Question: What role does recollection theory play in Plato's response to Menon's paradox?
Enrique Gomez ∙ 8 min de lectura
Fully responding the question
Theory of recollection plays a very important role in Meno’s dialogue because it is a way of explai-ning and clarifying part of Plato’s epistemology based on the paradox that is raised during the dia-logue. In this paper I will pretend to explain it , although many people can disagree with it , my view is that without Plato’s epistemology it wouldn’t be possible to have further ideas in which for ex-ample, Aristotle bases part of his epistemology, which contradicts some of Plato’s. Although we do not have answers to define all the concepts from the inteligible world , it is possible to carry them out to try to improve our life. In the end, sometimes it is necessary to see an object from the sensitive perspective first, in order to know how the perfect form of it is.
I will pretend to:
II-1 Explain Meno’s dialogue
II-2 Analyse main ideas from Meno’s dialogue and focus on the paradox of recollection
II-3 Give a brief introduction to Plato and pretend to explain part of his epistemology based on the dialogue
II-4 Give a brief introduction to Aristotle and explain part of his epistemology
II-5 Complement Plato’s ideas based on Aristotle’s epistemology
III-I will give a conclusion based on the correlation of ideas and explain why it is relevant now a days
now a days
III-2-Finally I will include my opinion
II-1. Meno’s dialogue
Meno is a dialogue written by Plato, that starts with a transcendental question made by Meno to Socrates, “Can virtue be taught?”. Socrates replies that he cannot answer that because he does not know what virtue is and how is he going to know if something is teachable if he does not know what it is. Meno answers that he knows, so he immediately starts giving examples of virtue, saying that virtue is relative depending on the person, and the specific role they play, to which Socrates replied that he is just making a singular into plural, so they were losing focus on what virtue is per-se. Meno comes out with the statement that it is the desire of the good and achieving it. Socrates replies saying that everyone desires the good and no one desires evil and not all the ways of getting the good are legitimate. Socrates suggests to try to define what virtue is in its essential nature.
Meno came with this argument (80d):
“Why, on what lines will you look, Socrates, for a thing of whose nature you know nothing at all? Pray, what sort of thing, amongst those that you know not, will you treat us to as the object of your search? Or even supposing, at the best, that you hit upon it, how will you know it is the thing you did not know?”
Now does it seem to you to be a good argument, Socrates?
It does not.
Can you explain how not?
I can; for I have heard from wise men and women who told of things divine that—
What was it they said?
Something true, as I thought, and admirable.
What was it? And who were the speakers?
They were certain priests and priestesses who have studied so as to be able to give a reasoned account of their ministry; and Pindar also(81b) and many another poet of heavenly gifts. As to their words, they are these: mark now, if you judge them to be true. They say that the soul of man is immortal, and at one time comes to an end, which is called dying, and at another is born again, but
never perishes. Consequently one ought to live all one's life in the utmost holiness.“For from whom-soever Persephone shall accept requital for ancient wrong,1 the souls of these she restores in the ninth year to the upper sun again; from them arise” “glorious kings and men of splendid might and surpas-sing wisdom, and for all remaining time are they called holy heroes amongst mankind”.
Seeing then that the soul is immortal and has been born many times, and has beheld all things both in this world and in the nether realms, she has acquired knowledge of all and everything; so that it is no wonder that she should be able to recollect all that she knew before about virtue and other things.
To be more clear, Socrates explains to Meno through a proof, telling a slave without studies to make a square and double the area of a given square, after, he proves that the square of the diagonal is twice the area. At the beginning, the slave fails, but Socrates continues asking more questions until he succeeds. (full text from 82a to 82e)
According to Plato, this was remembrance of the ideas that each human being possesses in an innate way in the soul. Knowledge is not found in the external world, but is internally located, this is known as “Recollection Theory”
II-3.1. Plato’s Epistemology Based on the dialogue and an Intro to him
This theory affirms that the soul of the human being is immortal and knows the truth before entering the body. This is why man gradually remembers what the soul already knew when it inhabited the world of ideas, but which the soul, already being in the human body, buries in the depths of being the knowledge, which is gradually remembered with the physical realities (objects) of the sensible world. For Plato the world seems flawed to our senses and perceptions, the only way to perceive the reality is through reason, he divided the world in two, the inteligible and sensitive world proposing that the first is based on perfect forms and the second one are shadows.
A fundamental distinction in Plato's philosophy is between 3 things:
The many observable objects that appear beautiful (good, just, unified, equal, big) and
the one object that is what beauty really is, (goodness, justice, unity) and the
Forms which those many beautiful (good, just, unified, equal, big) things receive their names and their corresponding characteristics.
Almost all his dialogues procede in this way, and if we understand this essential structure we would be able to understand his epistemology easier.
Plato came from a high social status, considered one of the most powerful and most influential in the history of philosophy.
Philosophy as it is often conceived (a rigorous and systematic examination of ethical, metaphysical and logical questions developed by a structured method of formal logic) is considered his invention.
II-4. Intro to Aristotle and his Epistemology
Aristotle is considered not just a philosopher but also a scientific, he is characterised for being an ent-husiastic student from his predecessors. His posture is based on a synthesis of the best characteristics of previous thinkers.
Part of his epistemology is based on the sensitive world. Exploring and experimenting with the physi-cal objects that exist in the world, starting from matter to ideas. For Aristotle there exists this concept that it is called Endoxa that consists in the connection between senses and mind where mind lets us make logic, but is difficult to negate that senses teach us something. In other words we can say that Endoxa nowadays could be a credible belief or a reputable opinion where we can also learn from it.
II-5. Complement Plato’s ideas based on Aristotle’s epistemology
Although Plato starts his theory of knowledge from a deduction perspective where you start from the perfect forms (ideas) to the sensitive world (matter), Aristotle proposes an induction perspective where we need to focus our thinking starting form the sensitive world exploring the objects through empirical, then, that will take us to the ideas.
III-1.2. Conclusion and Opinion
Theory of Recollection plays a very important role in Meno’s dialogue because it is a way to explain and clarify part of Plato’s epistemology based on the paradox that is raised during the dialogue.This dialogue is just a part of all Plato’s work that can give us a better understanding of his philosophy.
Also, it demonstrates how important it is to study our previous thinkers and understand them properly so that we can have a base to add more ideas and transform our own, as Aristotle did.
Based on these different ways of thinking it is so interesting, even if Aristotle used to be Plato’s stu-dent, he proposes other ways of thinking about the perfect forms saying that it is not necessary to di-vide the Inteligible and Sensitive but that both are together in the world that we can observe.
If Plato would not have presented his epistemology probably Aristotle would not have given an op-posite approach to complement his ideas, but also if Aristotle would not have considered his prede-cessors he would not have had that great job for which he is recognised and great ways of thinking perhaps would not have emerged after; as the ideas of Hegel with the Dialectical Materialism where perhaps Marx wouldn’t have come with the Historical Materialism, or probably Einstein saying that we need to know what quantum mechanics is, when Niels Bohr proposes that it doesn’t matter if we know and that instead we should use it. These are just references pointing out that if we analyse in retrospective the friction of different ideas, it can make us question the way we think and push us to probably change an idea and modify our mindset or at least be open to considering the opposition and afterwards have a better criteria of how we think and keep progressing with new ideas to improve our knowledge.
The Dialogues of Plato (428/27 - 348/47 BCE) Translated by Benjamin Jowett 21 Meno p. 883.
Stanford Encyclopedia of philosophy from the Fall 2017 Edition.
IDPH www.idph.net The Republic Plato Introduction, book V and VI.
Shields, C. (2020) "Aristotle", Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
G.W.F Hegel phenomenology of spirit translated by A.V Miller with Analysis of text and Foreword by J.N Findlay F.B.A Oxford University Press . Foreword.
Marx , Lenin and The Science of Revolution .by Max Eastman, Routledge Library Edition 2017.