30 pages 1 hour read



Nonfiction | Essay / Speech | Adult | BCE

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The Nature of Virtue

Meno, a young and ambitious member of Thessaly’s ruling class, visits Socrates in Athens to hear his views on virtue. As a student of the Sophist philosopher Gorgias, Meno believes that virtue and leadership are synonymous in men, and that women, children, the elderly, and the enslaved have different types of virtue.

Socrates tries to suggest that virtue is essentially the same in all humans, in much the way that “health, and size, and strength” are, in essence, basically the same in each of us (5). Meno concedes that virtue has many attributes, including bravery, wisdom, moderation, and others, but his focus is on the manly virtues of leadership. Meno is born to rule, and he will see action as a ranking officer in an upcoming battle.

Socrates proposes that virtue’s many qualities point to an underlying fundamental that characterizes all instances of virtue. To Meno’s claim that “justice is virtue” (7), Socrates cites the example of someone who insists that an attribute of shapes, roundness, is form. Instead, roundness is a form, and there are others. Likewise, it’s incorrect to say that “whiteness is colour” (9), but it’s correct to assert that whiteness is an example of a color.