I am in the very lowest level philosophy class there is, and I am absolutely loving it! The book "Beyond Socrates" is our text book, but we are not required to write anything, just discus in class. I decided to try to put my (probably incorrect) interpretation to paper, in order to practice writing but to also help myself with analysis. This is my analysis. Please bear with my writing, I am just now trying to sharpen my skills!
Realizing that his compatriot is not quite up to the challenge of being challenged, Socrates summons forth something even the feeble minded Meno can grasp. Simple dogma in the form of “the myth of recollection.” Upon realizing that he was losing his grasp on Meno’s limited attention and ability, and most likely the completion and answer to his original inquiry, he quickly downgrades his line of questioning in order to procure another proverbial nail with which he will eventually be crucified with. All of this amounts to an exercise in logical thinking, where the question itself is ancillary to the answer. The meat of the argument is simply about the need to continue questioning reality when one will never truly know all of the answers.
“If the truth about reality is already in our soul, we must take courage, and try to recollect what one does not happen to know or recollect at the moment,” states Socrates to Meno, a man who believes that if a person does not know what they are looking for, they obviously can never find it because they know not for which they seek. This is a sharp contrast to Meno’s line of thought, but allows for a backdoor approach to breach the subject with new light. Simply stated, Socrates explains that our immortal souls exist in a sort of holographic universe, in which all of the knowledge knowable by man may be “recalled” by simply exploring the mind in order to unlock the hidden, but known, knowledge. Given the limitations of my true understanding of Greek non-linear time, this myth provides more problems than it answers. And this, I believe, is the purpose of Socrates bringing it to light. If we already know everything there can be known, and all we need to do is push our minds to rediscover that which it already knows, then excursions into deep thought are pointless and without merit. This opens up a realm in which a man can easily state that he need not question the core of reality or his being, as he already knows it, and therefore need not question it. Circular logic for lazy poseur philosophers. Again, I am forced to state that none of this is really what the questioning is about. Socrates knows the answer already to the original question of whether a man may be taught virtue, or if it is not a form of knowledge and something else. Everything is subjective, including good and evil, virtue and sin, good jazz and Kenny G. Nobody can teach something that is subjective in a true fashion because it is based on opinion.
In an attempt to flesh out that which has already been stated, it is quite obvious that Socrates does not prescribe to the myth of which he speaks. Nor does he believe in the question of whether a man may be taught virtue. However, a few examples are in order to point out a few blatant holes in the recollection myth. Heuristic approaches to all things prove that one can not only look for that which he does not know he is looking for, but that new information is available. When one applies heuristic approaches to data mining in multi layered formats such as geographic information systems, one can miss the forest for the trees until the next layer of data is applied. Suddenly, and without pretense, new knowledge appears. Knowledge that did not exist until that dataset was merged with other, non-related datasets. A quick example is anecdotal, but useful: Using GIS technology, a researcher discovered, quite by accident, that biocultural diversity has a direct correlation on the number of languages spoken by endemic human populations. This means that the denser the range of species of plants and animals in area, the more diverse the languages spoken by the local human population. This correlation was stumbled upon, but verified several times (Stepp, Cervone, Castanda, Lasseter, Stocks and Gichon http://wiki.bioculturaldiversity.eu/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/Stepp-et-al-2004-BCD-and-GIS.pdf) with success. Emergence! The very bane of recollection, for it denies it a possible place in the universe. While there is no question that genetic information is passed down on many levels, true information is not.
It is my contention that Socrates knows that not only is virtue a concept and nothing else, but that his own line of questioning and apparent reasoning are allowed elasticity in order to expound on the nature of being, especially when dealing with an idiot. It seems obvious to me that this conversation is a lesson, for Socrates receives less than subtle threat from Anytus, foreshadowing the problems that those who ask questions may deal with: persecution and possible death by herbs. Thinking may get you killed, but it is the only thing that defines a man. What is life without thought? Fox News.
(Ok, that last line was over the top. I apologize, I’m still angry that I could not find my original paper. If you’d like, I’d be more than happy to rewrite this.)