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Plato's Meno and the Possibility of Inquiry in the Absence of Knowledge

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In Meno 80d5-e5, we find two sets of objections concerning the possibility of inquiry in the absence of knowledge: the so-called and the This essay first shows that the eristic argument is not simply a restatement of Meno's paradox, but instead an objection of a completely different kind: Meno's paradox concerns not inquiry as such, but rather Socrates' inquiry into virtue as is pursued in the first part of the Meno, whereas the eristic argument indicates a manner in which Meno's paradox can be generalized. This implies that they cannot be resolved by the same argument. It is then argued that the theory of recollection, as presented in Socrates' experiment with the slave, cannot resolve Meno's paradox, its target being only the eristic argument. Only the hypothetical method of inquiry is the effective answer to Meno's paradox. Finally, this essay contends that, contrary to what the text might suggest, Socrates, by introducing the hypothetical method, does not abandon his principle that knowing what something is precedes knowing what something is like.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 1999

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