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meno   

Meno. Can you tell me, Socrates, whether virtue is acquired by

teaching or by practice; or if neither by teaching nor practice,

then whether it comes to man by nature, or in what other way?

Socrates. O Meno, there was a time when the Thessalians were

famous among the other Hellenes only for their riches and their

riding; but now, if I am not mistaken, they are equally famous for

their wisdom, especially at Larisa, which is the native city of your

friend Aristippus. And this is Gorgias' doing; for when he came there,

the flower of the Aleuadae, among them your admirer Aristippus, and

the other chiefs of the Thessalians, fell in love with his wisdom. And

he has taught you the habit of answering questions in a grand and bold

style, which becomes those who know, and is the style in which he

himself answers all comers; and any Hellene who likes may ask him

anything. How different is our lot! my dear Meno. Here at Athens there

is a dearth of the commodity, and all wisdom seems to have emigrated

from us to you. I am certain that if you were to ask any Athenian

whether virtue was natural or acquired, he would laugh in your face,

and say: "Stranger, you have far too good an opinion of me, if you

think that I can answer your question. For I literally do not know

what virtue is, and much less whether it is acquired by teaching or

not." And I myself, Meno, living as I do in this region of poverty, am

as poor as the rest of the world; and I confess with shame that I know

literally nothing about virtue; and when I do not know the "quid" of

anything how can I know the "quale"? How, if I knew nothing at all

of Meno, could I tell if he was fair, or the opposite of fair; rich

and noble, or the reverse of rich and noble? Do you think that I

could?

Men. No, Indeed. But are you in earnest, Socrates, in saying that

you do not know what virtue is? And am I to carry back this report

of you to Thessaly?

Soc. Not only that, my dear boy, but you may say further that I have

never known of any one else who did, in my judgment.

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