30 pages 1 hour read



Nonfiction | Essay / Speech | Adult | BCE

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Essay Analysis

Analysis: “Meno”

Meno contains many thought-provoking ideas, and much of its dialog has multiple meanings. It’s best understood on two main levels: as a philosophical discussion about virtue, and as a political discussion about the best path for the city-state of Athens in 402 BCE. The philosophical dialog is overt and explicit, but within it lies Socrates’s implicit critique of the current leadership of Athens.

Socrates manages this double meaning in his responses to Meno’s questions. Meno is just starting out on a career as a Greek political and military leader, but his queries about virtue suggest he’s more interested in appearing virtuous than actually being virtuous. Socrates’s questions and comments contain veiled criticisms, not only of Meno’s attitudes, but of those of local politicians.

The virtue that Socrates and Meno discuss is, in ancient Greek, “arete” (pronounced “ah-reh-TEY” or “ah-reh-TEE”), which means excellence—or, in the case of morality, good conduct. Thus, they’re talking about excellence in behavior, which has a slightly different meaning than simply being morally good. Virtue, in this sense, includes its public evidence, such as the wealth and social prominence that might accrue to someone whose behavior is considered by his fellow citizens to be virtuous.