Meno

by

Plato

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Meno’s Slave Character Analysis

A young man who serves as Meno’s slave and who has spent his entire life with Meno’s family. While Socrates and Meno discuss the nature of virtue, this young man stands by and watches. At one point, Socrates calls him over and asks if he knows anything about geometry. When the slave says he doesn’t, Socrates proceeds by asking him a number of questions about a collection of squares he draws in the sand. Slowly but surely, Meno’s slave successfully answers these questions, thereby proving Socrates’s point that a person can “recollect” knowledge that his soul has already acquired. When the slave eventually becomes confused about a certain question, Socrates points out that he is in a better position than he was before the conversation began, since at least now the young man is aware of that which he does not know. Going on, Socrates then helps him answer this difficult question, though he never tells the slave anything. In this way, it becomes clear that teachers are important figures as long as they help coax out the intellectual abilities that a person already possesses.

Meno’s Slave Quotes in Meno

The Meno quotes below are all either spoken by Meno’s Slave or refer to Meno’s Slave. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Teaching, Learning, and Intellectual Inquiry Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Hackett edition of Meno published in 2002.
Meno Quotes

SOCRATES: You realize, Meno, what point he has reached in his recollection. At first he did not know what the basic line of the eight-foot square was; even now he does not yet know, but then he thought he knew, and answered confidently as if he did know, and he did not think himself at a loss, but now he does think himself at a loss, and as he does not know, neither does he think he knows.

MENO: That is true.

SOCRATES: So he is now in a better position with regard to the matter he does not know?

Related Characters: Socrates (speaker), Meno (speaker), Meno’s Slave
Related Symbols: The Squares
Page Number: 75
Explanation and Analysis:

SOCRATES: What do you think, Meno? Has he, in his answers, expressed any opinion that was not his own?

MENO: No, they were all his own.

SOCRATES: And yet, as we said a short time ago, he did not know? — That is true.

SOCRATES: So these opinions were in him, were they not? — Yes.

SOCRATES: So the man who does not know has within himself true opinions about the things that he does not know? — So it appears.

SOCRATES: These opinions have now just been stirred up like a dream, but if he were repeatedly asked about these same things in various ways, you know that in the end his knowledge about these things would be as accurate as anyone’s.

Related Characters: Socrates (speaker), Meno (speaker), Meno’s Slave
Related Symbols: The Squares
Page Number: 77
Explanation and Analysis:
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Meno PDF

Meno’s Slave Character Timeline in Meno

The timeline below shows where the character Meno’s Slave appears in Meno. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Meno
Teaching, Learning, and Intellectual Inquiry Theme Icon
Virtue, Ignorance, and Knowledge Theme Icon
To prove that “learning is recollection,” Socrates turns to Meno’s slave , a young man who has never been taught geometry. Drawing squares on the ground,... (full context)
Teaching, Learning, and Intellectual Inquiry Theme Icon
Virtue, Ignorance, and Knowledge Theme Icon
During the geometry lesson, Socrates asks Meno’s slave a question the young man thinks he can answer, but as their conversation continues, he... (full context)
Teaching, Learning, and Intellectual Inquiry Theme Icon
Language, Rhetoric, and Reasoning Theme Icon
Virtue, Ignorance, and Knowledge Theme Icon
Having established that Meno’s slave has “benefited from being numbed,” Socrates tells Meno to observe how he brings the young... (full context)