Meno : Humans Can Become Virtuous Essay, Research Paper
Before reading the Meno I thought I had a clear definition of exactly what virtue meant. Once I read the dialogue I realized that I only have an idea of what virtue and being virtuous means. I definitely think that it has many aspects to it, including moderation, justice, effort, patience, knowledge and being able to live peacefully with others. I believe that virtue is something that everyone has their own meaning for, yet everyone?s meanings go along the same lines. Since virtue is more complex than most parts of life and thought, I do not necessarily believe that virtue could be taught to Meno or anyone else in society for that matter, however I do believe that over time any person has is within themselves to be a virtuous person. I also believe that to become virtuous through life you need willingness, positive examples and many good and bad experiences.
First of all, part of life that one must posses at some point to become virtuous is the will to be a good person. Throughout the Meno, although Meno does give his own ideas of what virtue may be, he does agree with Socrates quite often. This shows that he is open-minded and is willing to learn about what virtue could be and how he can become virtuous, as though Socrates has all the answers. Meno understands that Socrates is a wise man and I am sure Meno feels like he could learn something from him. Meno also discussed the possibilities of what virtue is for quite a while with Socrates but kept on until he ended the conversation, even after having shown frustration with Socrates by comparing him to a broad torpedo fish. Some may say he is not showing willingness by only giving short answers to Socrates? questions. However, I see those short answers more as eagerness to hear more of what Socrates has to say. For example on page 29, Meno and Socrates were discussing the difference between knowledge and true opinion when Socrates speculated that someone with a right onion would succeed as long as his opinion is correct. Here, Meno says ?.. And it makes me wonder Socrates, this being the case, why knowledge is prized far more highly than right onion, and why they are different.? To acknowledge what Meno stated, Socrates asks, ?Do you know why you wonder, or shall I tell you?? And then Meno answers, ?By all means tell me.? To some Meno?s response to Socrates question on page 29 could be interpreted as a quick, sarcastic answer to end the conversation. However I think that it was very sincere and that he really does want to learn from Socrates. Besides, Meno is not arguing with him and refusing to hear what he has to say. Also, the fact that Meno gives so many definitions that contradict each other or are just completely different, such as being able to rule over men or ?justice is virtue,? shows that he really does not know what virtue is. I also feel that the example I just used from page 29 including Meno?s statement ?By all means tell me,? shows that he cares to know what virtue is. I think that since he has been so accepting of Socrates, he can accept what virtue really is and can accept it as part of his life. On page 20 Meno says, ?But Socrates, I should be most pleased to investigate and hear your answer to my original question, whether we should try on the assumption that virtue is something teachable, or is a natural gift, or in whatever way it comes to men.? I think that not only does this show Meno?s interest in learning, but it also and most importantly expresses that he is open to the thought that virtue may just come to a person. He does not seem to think that there is only way it may come, but rather, he is open to many ways.
Secondly, something else Meno needs in his life to become virtuous are good examples set for him and positive support. Socrates uses the lines of a poet by the name of Theognis on page 28 saying, ?Eat and drink with these men and keep their company. Please those whose power is great, for you will learn goodness from the good. If you mingle with bad men you will lose even what wit you posses.? I believe this to be a perfect example saying that associating with good people will lead one to have good examples set for them but associating with people who are bad will not. Also I believe that maybe people could be taught to look inside themselves and bring out the good which could make them more virtuous by acting on their good qualities. Socrates could be the person to teach Meno to look inside himself to bring out the good. Socrates could give Meno great amounts of positive support whereas someone as closed-minded as Anytus would not be good for this.
Experiences, good and bad, are something to learn from. Having these, Meno could become a virtuous man. Bad experiences can teach one lessons and maybe Meno has never had to deal with too many bad experiences that have had anything to do with virtue. But that does not mean he will not face them later in life. On page 9, Socrates says to Meno, ?Because you are forever giving orders in a discussion, as spoiled people do, who behave like tyrants as long as they are young.? Here Socrates has revealed how spoiled Meno has been throughout his life. Spoiled people do not have to take care of things themselves which proves that Meno probably has never really dealt with bad experiences. And to even further support my idea that Meno has yet to deal with hard times, he never goes into stories saying, ?I know this is virtue because?? So we (the readers) have no reason to believe he has dealt with anything terrible or life changing. It is also unfair to conclude that just because he has not yet become virtuous now, he never will because until he dies. There is still the possibility.
Once again, for anyone in society to become virtuous, good examples need to be set for them by family, peers and possibly role models. To begin, children learn the most in life from their parents. We adopt many of their views, habits, personality traits, etc. If they can set a good example, it should not be too hard to reject those ideals as one grows older. Children also pick up a great deal from their friends. So for kids or anyone at any age really, role models are good to have. They can show people how to lead their lives in a more positive manner and show them values. On the other hand, if a kid grows up in an environment where all he sees are drug deals or his father beating his mother, he will see that as acceptable and may go on to do it later in life. But if a child has loving and caring parents that keep their child away from what is bad like these things, then the child will not grow up seeing those things as acceptable. It is also a great idea to be involved in activities that fill one?s schedule and fulfills the mind and body. Some examples of activities include athletics, computers, art, church, clubs and academics. If one were to fill their life doing things they enjoy they will have less time to corrupt themselves or fall into a crowd with negative intentions. For example, I worked over the summer at a homeless shelter. There were a group of men who were involved in this program called Cornerstone. These were men who at some point harmed their lives so badly they ended up with no job, no home and no one to turn to. Many of these men had drugs and alcohol as their downfall. However, not only did they enter the drug and alcohol free homeless shelter, they took part in the group. They meet every night and discuss what happened in their lives to bring them there, what they wish they had done instead of making those mistakes and how they are growing from it to become better people. This is inspiration to the new guys and all the other men in the homeless shelter not involved in the program. They also talk a lot about God and read from the Bible, something they all agree on having tremendous love for. This brings them together and fills their time with something positive. I believe that although these men have made mistakes in their past, they have redeemed themselves and are very virtuous now.
Along with good examples being set, experiences teach lessons to everyone in society. To go back to the men in Cornerstone, they have dealt with a great deal of troubles and they will always have that in their mind as a reminder of what may happen if they make the same mistake as they did before to put them in the shelter. If one?s mistake was becoming a drug addict, he will certainly think twice if someone offers him cocaine. Also, for example, if someone committed a crime, once time lapses that person may really be sorry for what harm they caused. I believe that most people could agree with that, including the United States law, which is why they have punishments such as community service as opposed to jail time for minor offenders. And even for the people who do serve jail time, it is not impossible to become a better person, just like people committed to the underworld after death. On page 24 of the Meno, Socrates brings up a Greek myth involving Persephone, the goddess of the underworld to explain how good people occur. He says
Persephone will return to the sun above the in the ninth year
the souls of those from whom
she will exact punishment for old miseries,
and from these come noble kings,
mighty in strength and greatest in wisdom,
and for the rest of the time men will call them sacred heroes.
Persephone has been punishing people who have done wrong in the underworld for 9 years and now she is bringing them back for another chance at life. In those 9 years those people who have done wrong must have done something to redeem themselves to be given another chance. So those 9 years have given them a chance to think about all the mistakes they made and what they should have done instead and this proves that even if someone has made mistakes, they can learn from them and try harder to make a better decision if given another chance. Not only does it serve as experience, but it also serves as a bad experience and punishment so that one will know better and have some sort of fear instilled in them and will think back onto the punishment when given another chance. And besides people who are sorry for what they have done and redeeming themselves, there are people who do not realize that they have done bad until it has already been done. One may do something to try it out, not knowing that it is harmful and then once something bad happens, then he learns it is bad and will know not to do it again. Either way, that experience will always be in the mind of that person that whatever it is he did was bad and that he should not do it again.
There is no reason that Meno could not become virtuous. There is no reason that anyone cannot become virtuous. Meno may have already been on his way while he was having the dialogue with Socrates. I am sure there is help needed in becoming virtuous such as the will to do it, having positive examples set for you by family and peers and also learning from good and bad experiences. In conclusion I believe that anyone in society, including Meno can be or become virtuous. Irregardless of their past I believe the possibility holds true for everyone.
BibliographyPlato. Meno. Trans. Grube, G.M.A. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett, 1981.