Plato's Meno: A Philosophy of Man as Acquisitive

Plato's Meno: A Philosophy of Man as Acquisitive

Plato's Meno: A Philosophy of Man as Acquisitive

Plato's Meno: A Philosophy of Man as Acquisitive

Synopsis

In thesmall world of the Meno,one of the early Platonic Dialogues, often criticized for being ambiguous or inconclusive, or for being a lame and needless concession to popular morals, two distinguished philosophers find a perspective on much of twentieth-century philosophy.

According to Sternfeld and Zyskind, the key to the Meno ' s appeal is in its philosophy of man as acquisitive- in the dialogue's notion of thought and action as a process of acquiring. Themeans of acquiring values and cognitions provides the context in which the mind has most direct contact with them, which grounds common sense generally and ties the dialogue technically to the emphasis on the immediacies of the mind- language, experience, and process- in much of recent philosophy.

Sternfeld and Zyskind proffer Plato's 2,000-year-old philosophy as valid still in competition with other, and more modern, modes of thought, and suggest the need for a major turn in philosophy which can take us beyond its minimal philosophy without distorting the basic values on which the Meno shows man's world to rest, however, precariously, even today.

Excerpt

Eleatic Stranger: When a learner is asked what letters spell a name, . . . is this inquiry for the sake of discovering the correct spelling of the particular name before him or instead is it to make the learner better able to spell all names in the lesson? Young Socrates : Clearly the aim is with regard to them all.

Statesman 285cā€”d

The world of the Meno is a relatively small one, and its concerns pertain to a narrow band in Athenian and Thessalian society.There is, for example, scarcely a hint of interest in the social status of the slave-boy; he merely exhibits a transition from ignorance to right opinion. Unlike the world of the Republic or even the Laws , this world is evidently one in which hearsay instruction, prejudice, and lack of sound family tradition all cut a large figure.But if this world is narrow it is not unduly so, for it has connections with the everyday life of other times and places. Professors Sternfeld and Zyskind make, stress, and then illustrate the point that while Plato is writing about men of Athens and Larisa, he is at the same time using these . . .

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