In Plato's Meno, it is talked about how knowledge is neither gained nor searched for. I am confused on this particular question. What does is entail?

  • Are you sure about it ? Socrates asserts that he do not know what virtue is, he is not able to give a satisfying definition of virtue. He asserts : ‘If I don’t know what something is, how would I know what it’s like?’ We can read it as a contraposition to the Sophists who promoted themselves as "teachers". Commented Mar 18, 2018 at 14:13
  • @MauroALLEGRANZA Explain what you mean by "If I don't know what something is, how woul dI know what it was like?"
    – wardialer
    Commented Mar 18, 2018 at 14:27
  • Plato's Meno, 71b3 : "And I myself, Meno, [...] have to reproach myself with an utter ignorance about virtue; and if I do not know what a thing is, how can I know what its nature may be?" Commented Mar 18, 2018 at 14:31
  • @MauroALLEGRANZA Ok. I think I understand, thank you.
    – wardialer
    Commented Mar 18, 2018 at 14:36
  • You can see also Plato's Meno as well as some commentary: Dominic Scott, Plato's Meno, Cambridge University Press (2005). Commented Mar 18, 2018 at 14:47

1 Answer 1


It entails that acccording to Socrates - the Platonic Socrates - thinks there is another source knowledge. So, what is it ? ('Platonic Socrates' because here and elsewhere we can't be sure how far the views of the historical Socrates are represented.)


Because, as you put it, the view emerges in the Meno that knowledge can be neither gained nor searched for, it not follow that the possession of knowledge is impossible. Quite the opposite. In the dialogue Socrates elicits from a slave boy the right answers to certain geometrical questions : e.g that if the side of a square is two feet, the size of the figure is four square feet, and the questions delve into much further complications. The slave boy sometimes hesitates, sometimes gets things wrong, but without (it is claimed) any instruction from Socrates he is eventually able to prove Pythagoras' Theorem.

Then he has knowledge. He did not seek it. He did not gain it from Socrates (or supposedly so - it's an open question how much knowledge is implicitly imparted by Socrates' questioning). He gained it, so Socrates hypothesises (81a-82b), by recollection (anamnesis). If the boy has geometrical knowledge, he has not acquired it in his present life; he must be recollecting from a past existence.

Perhaps not the most cogent of Socrates hypotheses but there it is. I hope this eases your puzzlement.


Scott, Dominic, Recollection and Experience: Plato s Theory of Learning and its Successors, ISBN 10: 0521030919 / ISBN 13: 9780521030915 Published by CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY PRESS, United Kingdom, 2007.

Klein, Jacob, A Commentary on Plato's Meno, Published by University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, 1965.

The Oxford World's Classics and Penguin translations of the Meno have interesting commentaries on recollection.

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