Plato presents Socrates' views regarding the question whether virtue can be defined as knowledge. Socrates presents many arguments in this dialogue on virtue. These arguments concern how virtue is defined and whether it can be acquired. He considers the various ways in which virtue can become a reality. This includes whether one is born with virtue, whether it can or cannot be taught and what other factors are involved in virtues that people have. I will be focusing on the question whether virtue can ever be taught. Plato replied that virtue could not be taught. In this essay, I suggest that Plato could have approached the question differently. This would have likely given him a completely different answer. I argue that Plato might have been better off asking whether virtue can actually be learned than whether virtue can ever be taught.
Meno starts the Meno by asking Socrates if virtue can be taught. The argument moves on to the next question, which is knowledge. Meno suggested an interesting paradox. You can never learn anything new. This means that if one does't already know what virtue is, he can't search for it. Socrates offers a solution that is based on the Pythagorean view about the immortal soul. This view holds that the soul is immortal and can be reincarnated after the physical body has died. While it seems impossible to acquire new knowledge, it is evident that we are constantly learning. It can be concluded that learning must be about recollection and knowledge from past lives. This means that teaching is not possible, but remembering is.
He demonstrated in the Meno with a young, uninformed slave boy. The young boy was surprised to learn that he knew some mathematical theorems.
Meno again questions his original question. It is about whether virtue can be learned or acquired by natural means. Socrates accepts that they can proceed, but insists that they need to agree on a common ground as neither can determine what virtue is at this stage. Meno then agrees that virtue can only be taught if it's not knowledge. He emphasizes that teaching something is possible only if the student knows what it means. A person who does not know how to drive cars is unlikely to be able teach others how to. Meno and Socrates both agree that it is impossible to teach someone how to drive a car if they don't know what virtue means.
Socrates asserts that virtue can only be taught if one is able to understand not only the people who teach it, but also those who learn from it (Plato 1997,96c). Socrates says that horsesmanship, medicine and so on are taught by teachers. They do exist, and everyone recognizes them as true teachers. However, people aren't sure if the Sophists actually teach virtue. Thucydides' two sons were not considered to be virtuous, according to Socrates. Thucydides is believed to have educated his children in many areas, but it appears that he was unable to find a teacher of virtue, even though there were teachers who taught him other aspects of life. He was also known for being virtuous but he couldn't teach it. It seems that virtue is not a form of knowledge. Knowledge is only possible if someone can teach others. Socrates concluded that virtue is not something that can be taught and that there is no way to acquire it. "We are shown that virtue essay is coming to us by divine dispensation whenever it comes," (reference?
Plato could have asked different questions and received a different response, in my opinion. Plato could have asked if virtue could be learned rather than whether it could be taught. I am referring to the fact that to ask if someone can teach something, one must first ask if they are students and teachers. To ask a teacher if I was taught to use geometry, is it to ask a teacher? Instead of asking whether I learned the subject, you can ask if it was taught to you by a teacher, or whether I learned it from a book.
There are many forms of learning. You don't necessarily need to be a teacher to learn. One example is that learning can be achieved by studying people with virtue, although the latter might not be aware. One man may learn virtue from his teachers, but the teachers may not even be present. Experience is another way to learn. Personal experience can teach virtue. The "teacher" in this case would include both the life experiences of the learner and their reflective nature. There's another way to learn. It doesn't matter how much he explains or what he actually knows. A man can still learn. One example is when someone has gone through a problem in his own life and can see that another relative is experiencing the same thing. Although he knows it, he can't explain how he knew it. Another example would be musicians and painters who are skilled in their art but struggle to explain how they learned it.
Therefore, the question of virtue being taught is more difficult and narrower than that of virtue being learned. Plato is correct in stating that virtue cannot taught. Many people are able to recite virtue rules (such as 'be compassionate' and 'honesty') but struggle to put them into action. In this sense, virtue is not something that can be taught. As mentioned above, the ability to be virtuous can be likened to the ability to sing, which is in some ways instinctual. For example, one could argue that being able to tell when a friend needs help is a matter instinctual or of judgment.
It is important to remember that virtue can be learned, even though it cannot be taught. Plato suggests that virtue is born. To a degree, this is true. Some people are born with extraordinary virtues, such as compassion and empathy. They have been born. Some people seem to be born without a moral conscience. Virtue cannot exist if there isn't one. This doesn't mean virtue can't be learned.
We understand the fact that you can teach how to be virtuous, but struggle to practice virtue in practice. The converse is also possible. People can learn to better understand virtue and become more virtuous. Their views on how to behave in a virtuous fashion may change as they age. Plato could have had a better answer to his question if he had asked whether virtue is learned or taught.
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