In Plato’s Meno, Socrates uses ignorance to prove excellence cannot be taught or even attained by human actions. The process involves Socrates purposefully contradicting himself to entice Meno’s focus. Through Socrates, Plato argues particular criteria cannot determine excellence within a collective. Instead, Socrates asserts excellence must be a universal quality and applicable to all individuals, by comparing the human collective to a bee colony. Socrates purposefully fails to use a universally applicable proof for shapes to define a square. All shapHis ignorance is used to inspire Meno’s review of the argument and develop a correct definition for excellence. For Meno’s benefit, Socrates contradicts his methods of deduction and proves
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Therefore, excellence in human beings must be defined by a single universal definition. As a result, Meno should abandon his distinct definitions of excellence and consider a universal definition. Socratic irony forces Meno to develop his own ideas about the nature of excellence. In the argument, Meno agrees with all of Socrates postulations. This process illustrates how Socrates as a teacher guides Meno’s thoughts and argument without producing an answer. The ability to understand that excellence must be a single universally applicable quality is difficult to grasp without guidance. Socrates is aware of the many characteristics and aspects that shroud the definition of excellence. Like a good teacher, Socrates and his irony force Meno to deal with the complications surrounding a universally accepted definition of excellence. Socratic irony serves to entice Meno to do the work necessary to understand and define excellence. Socrates furthers his Meno’s teaching by contradicting his proof for a square.
Socrates proof for a square does not universally apply to all shapes. Socrates states “round is a shape no less than straight” (Meno, pg 104, ln 74e). Socrates argues “round, straight” are the constituents of “shapes”, like bees constitute a colony. Because there is no difference between bees, there is no difference between shapes. Therefore according to Socrates’ initial argument, the