Socrates and His Approach to Meno’s Paradox

Experience and knowledge are two very similar in definition but at the same time their immediate differences have such a disparity that there can be no real lines drawn. Both are varying in nature but at the same time their similarities provide a venue for dissecting both meaning’s parallelisms and variations. Is it an innate knowledge that everyone has, or perhaps it is what is taught to our offspring and in it an everlasting trail of information? Meno brings to us a paradox about this subject, and declaring it as Meno’s Paradox. Is it impossible to bring this theory apart however? Socrates has taken on the challenge of Meno’s paradox, driving the differences between experiencing a notion and having a preexisting knowledge of thus.

Socrates spent his life contemplating and dissecting the many paradoxes of life and solving their complexities. However, Meno brings up what appears to be an intractable paradox. How, he asks, can one investigate what one does not know? Which of the things you do not know will you propose as the object of your search? Even if you stumble across it, how will you know it is the thing you did not know? These are all known together to form as Meno’s Paradox. However, is this paradox truly a paradox? Can there be no way to disprove that this paradox is faulty? There is, in fact, a way to find the fallacy in the impossibility of Meno’s Paradox, however to do so, there are a few notions that one must give up to get past the miniscule technicalities that are a slight part of both sides of this argument.

Socrates brings apart, so to speak, Meno’s paradox with a simple geometry question. He asks Meno’s attendant to answer his questions about squares. He asks the boy to do some simple geometry equations and comes to a point where four large squares make up a single square inside of itself using the halves of all the squares together and then using his own knowledge and simply asking a question Socrates teaches the boy something new. But are these assumptions of teaching really something profound that Socrates came up with, or is it failure to realize the fallacy of their own proposals?

Socrates attempts to defeat the paradox of Meno, but does it really? Perhaps it has as Socrates does teach the boy without telling him anything. It is something that the boy has came up on his own, knowing when he was surrounded in the knowledge, then coming upon the answer on his own. Does this defeat Meno’s paradox? I believe it does, but only by a mere technicality. The boy does in fact find the answer when he was surrounded by the information and was not made aware of the knowledge, however, the questions that Socrates asks are very leading and almost telling the boy the answers, but they did not technically teach him anything. This would then fall under the principle of charity, in that some of these technicalities need to be thrown away to gain a better understanding of whatever philosophy and theory is at hand.

Socrates’ point with this geometric question was to prove Meno wrong. But therein is a problem of fallacy. For Socrates asks leading questions. Meno’s Paradox is more focused on non-empirical evidence and knowledge acquisition. Does this however, prove the recollection theory? Perhaps, but one must be under a few assumptions while reading this discussion between Meno’s attendant and Socrates: Socrates didn’t do any teaching and the only way to acquire knowledge is to be taught. The point of the geometry discussion was to prove one thing and one thing alone, that the paradox of Meno’s was not in fact a paradox. However, the crucial assumptions that are needed to keep Socrates’ theory is in itself, a problem. Socrates asks leading questions and gets the boy to notice the diagonals and this leads us to believe that the boy either was taught the mathematical theory of the diagonal cutting through the squares, or that he already knew about the theory, but this leads us to a possible third alternative: reasoning. That is, deducing the (not previously noticed) consequences of what you previously knew. So it is possible that the boy had already knew about the Geometric properties before Socrates had told him about them. Knowing the basic theory behind area and how squares work is essential in understanding how Socrates got the boy to come to his conclusion. Asking the question, “Does not this line from one corner to the other cut each of these figures in two?” is the defining moment and causes the boy to realize what he needed to prove Socrates correct and disbar Meno’s paradox.

The boy knows about squares and how they work, for simplicity’s sake, they will be known as theory 1 and theory 2 and Result. When Socrates asks the boy about theory 1 about squares, he knows about that but does still not know about Result. At this point, it is clear that the boy has no indication of knowing what the resulting answer will be when he is asked about the diagonals. So then Socrates moves on to theory 2. Once he has gotten to this point, he brings forth questions about the diagonals in the squares. At this point, the boy is understanding of Result and we have indication that he understood this knowledge through non-empirical means, and thus disproving Meno’s Paradox. The boy fully understands at this point what Socrates is attempting to prove. Is this what Socrates was after? Is it successful in proving what he had to state and his philosophical needs? It seems to be that Socrates received everything that he was after. He took this understanding and showed Meno that his paradox was not much of a paradox.

Can all of this however be turned into an actual philosophical thought or perhaps it is just another muthos? I believe it is philosophical; it is something that is based more on non-empirical methods and reasoning rather than how a muthos is something of a story. This would not have the ability to be defined as a muthos as this is not paradoxical problem, it is solvable, and Socrates does so with his demonstration with the boy and the geometry. This rules out being a muthos as a way to explain this paradox effectively. Being a muthos makes it so that the effective explanations cannot be so. First, something paradoxical makes it impossible to be a muthos, so since Meno’s Paradox isn’t really a paradox, as Socrates can disprove Meno’s Paradox fairly easily with a simply math problem.

This theory of Meno’s was a good one. It brought to us an insight of knowledge acquisition and how knowledge is used and interred into our memories. What else can be learned is that there is much to be understood by the level of complexity that these paradoxes bring up. It is a show of analyzed philosophical needs and provincial understanding of the problems therein. The conclusions drawn from Meno and Socrates’ bickering can be understood as a fallacy of equivocation. Meno’s Paradox being that of dodging non-empirical evidence and reasoning while Socrates’ theory disproving Meno’s Paradox evasively does not note the lack of prudence selection of words when trying to prove himself correct when asking the young man about the geometric problem. What else can be learned is to allow these little quips to be let go for the better and bigger cause. This, I believe, is the most important lesson to be learned from the entirety of this conflict.

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