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The Underlying Paradox of Plato’s Meno 80d5-e5

SUZUKI, YUMI (2012) The Underlying Paradox of Plato’s Meno 80d5-e5. Masters thesis, Durham University.

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Meno 80d5-e5 is one of the most well-known passages in the Platonic dialogues. It has traditionally been called ‘Meno’s paradox’ by commentators. Meno asks Socrates, who claims not to know what virtue is at all, how he will inquire into the thing which he does not know at all. Although there have been a considerable number of studies on the interpretation of the passage, there has as yet been no consensus amongst commentators on what paradox the argument presents. There are three main puzzles in the traditional interpretations: (1) why what is regarded as an ‘eristic’ argument by Socrates might be of any philosophical importance: (2) where exactly ‘the paradox’ is situated: (3) whether Socrates’ response disarms ‘the paradox’. My thesis will give clear accounts of these puzzles. Firstly, Socrates’ evaluation of Meno’s question as ‘eristic’ has a two-fold meaning: it is eristic because Meno makes use of two horns of the ready-made eristic argument that one cannot come to know either what he knows or what he does not know, the original technique of the refutation of which appears in the Euthydemus. Then, Meno’s question is eristic also in a deeper sense, because the argument is committed to the denial of ‘knowledge’. Socrates detects this deeper counterargument against the possibility of ‘knowledge’ and attempts to disarm it with the myth of the immortality of the soul. Finally, my main suggestion will be that the question presented by Meno originates with Gorgias’ Περὶ τοῦ μὴ ὄντος ἢ Περὶ φύσεως, a rhetorical challenge to Eleatic epistemology, which demonstrates that it is impossible for human beings to access the truth of reality either through intellect or sense perception. It will be demonstrated that the paradox of Meno 80d5-e5 is in fact concerned with a conflict between Gorgias’ rhetoric and Socratic dialectic.

Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Award:Master of Arts
Keywords:Plato Meno paradox epistemology Gorgias dialectic rhetoric Parmenides Eleatics
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Classics and Ancient History, Department of
Thesis Date:2012
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:06 Jun 2012 14:10

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