Meno - Menos Paradox I. II. III. IV. A Puzzle about...

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Meno’s Paradox I. A Puzzle about Definitions Socrates has told us he knows how to reject faulty definitions. But how does he know when he has succeeded in finding the right definition? Meno raises an objection to the entire definitional search in the form of (what has been called) “Meno’s Paradox,” or “The Paradox of Inquiry” ( Meno 80d-e). The argument can be shown to be sophistical, but Plato took it very seriously. This is obvious, since his response to it is to grant its central claim: that you can’t come to know something that you didn’t already know. That is, that inquiry never produces new knowledge, but only recapitulates things already known. This leads to the famous Doctrine of Recollection. II. An Objection to Inquiry A. The argument known as “Meno’s Paradox” can be reformulated as follows: A.1. If you know what you’re looking for, inquiry is unnecessary. A.2. If you don’t know what you’re looking for, inquiry is impossible. A.3. Therefore, inquiry is either unnecessary or impossible. B. An implicit premise: Either you know what you’re looking for or you don’t know what you’re looking for. And this is a logical truth. Or is it? Only if “you know what you’re looking for” is used unambiguously in both disjuncts. III. The Ambiguity Suppose Tom wants to go to the party, but he doesn't know what time it begins. Furthermore, he doesn't even know anyone who does know. So he asks Bill, who doesn't know when the party begins, but he does know that Mary knows. So Bill tells Tom that Mary knows when the party begins. Now Tom knows something, too—that Mary knows when the party begins. So Tom knows what Mary knows (he knows that she knows when the party begins). Now consider the following argument: A. Tom knows what Mary knows. B. What Mary knows is that the party begins at 9 pm. C. What Mary knows = that the party begins at 9 pm. D. Therefore, Tom knows that the party begins at 9 pm. What is wrong with this argument? It commits the fallacy of equivocation . In (A), “what Mary knows” means what
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This note was uploaded on 11/26/2011 for the course PHILOSOPHY 101 taught by Professor Buechner during the Fall '06 term at Rutgers.

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Meno - Menos Paradox I. II. III. IV. A Puzzle about...

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