Plato’s Meno by Dominic Scott

By Dominic Scott

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Socrates replies: I would tell him the truth. And if my questioner were one of the eristic and contentious types, I would tell him: ‘I’ve given you my answer. ’ But if, like you and me on this occasion, the parties were friends and wanted to have a dialogue with each other, they should answer more gently and ‘dialectically’. The ‘more dialectical’ approach, perhaps, is to answer not just by speaking the truth, but also through things that the person questioned5 first agrees6 he knows. (75c8–d7) 4 5 6 Desjardins (1985: 275) has argued that Socrates’ reference to ‘practice’ (mel”th) in 75a8 picks up one of the options mentioned in Meno’s opening question, that virtue comes by practice (ˆskht»n).

In fact, the word schema has a wide variety of meanings in Plato. One of them is ‘surface’. 16 But this sense of schema is only one of many to be found in his works. g. in dancing,19 and – most importantly for our purposes – surface, or surface appearance. Here is such an occurrence of the word in the Cratylus: The image must not by any means reproduce all the qualities of that which it imitates, if it is to be an image. See if I am not right. Would there be two things, Cratylus and an image of Cratylus, if some god should not merely imitate your colour and schema, as painters do, but should make all the inner parts like yours, should produce the same flexibility and warmth, should put into them motion, life and intellect, such as exist in you, and in short, should place beside you a duplicate of all your qualities?

But this misses the point of the Silenus analogy, where there is a strong contrast between the outer shell and what lies within (cf. Crat. 432b6–7). Furthermore, toÓto in 216d5 refers back to sc¦ma in the previous line, and is to be taken with perib”blhtai. This reinforces the sense of sc¦ma as something that contains a body from the outside. 365b1–c6, trans. Shorey 1930. Schema as surface 41 We should also note a use of schema in the Crito, where Socrates imagines himself having escaped from Athens to Thessaly.

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