role of “perplexity” in learning or knowing (80a-d, 84a-c).

To summarize the two selected sections of Plato’s Meno, Meno begins by saying that Socrates has “baffled” him about what being good really means, and that he has “got no idea how to answer the question. And yet, damn it, [he’s] talked about ‘being a good man’ thousands of times” (80b). Then, in the next section, Socrates explains to Meno that baffling his slave by proposing a difficult geometry question was not intended to mistreat or mislead him, but rather guide him to the true answer.

The combination of these two passages leads to the “perplexity” in learning or knowing. In the geometry question, Meno’s slave thought he knew the answer, but with a few simple questions posed by Socrates, he was thrown into confusion and doubted what he previously thought he had known. So by baffling the slave, Socrates helped him realize, what he did not know, thus what he needed to learn.    This is also echoed in Meno’s Paradox, “that it’s impossible to try to find out about anything – either what you know or what you don’t know” (80e). Exemplifying the first part of the paradox, the slave thought he knew the answer so there was no point in trying to find out anything more about the problem at hand. And for the second part of the paradox, before Socrates’ perplexed him with probing questions, he had no idea that there was anything wrong with his answer or there was a different method of obtaining the correct answer. Through perplexity he was able to dismiss what he thought he knew and get out of the paradox to learn the true answer.

I find that most students have a similar experience with the confusion of knowing and learning in science classes, specifically chemistry. In every chemistry class I have taken, the professor teaches students some property or rule that the students are expected to master. Then students fall under the assumption that they know the property and are content with the explanation given of why that property is true. But as students move on to later semesters and more advanced material, they get confused very quickly. I have had professors directly tell the class that a rule we have learned is actually untrue, or that the explanation is not as simple as we thought. This is often perplexing and, more recently, I thought I knew everything there was to know about significant figures, which are essentially rounding rules for numbers. But on my first day of analytical chemistry class, the professor told me the rules I had known from previous classes were false and I was confused so I had to learn how to arrive at the correct answer. In conclusion, chemistry students are constantly thrown into the perplexity of believing they know something, then entering a state of confusion in order to reveal what they do not know, so they learn something new, like Meno’s slave and Socrates.


Works Cited

Plato, Protagoras and Meno, Penguin, 2006. Trans. Beresford.

Into the Void

Throughout the dialogue, Meno and Socrates talk about a certain problem: how can you look for virtue when you don’t know what it is? This paradox is later broadly expanded so it asks, “How can you try to find about something if you don’t know what it is, and if you did happen to come across it, how would you know that it’s the thing you’re looking for if you didn’t know what it was in the beginning?”

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