Meno

by

Plato

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Shape Symbol Icon

To convince Meno of the importance of crafting accurate definitions, Socrates uses “shape” to symbolize the difference between a concept and a manifestation of that concept. When he asks Meno to define virtue, Meno references a number of qualities that make a person virtuous, but Socrates insists that this is a faulty way of defining an entire idea. To illustrate this point, he turns to the notion of “shape,” saying, “For example, if you wish, take roundness, about which I would say that it is a shape, but not simply that it is shape. I would not speak so of it because there are other shapes.” By saying this, Socrates stresses the fact that “roundness” is simply an example of the concept of shape, not a description of the entire notion of shape itself. In this manner, he proceeds by providing his own definition, ultimately referring to geometrical terms in order to boil his description down to the simplest and least ambiguous possible way of talking about shape. In doing so, he accentuates how important it is when having philosophical discussions to use precise language, effectively allowing the concept of shape to represent Meno’s inability to separate the overall nature of virtue from the many tangible manifestations of virtuousness.

Shape Quotes in Meno

The Meno quotes below all refer to the symbol of Shape. 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: […] Consider this further point: you say that virtue is to be able to rule. Shall we not add to this justly and not unjustly?

MENO: I think so, Socrates, for justice is virtue.

SOCRATES: Is it virtue, Meno, or a virtue? — What do you mean?

SOCRATES: As with anything else. For example, if you wish, take roundness, about which I would say that it is a shape, but not simply that it is shape. I would not so speak of it because there are other shapes.

MENO: You are quite right. So I too say that not only justice is a virtue but there are many other virtues.

Related Characters: Socrates (speaker), Meno (speaker)
Related Symbols: Shape
Page Number: 62
Explanation and Analysis:

What then is this to which the name shape applies? Try to tell me. If then you answered the man who was questioning about shape or color: “I do not understand what you want, my man, nor what you mean,” he would probably wonder and say: “You do not understand that I am seeking that which is the same in all these cases?” Would you still have nothing to say, Meno, if one asked you: “What is this which applies to the round and the straight and the other things which you call shapes and which is the same in them all?” Try to say, that you may practice for your answer about virtue.

Related Characters: Socrates (speaker), Meno
Related Symbols: Shape
Page Number: 64
Explanation and Analysis:
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Meno PDF

Shape Symbol Timeline in Meno

The timeline below shows where the symbol Shape appears in Meno. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Meno
Language, Rhetoric, and Reasoning Theme Icon
Virtue, Ignorance, and Knowledge Theme Icon
...he directs his friend’s attention to the concept of “roundness,” saying that “roundness” is “a shape,” but not something that defines the concept of shape itself. “I would not speak so... (full context)
Language, Rhetoric, and Reasoning Theme Icon
Virtue, Ignorance, and Knowledge Theme Icon
Socrates points out that, like the fact that “roundness” is a shape but doesn’t define the entire concept of shape, white is a color but doesn’t explain... (full context)
Language, Rhetoric, and Reasoning Theme Icon
Virtue, Ignorance, and Knowledge Theme Icon
To define shape, Socrates says, “Let us say that shape is that which alone of existing things always... (full context)
Teaching, Learning, and Intellectual Inquiry Theme Icon
Language, Rhetoric, and Reasoning Theme Icon
Virtue, Ignorance, and Knowledge Theme Icon
Satisfied with Socrates’s definition of shape, Meno asks him to define color, which he does in an equally simplistic way, reducing... (full context)