ACP Philosophy of The Human Person the Meaning of Virtue Discussion

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In the first part of the Meno, Socrates is very interested in hearing a definition of virtue, but Meno is unable to provide him with one that withstands careful examination.

There is, however, one promising possibility that arises during the discussion, but is not pursued.

In a discussion that covers lines 73a-e, Socrates quite pointedly suggests to Meno that “all human beings are good in the same way, for they become good by acquiring the same qualities” (73c), namely moderation and justice. Meno doesn’t quite recognize the potential for this to be the definition he is looking for, but instead repeats—at Socrates’ prompting, Gorgias’ definition “to be able to rule” (73d), which turns out, once again, to lack a clear specification of what would make ruling good, namely justice. Once again, we seem close to making some progress, since Meno says, when reminded of this, that “justice is virtue” (73d)—but then, when Socrates asks him to clarify, he retreats and says that “not only is justice a virtue but there are many other virtues” (73e). And the moment is lost.


Consider the other possibility, that justice and moderation are the distinguishing features of all human goodness. Thinking about the way that Socrates has explained what he is looking for in a definition of virtue, do you think this formulation could form the basis for an acceptable definition? Would it, in other words, do the job of saying how virtues, as Socrates says in his example of bees, “are all the same and do not differ from one another” (72b). Why or why not?

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