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a child; there is a virtue of every age and state of
life, all of which may be easily described.’
Socrates reminds Meno that this is only an enu-
meration of the virtues and not a definition of
the notion which is common to them all. In a
second attempt Meno defines virtue to be ‘the
power of command.’ But to this, again, excep-
tions are taken. For there must be a virtue of
those who obey, as well as of those who command;
and the power of command must be justly or not
unjustly exercised. Meno is very ready to admit
that justice is virtue: ‘Would you say virtue or a
virtue, for there are other virtues, such as cour-
age, temperance, and the like; just as round is a
figure, and black and white are colours, and yet
there are other figures and other colours. Let
Meno take the examples of figure and colour, and
try to define them.’ Meno confesses his inabil-
ity, and after a process of interrogation, in which
Socrates explains to him the nature of a ‘simile
in multis,’ Socrates himself defines figure as
by Plato
Translated by Benjamin Jowett
THIS DIALOGUE BEGINS abruptly with a question of
Meno, who asks, ‘whether virtue can be taught.’
Socrates replies that he does not as yet know
what virtue is, and has never known anyone who
did. ‘Then he cannot have met Gorgias when he
was at Athens.’ Yes, Socrates had met him, but
he has a bad memory, and has forgotten what
Gorgias said. Will Meno tell him his own notion,
which is probably not very different from that of
Gorgias? ‘O yes—nothing easier: there is the vir-
tue of a man, of a woman, of an old man, and of
ranslated by Benjamin Jowett