The Meno And The Phaedo Essay

2268 Words Nov 14th, 2016 10 Pages
In the Meno and in the Phaedo, Socrates claims that the human soul exists before birth. In the Meno, Socrates makes this claim by claiming that learning is not the discovery of something new, but a recollection of something already known by the soul before we were born, but have only forgotten. Socrates’ claim that knowledge is recollection does not apply to all kinds of knowledge, only to the knowledge of abstract, unchanging entities (i.e., mathematics) that are not subject to the vagaries and mistakes of everyday life. To illustrate his theory, Socrates asks one of Meno’s slave boys to draw a square with sides of two feet, and to calculate how long the side of a square would be if it had twice the area of the one the boy drew. Socrates, through a series of questions, helps the boy realize that a square of twice the area would have sides with a length equal to the diagonal of the present square. Because it appears that the slave boy found the right answer in his own, Socrates argues that the boy must have been recollecting something already known by the boy.

The argument that knowledge is recollection in the Meno is intriguing, but it has several problems. First, it is important to consider whether the slave boy reaches these conclusions completely on his own. On the surface, it appears as though Socrates only prompts the boy through the use of questions, but often these questions seem to contain the right answer couched within the questions. So is the boy really…

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