translated by Benjamin Jowett
PERSONS OF THE DIALOGUE MENO; SOCRATES; A
SLAVE OF MENO;
Meno. Can you tell me, Socrates, whether virtue is acquired
by teaching or by practice; or if neither by teaching nor
practice, then whether it comes to man by nature, or in what
Socrates. O Meno, there was a time when the Thessalians
were famous among the other Hellenes only for their riches
and their riding; but now, if I am not mistaken, they are
equally famous for their wisdom, especially at Larisa, which is
the native city of your friend Aristippus. And this is Gorgias'
doing; for when he came there, the flower of the Aleuadae,
among them your admirer Aristippus, and the other chiefs of
the Thessalians, fell in love with his wisdom. And he has
taught you the habit of answering questions in a grand and
bold style, which becomes those who know, and is the style in
which he himself answers all comers; and any Hellene who
likes may ask him anything. How different is our lot! my dear
Meno. Here at Athens there is a dearth of the commodity, and
all wisdom seems to have emigrated from us to you. I am
certain that if you were to ask any Athenian whether virtue
was natural or acquired, he would laugh in your face, and say:
"Stranger, you have far too good an opinion of me, if you
think that I can answer your question. For I literally do not
know what virtue is, and much less whether it is acquired by
teaching or not." And I
myself, Meno, living as I do in this
region of poverty, am as poor as the rest of the world; and I
confess with shame that I know literally nothing about virtue;
and when I do not know the "quid" of anything how can I
know the "quale"? How, if I knew nothing at all of Meno,
could I tell if he was fair, or the opposite of fair; rich and
noble, or the reverse of rich and noble? Do you think that I
Men. No, Indeed. But are you in earnest, Socrates, in saying
that you do not know what virtue is? And am I to carry back
of you to Thessaly?
Soc. Not only that, my dear boy, but you may say further that
I have never known of any one else who did, in my judgment.
Men. Then you have never met Gorgias when he was at
Soc. Yes, I have.
Men. And did you not think that he knew?
Soc. I have not a good memory, Meno, and therefore I cannot
now tell what I thought of him at the time. And I dare say that
he did know, and that you know what he said: please,
therefore, to remind me of what he said; or, if you would
rather, tell me your own view; for I suspect that you and he
think much alike.
Men. Very true.
With what question does the Meno begin?
Thessalians were famous for what?
What does Socrates claim about virtue?
What kind of influence has Gorgias had on Meno and