Impasse, Paradox, and the Myth of Learning by Recollection

Roslyn Weiss

in Virtue in the Cave

Published in print June 2001 | ISBN: 9780195140767
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780199833849 | DOI:
 Impasse, Paradox, and the Myth of Learning by Recollection

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Having failed to produce a satisfactory definition of virtue, Meno suddenly recalls having heard that Socrates is a perplexed man himself who causes perplexity in others. He likens Socrates to a sting ray, an ugly fish that numbs those with whom it comes into contact, and seeks to obstruct the continuation of Socrates’ elenctic examination of him by introducing a paradox that would make both inquiry and verification impossible unless the investigator knows the answer in advance of the investigation. Socrates rejects only the “paradox of inquiry” as eristic, saying nothing about the “paradox of knowing,” recognizing perhaps that in the matter of virtue, answers can indeed not be known because they cannot be definitively verified. In order to encourage Meno to persevere in the inquiry, Socrates has recourse to the myth of learning as recollection – a myth he devises not because he believes it to be true but because he believes it to be salutary.

Keywords: learning as recollection; Meno; myth; paradox of inquiry; paradox of knowing; perplexity; recollection; slave‐boy; Socrates; sting‐ray

Chapter.  14369 words. 

Subjects: Ancient Philosophy

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