is to be what we pretend to be.”
And if there are no teachers, there can be no disciples either?
I think that statement is true.
And we have admitted that a thing of which there are neither teachers nor disciples cannot be taught?
So nowhere are any teachers of virtue to be found?
That is so.
And if no teachers, then no disciples?
So it appears.
Hence virtue cannot be taught?
It seems likely, if our investigation is correct. And that makes me wonder, I must say, Socrates, whether perhaps there are no good men at all, or by what possible sort of process good people can come to exist?
I fear, Meno, you and I are but poor creatures, and Gorgias has been as faulty an educator of you as Prodicus of me. So our first duty is to look to ourselves, and try to find somebody who will have some means or other of making us better.
To what are you alluding, Socrates?
I mean that good men must be useful: we were right, were we not, in admitting that
And in thinking that they will be useful if they give us right guidance in conduct: here also, I suppose, our admission was correct?
But our assertion that it is impossible to give right guidance unless one has knowledge looks very like a mistake.
What do you mean by that?
I will tell you. If a man knew the way to Larisa, or any other place you please, and walked there and led others, would he not give right and good guidance?
Well, and a person who had a right opinion as to which was the way, but had never been there and did not really know, might give right guidance, might he not?
And so long, I presume, as he has right opinion about that which the other man really knows, he will be just as good a guide--if he thinks the truth instead of knowing it--as the man who has the knowledge.
Just as good.
Hence true opinion is as good a guide to rightness of action as knowledge; and this is a point we omitted just now in our consideration of the nature of virtue,
So it seems.
Then right opinion is just as useful as knowledge.
With this difference, Socrates, that he who has knowledge will always hit on the right way, whereas he who has right opinion will sometimes do so, but sometimes not.
How do you mean? Will not he who always has right opinion be always right, so long as he opines rightly?
It appears to me that he must; and therefore I wonder, Socrates,
Well, do you know why it is that you wonder, or shall I tell you?
Please tell me.
It is because you have not observed with attention the images of Daedalus. But perhaps there are none in your country.
What is the point of your remark?
That if they are not fastened up they play truant and run away; but, if fastened, they stay where they are.
Well, what of that?
To possess one of his works which is let loose does not count for much in value; it will not stay with you any more than a runaway slave: but when fastened up it is worth a great deal, for his productions are very fine things And to what am I referring in all this? To true opinion. For these, so long as they stay with us, are a fine possession,
Upon my word, Socrates, it seems to be very much as you say.
And indeed I too speak as one who does not know but only conjectures: yet that there is a difference between right opinion and knowledge is not at all a conjecture with me but something I would particularly assert that I knew: there are not many things of which I would say that, but this one, at any rate, I will include among those that I know.
Yes, and you are right, Socrates, in so saying.
Well, then, am I not right also in saying that true opinion leading the way renders the effect of each action as good as knowledge does?
There again, Socrates, I think you speak the truth.
So that right opinion will be no whit inferior to knowledge in worth or usefulness as regards our actions, nor will the man who has right opinion be inferior to him who has knowledge.
That is so.
And you know that the good man has been admitted by us to be useful.
Since then it is not only because of knowledge that men will be good and useful to their country, where such men are to be found, but also on account of right opinion; and since neither of these two things--knowledge 98d] and true opinion--is a natural property of mankind, being acquired--or do you think that either of them is natural?
Then if they are not natural, good people cannot be good by nature either.
Of course not.
And since they are not an effect of nature, we next considered whether virtue can be taught.
And we thought it teachable if virtue is wisdom?
And if teachable, it must be wisdom?
And if there were teachers, it could be taught,
But surely we acknowledged that it had no teachers?
That is true.
Then we acknowledged it neither was taught nor was wisdom?
But yet we admitted it was a good?
And that which guides rightly is useful and good?
And that there are only two things--
Well now, since virtue is not taught, we no longer take it to be knowledge?
So of two good and useful things one has been rejected: knowledge cannot be our guide in political conduct.
I think not.
Therefore it was not by any wisdom, nor because they were wise, that the sort of men we spoke of controlled their states--Themistocles and the rest of them, to whom our friend Anytus was referring a moment ago. For this reason it was that they were unable to make others like unto themselves--because their qualities were not an effect of knowledge.
The case is probably as you say, Socrates.
And if not by knowledge, as the only alternative it must have been by good opinion.
I daresay that is so.
And may we, Meno, rightly call those men divine who, having no understanding, yet succeed in many a great deed and word?
Then we shall be right in calling those divine of whom
And the women too, I presume, Meno, call good men divine; and the Spartans, when they eulogize a good man, say--“He is a divine person.”
And to all appearance, Socrates, they are right; though perhaps our friend Anytus may be annoyed at your statement.
For my part, I care not. As for him, Meno, we will converse with him some other time. At the moment, if through all this discussion our queries and statements have been correct, virtue is found to be neither natural nor taught, but is imparted to us by a divine dispensation without understanding in those who receive it,
Meno, by Plato:
Apology, by Xenophon:
The Trial and Death of Socrates:
Socrates sought a singular virtue for human life. Plato identified four central virtues present in the ideal state or person. Aristotle holds that every moral virtue is the mean between vicious extremes.