Read Protagoras/Meno by Plato Adam Beresford Lesley Brown Online


Exploring the question of what exactly makes good people good, Protagoras and Meno are two of the most enjoyable and accessible of all of Plato's dialogues. Widely regarded as his finest dramatic work, the Protagoras, set during the golden age of Pericles, pits a youthful Socrates against the revered sophist Protagoras, whose brilliance and humanity make him one the most iExploring the question of what exactly makes good people good, Protagoras and Meno are two of the most enjoyable and accessible of all of Plato's dialogues. Widely regarded as his finest dramatic work, the Protagoras, set during the golden age of Pericles, pits a youthful Socrates against the revered sophist Protagoras, whose brilliance and humanity make him one the most interesting and likeable of Socrates' philosophical opponents, and turns their encounter into a genuine and lively battle of minds. The Meno sees an older but ever ironic Socrates humbling a proud young aristocrat as they search for a clear understanding of what it is to be a good man, and setting out the startling idea that all human learning may be the recovery of knowledge already possessed by our immortal souls....

Title : Protagoras/Meno
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ISBN : 9780140449037
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Number of Pages : 166 Pages
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Protagoras/Meno Reviews

  • Scriptor Ignotus
    2018-12-11 09:39

    Reading Plato’s dialogues is like visiting a chiropractor; at times uncomfortable, but ultimately beneficial for how it straightens you out. If everyone spent some time with Plato’s Socrates once or twice a year, people would stop taking cable news seriously, and the U.S. government might even become quasi-functional again—but let’s set my childish fantasies aside. There’s a terrific symmetry between these two dialogues. They are concerned with the same fundamental subjects—what it means to be good, whether being good is something unitary or multifaceted, and whether being good is teachable—and at the end of the Meno, a now-elderly Socrates rounds upon the opposite conclusion from the one he came to as a young upstart in Protagoras. The two dialogues thus exist in a kind of permanent and intriguing tension. Protagoras has a young Socrates going up against the dialogue’s namesake, the most famous sophist of the day, in front of the best and brightest of Athens. Unlike other sophists, Protagoras freely admits to his sophistry, and expresses every bit of confidence that he is so well-qualified to teach his students how to be good citizens that he is justified in charging a fee for his services. Whereas Homer and Hesiod had to disguise their sophistry as storytelling, he says, he’s willing to teach his lessons straightforwardly. Socrates voices his skepticism that good citizenship can be taught, pointing out that while the opinion of experts is typically sought on matters of technical knowledge—shipbuilders are called upon to speak about matters of shipbuilding, for instance—in democratic Athens, all citizens are allowed to weigh in on matters of state, which would seemingly suggest that the quality of good citizenship is something innate. Ironically enough, Protagoras responds by telling a story, claiming that explaining things this way is easier than making straightforward arguments, even though he just criticized the poets for hiding their teachings in stories. He recounts the myth of Epimetheus and Prometheus; in my translation, their names are rendered as “Thinxtoolate” and “Thinxahead”; at first this rubbed me the wrong way, but after giving it some thought, I came to appreciate this decision. For us, the original Greek names carry a certain mystique, but for the Greeks, the literal meaning of the names would have made them sound folksy; so this translation conveys that folksiness. According to the myth, Thinxtoolate was given the task of distributing skills and abilities to the various members of the animal kingdom; but being the poor planner that he was, he forgot to give any special abilities to mankind. In a desperate attempt to save humanity from extinction, Thinxtoolate’s brother, Thinxahead, stole technical knowledge from Athena and fire from Hephaestus and gave them to mankind for its survival. This gambit was only trivially successful, however, as because mankind still lacked the civic knowledge guarded by Zeus, its technical knowledge was as much a liability as an asset, and war and strife led humanity close to its demise. Seeing their plight, Zeus sent Hermes to distribute a sense of justice evenly among mankind. This, according to Protagoras, is why everyone has some civic knowledge, but only a few people have various kinds of technical knowledge. It isn’t because civic knowledge is innate; it is because civic knowledge is more widely taught, because men and gods alike know that society can’t function if most people don’t learn a basic sense of justice and citizenship. Protagoras goes on to point out that while society doesn’t condemn people because of their innate flaws—ugliness or weakness, for example—because it recognizes that these flaws are due to no wrongdoing on the part of the unfortunate individuals, it strictly condemns and punishes people who act unjustly, because people have a sense that the wrongdoer ought to know better, which would imply that justice is a type of knowledge that can be taught—or at least that popular belief holds this to be true. As for who the teachers of good citizenship are: Protagoras thinks there are numerous people who take on this role; parents and teachers, who endow children with their knowledge of justice from the day they are born. Socrates then asks Protagoras whether he thinks goodness is one thing or many things—whether every attribute which we might call good, like bravery, wisdom, religiousness, and so on, has a unifying principle behind it which would apply to all instances of goodness; or whether good attributes are irreconcilably separate, and thus goodness must always have a different meaning when applied to different qualities. When Protagoras takes the latter view, the conversation goes into the weeds, but when their friends intervene to set the discussion back on track, Socrates is able to articulate his view that all goodness is one, and it is unified by knowledge. When people act in ways that harm them, for instance, they do so out of a mistaken belief that the benefit of the action, even if the benefit is merely pleasure, will outweigh the pain and discomfort of future consequences. Bravery, likewise, is acquired by knowledge about a future task that allows someone to approach it without fear. Protagoras resists assenting to this argument, though he has no response for it; but the really ironic thing is that he and Socrates have switched positions on the original question: whether good citizenship, or goodness in general, can be taught. Socrates, who originally doubted that it could be taught, now thinks that if goodness is constituted by knowledge, then is must be as teachable as any other form of knowledge. Protagoras, who originally thought goodness was a teachable skill, is now skeptical about the whole idea; but now he is thoroughly impressed with Socrates’s intellect, and he ends the dialogue by delivering one of the biggest understatements of all time:“And I can say here and now that I wouldn’t be surprised if you ended up as a pretty famous name in philosophy.”In the Meno, an elderly Socrates and his young, aristocratic interlocutor broach the subject of Protagoras—whether virtue can be taught—but this time the conversation centers around the definition of what virtue is. Though no straightforward definition emerges from the dialogue, Socrates returns to his insistence that virtue must be unitary by its nature, and that it must in some form be common to all people. Meno argues that virtue must be defined differently for men and women, but Socrates rejects this notion because there are certain things which are called virtues—strength, wisdom, temperance, etc.—that mean the same thing when they are said of women as when they are said of men. When looking for a type of virtue applicable to all people, Meno suggests that an ability to govern people might fit the bill; but even I could have told him that a capacity to govern is not universal, nor is it synonymous with virtue. Meno suggests that virtue could be defined as the desire for good things and the power to attain them, but Socrates points out that many people cannot distinguish between what is good and what is bad, and that the pursuit of bad things in the mistaken belief that they are good could not in itself be called virtuous. Meno then presents a paradox by asking Socrates how one can attain knowledge of something when one doesn’t know what it is. One cannot search for what he does know, or for what he doesn’t know. If he already knows something, there is no point in searching for it; and if he doesn’t know something, he cannot know what he is looking for. The question, in effect, is how learning is even possible. In response to this, Socrates reveals his theory of anamnesis: that knowledge is achieved not by learning at all, but by remembering the knowledge contained in the premortal soul. He demonstrates this, somewhat dubiously, by interrogating one of Meno’s slaves in order to reveal that he has some innate knowledge of geometry. His dialogue with the slave is meant to demonstrate that a person can learn on his own without instruction (Socrates insists that his method of questioning is not a form of instruction, but merely provides an impetus for the other to search for what he already knows, but doesn’t know that he knows). This may strike some readers as preposterous—this talk about the soul, about remembering things we knew before we were born. Not everyone believes in a soul (if we even know how to define such a thing) or in reincarnation, of course; but those people don’t have to write the theory of anamnesis off as total nonsense. Even if we discard any talk of the soul, we may still concur with the overwhelming scientific consensus that the human mind is no tabula rasa, and that beneath our superficial knowledge is a cognitive structure that vastly predates any one of us as an individual. Even if we are not remembering things from a “soul”, it would not be a crazy thing to say that our innate cognitive abilities—the ability to learn and use language, for example, or the ability to use geometric reasoning, to use Meno’s slave as another—are things that we “remember” in the process of learning, in the sense that we are discovering faculties which are already within us, and are in fact older than we are. But again, Socrates and Meno get hung up on the issue of whether virtue is teachable. Socrates wants to say it is, but he can’t point to anyone who might be described as a teacher of virtue. Virtue may be constituted by knowledge, as he is fond of claiming; but the notion that knowledge is recollected from the soul rather than learned, and the fact that knowledge isn’t necessarily required for virtue, as true belief can be just as useful as knowledge, even though belief is fickle unless it is fixed in place by reason, means he cannot say concretely that virtue is innate or that it can be taught. Goodness, he finally suggests, may be a form of knowledge that can’t actually be learned! Whatever virtue is, its presence in people might be—either literally or figuratively—what Socrates calls a “gift of god”.

  • Hannah Kwak
    2018-11-21 10:21

    Among the works of Plato I've read so far, Protagoras has so far been my favorite. A dialogue between Socrates and Protagoras, the work describes the two philosophers discussing whether or not virtue can be taught. The question is explored in many different directions, some of which may confuse the reader at times, but the arguments are compelling and easily understood with some thought. The dialogue first establishes the difficulty of defining virtue: when one tries to define the word, he or she often ends up listing various parts of virtue - justice, temperance, and courage - but is no closer to finding an underlying connection among these various facets. Socrates demonstrates through a series of logical syllogisms that these facets of virtue are in actuality different words for the same thing: wisdom. And since wisdom can be taught, virtue can be taught as well.One of the arguments through which he proves this statement concerns the relationship between courage and knowledge. Courage is one of the many parts of virtue, and confidence a part of courage. But confidence and courage is not the same thing for confidence is present in both the virtuous and the evil: often times, violent and rash individuals tend to be very confident about their actions, even if these actions are immoral. So what distinguishes confidence from courage? Socrates' answer is the presence of wisdom. The courage and the cowardly both pursue that about which they are confident, but only the courageous have knowledge about which actions are good. Thus, courage is wisdom.Socrates further illustrates this point by disproving a popular opinion: that knowledge can be easily overcome by emotions. After all, how often have we heard the phrase "a man does evil because he is overcome by pleasure"? According to Socrates, however, pain is synonymous to evil and pleasure synonymous to good unless the pain leads to greater pleasure in the future or the good leads to greater pain in the future. Thus, the popular phrase can be rewritten: "a man does what is painful because he is overcome by pleasure, which is unworthy to overcome the pain." Or, in other words, the man thinks the pleasure will overcome the pain but he is mistaken. Socrates states that the salvation of human life is dependent upon a knowledge of measuring, or making the right choices of pleasures and pains. Weighing the pleasures and pains an action will cause may be complex at times and involve a certain degree of predicting future repercussions. When one does this successfully, he or she chooses the good, pleasurable path. When one does this unsuccessfully, however, he or she chooses the evil, painful path. Therefore, being "overcome by pleasure" in decision-making is not a matter of emotion overpowering knowledge, but really a matter of ignorance. In other words, temperance is wisdom.These dialogues are a fairly easy way to become more familiar with Socrates' teachings, an endeavor I find worthwhile considering the large role he played in the study of philosophy. I will say that I find his style of argumentation off-putting at times, but the phrasing of his ideas doesn't significantly detract from the value of their content.

  • Tony
    2018-12-14 07:37

    PROTAGORAS and MENO. (432 BCE and 402 BCE). Plato. ****.If you’ve not read any of Plato’s dialogues (plays) before, these two would be a good place to start. I say this because they are relatively more accessible than most of the others. In the PROTAGORAS, Socrates meets up with Hippocrates and begins the dialog in response to Hippocrates’ desire to hook up with Protagoras. At the time, Protagoras was known to be among the leading Sophists of the day. Hippocrates wanted to approach him and have him become his teacher. Socrates’ question to Hippocrates was twofold: “What is a Sophist and what does he teach?” It is still a little blurry, even at the end of the dialog, but a Sophist has the same word root as the word sophistication. It was then presumed that Sophists would teach the basics of “goodness” as it related to the city and government, and the quality of a man. The rest of the dialog – with a lot of semantic arguments – dwells on the definition and expansion of the meaning of goodness. Socrates finally gets down to the point where Protagoras can define his terms in a way that is all inclusive rather than as a portion of the whole. The MENO dialogue is much different. Here, Socrates’ thesis is that all knowledge is already present in men as part of their souls. Learning, then, is simply an exercise in remembering. Socrates uses a clever example of a geometry problem presented to a slave. You would do well to look at the example and see if you can follow the reasoning used that leads the slave to propose and accept the right answer. What makes these two dialogues even more readable is the great way the translation flows. This is probably one of the best translations I have ever read. Recommended.

  • Justin Evans
    2018-12-12 05:29

    I was reading some history book the other day when I realized I'd never read Protagoras. Well, now I have, and the Meno for good measure. As with too many Platonic dialogues, if they weren't by Plato and didn't feature Socrates, nobody would care: The Republic this ain't. Socrates' fundamental question--"yes, but what is virtue, really?"--is a good one, but the obvious answer ("you're being fooled by a word into believing that the various human excellences must have some one thing in common") is never really raised, and everything else is just a bunch of fallacies of ambiguity. On the other hand, and as ever, these texts are so fundamental to philosophy that they're still worth reading.

  • Lucinda
    2018-11-22 13:30

    what lies beneath the words are a mirrored reflection of the reader's thought processes... "Thinking: the talking of the soul with itself"These intriguing dialogues are packed with thought-provoking anecdotes, illuminating examples and hypothesis that keep you guessing and wondering through the book. Every page led to more questions and, I felt like I was taken on a journey of transcendental discovery every time I turned a new page. Complete with mathematics and geometry, Plato's Protagoras and Meno are fascinating dialogues about Virtue that keeps you interested throughout. "Wonder is the feeling of a philosopher and philosophy begins in wonder..." I find Plato very transparent and easy to understand, with his work on ethical debates as something highly intellectual and enlightening for reading. The ultimate question that instigates several debates in this book is about Virtue --if it can be learned and what it really is. In Protagoras, Socrates pits his wits against the great sophist of the title, and by implication against both new and accepted wisdom of his time. The dialogue leads to the conclusion that all virtues are united by knowledge, which should be every person's goal. In Meno, which first clearly shows the Socratic approach to attempting definition of an ambiguous concept such as virtue, Socrates then argues that all so-called learning is in fact the recovery of pre-existent knowledge in the soul, and that if virtue is teachable it must be knowledge. Having read Plato's laws and some of the Republic, I would highly recommend this piece of prose to be read beforehand. It is a great way to introduce oneself into the world of this extraordinary philosopher and great thinker of the times. A book that any deep thinker who asks themselves the meaning of life and its limitations will absolutely love.

  • Sarai
    2018-12-15 09:26

    Meno can perish.

  • Richard Newton
    2018-11-18 08:34

    The Meno and Protagoras are two of Plato's better known works and a standard component of many undergraduate courses which touch on philosophy. These are relaxed modern translations - they are easy to read and the philosophical concepts are generally easy to identify from them. The supporting essay is a bit light, but if you want analysis there are plenty of other versions. I did occasionally feel that the translation was a bit too colloquial - I'm not suggesting Plato can only be approach by formal language, but I guess most people reading these will be students and this translation does not always match lecturers expectations (mind you it does not claim to). But, if you just want a good easy way to read Plato this is perfect.

  • Cassandra Kay Silva
    2018-12-14 12:46

    Socrates's approach to Protagoras was much more round about than he dealings with Meno. I preferred Protagoras, but felt that there was much to get out of both of these dialogs. This is a wonderful set of dialogs that explore the essence of virtue. They also expose the Sophists of the time to a bit of ridicule and ponderings. Having never met or talked to a sophist appears not to be an issue here. I liked the topic of conversation but am absolutely not resolved to the conclusions drawn on these topics.

  • Nate
    2018-12-02 10:20

    more interesting as a cultural insight to ancient greece circa 2500 years ago, which is nothing short of fascinating. admittedly the logic and semantic arguments themselves are rather dull to read nowadays but it would be silly to deny and recognise their influence

  • Hunter
    2018-11-20 12:34

    (Review for Meno). A fantastic exploration of ethics, virtue and the acquisition of proper conduct.

  • Lukerik
    2018-11-16 05:29

    An excellent introduction for the general reader, but notes so sparse I wonder why they bothered at all. The translation of Meno is flowing and readable. I can't speak for Protagoras as I recently read someone else's translation. The two dialogues are a sensible fit though as they both deal with virtue.

  • Jesse Field
    2018-11-26 11:21

    Someone named Chiquito Crasto reads Benjamin Jowett's translation on Librivox, and well, too. Jowett's long introduction and essay, "On the Ideas of Plato," was particularly pleasing as I biked home through the messy, car-strewn avenues and narrow little hutongs of Beijing. Jowett is as quotable as any modern MC when he disses the contemporary understanding of Plato as a generator of grand theories when what we actually see is a sputtering, messy development of the theory of ideas as universals in a world beyond, one that forms a mysterious and untold story. It's too messy for hermeneutics, which must have its Truth: "Poetry has been converted into dogma."I'm quite surprised by Jowett's voice, which comes through perhaps more effectively by listening to Mr. Crasto's big, noble, and vaguely foreign inflection: "To the fathers of modern philosophy, their own thoughts appeared to be new and original, but they carried with them an echo or shadow of the past, coming back by recollection from an elder world."In this light, the Meno strikes me today as significant as early in a series of dialogues (perhaps only the Protagoras was written still earlier) that were concerned with Ideas more as evidence of the world beyond, of souls and afterlives, than of any true concern with describing the reality before our eyes. There is also the figure of Meno himself, who bears much reflection. A handsome young man, Socrates can't help but say more than once, but not a young man who was ultimately able to make good choices. And yet what is perhaps most important about him in the dialogue is his grasp of the need for a general definition of virtue along the same lines as general definitions of "figure" and "color." Socrates is a great teacher for Meno (and presumably other young men of such status and background) because he speaks in terms that appeal to the methods of Meno's former teacher (Gorgias) and in a way that somehow stages a poetic response:SOCRATES: Would you like me to answer you after the manner of Gorgias, which is familiar to you?MENO: I should like nothing better.SOCRATES: Do not he and you and Empedocles say that there are certain effluences of existence?MENO: Certainly.SOCRATES: And passages into which and through which the effluences pass?MENO: Exactly.SOCRATES: And some of the effluences fit into the passages, and some of them are too small or too large?MENO: True.SOCRATES: And there is such a thing as sight?MENO: Yes.SOCRATES: And now, as Pindar says, 'read my meaning:'—colour is an effluence of form, commensurate with sight, and palpable to sense.MENO: That, Socrates, appears to me to be an admirable answer.SOCRATES: Why, yes, because it happens to be one which you have been in the habit of hearing: and your wit will have discovered, I suspect, that you may explain in the same way the nature of sound and smell, and of many other similar phenomena.MENO: Quite true.SOCRATES: The answer, Meno, was in the orthodox solemn vein, and therefore was more acceptable to you than the other answer about figure.MENO: Yes.SOCRATES: And yet, O son of Alexidemus, I cannot help thinking that the other was the better; and I am sure that you would be of the same opinion, if you would only stay and be initiated, and were not compelled, as you said yesterday, to go away before the mysteries.MENO: But I will stay, Socrates, if you will give me many such answers.SOCRATES: Well then, for my own sake as well as for yours, I will do my very best; but I am afraid that I shall not be able to give you very many as good: and now, in your turn, you are to fulfil your promise, and tell me what virtue is in the universal; and do not make a singular into a plural, as the facetious say of those who break a thing, but deliver virtue to me whole and sound, and not broken into a number of pieces: I have given you the pattern.MENO: Well then, Socrates, virtue, as I take it, is when he, who desires the honourable, is able to provide it for himself; so the poet says, and I say too—'Virtue is the desire of things honourable and the power of attaining them.”

  • Bob Nichols
    2018-12-15 13:33

    Ostensibly, this dialogue between Protagoras and Socrates is a discussion about the essential nature of virtue and whether virtue can be taught. Socrates gets invited to meet the famous Sophist Protagoras. Socrates engages Protagoras in a series of questions that are difficult to follow and seem designed to put Protagoras into his place. When Protagoras pushes back, Socrates claims his innocence and says that Protagoras’ questions are too long for him to follow. This dialogue is disappointing. The questions lead to nowhere. Life is more complicated than the yes and no answers that Socrates asks. Socrates uses his logic to put Protagoras into corners and then pin him down, and the dialogue comes off as a competition. It’s actually Protagoras who comes across as the straight shooter. Socrates insists it’s truth that he’s after but there’s more than a faint hint that he has a hidden agenda. In criticizing others, Socrates is by default suggesting that there is a level of knowledge and truth that is higher than what the Sophists put forward. What that is, Socrates does not say. Socrates’ agenda, if it can be called that, is clearer in the Meno. Again, the topic is virtue, but now we get a hint that the discussion of virtue is to illustrate the existence of a higher realm of knowledge. Through another "yes and no" dialogue, we learn that virtue is not known because the Meno examples are variable, whereas Socrates is looking for one thing, not many. This sets up the argument that there’s another realm of knowledge that is constituted by unchanging, eternal forms, and a divine realm that we can access through recollection. We’ve all had this knowledge within ourselves in a prior life and it’s through Socrates’ dialectical method that we can come to recall this higher realm of knowledge. Socrates uses numbers and geometry to illustrate the existence of eternal forms. In the Meno, Socrates knows what truth is – it’s one thing, eternal and unchanging, and it’s inside of us, from a previous life. But Meno concedes too easily and robotically accedes to Socrates. Socrates needs a challenger, not a lackey. We can stipulate a common definition of shape, color and virtue. Can’t we take the many and variable and impose a oneness on them? That’s what concepts are. As Philo asks in Hume’s Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, can’t we “envision perfection without there being an eternal world, and why is unchanging the criterion in a changing world?” In these two dialogues, it’s is striking how much Socrates comes across with all of those negative characteristics such as cleverness and working from hidden agendas that have been attributed to the Sophists. Despite his professed respect for Protagoras, Socrates in the Meno accuses the long-dead Sophist with having corrupted “his pupils and sending them away worse than when they came to him.” Could the same thing be said of Socrates? The Guthrie introduction was disappointing as well. Guthrie writes that Protagoras “is universally acknowledged to be a dramatic masterpiece.” Beyond asserting such, how is that so? Guthrie acknowledges the lack of philosophical content and Socrates’ unfair method of argument, but he also tells us that we cannot look at both essays as “neatly tied and labeled parcels of philosophical doctrine.” This would be a “travesty for Plato, who made it clear that he did not believe philosophy could be retailed in that way.” Does this remove Plato from being questioned? Is Guthrie saying that Socrates mode of questioning is not related to eternal forms (“oneness”), recollection of a prior life, and the existence of a divine realm?

  • David S. T.
    2018-11-25 06:19

    The penguin edition was the first edition of Meno I've read, the other is the Hackett edition. Between the two the Penguin does seem easier to understand and has better sentence structure, but I don't know which is more accurate. One of the big differences between the two is the Penguine edition uses "Good" where as the Hackett uses "Virtue". This edition also contains way better footnotes.Protagoras was my first introduction to Plato, but sadly I read it a while ago and I don't really remember much. The impression I got at the time was that Socrates sure likes to hear himself speak. The part I remember best is where Protagoras gives a half page reply to one of Socrates questions which causes Socrates to rant for 5 pages about how he's leaving if Protagoras can't answer his questions more direct with less words, oddly later on when Protagoras asks Socrates questions, most of his answers are far longer than Protagora's. In any case I definintely need to read this again.I've recently read Meno again and it was pretty good, not the best Socrates dialogue but I did like it more on second readings. I think reading a few more of Plato's dialogues did cause me to like Socrates far more.It was somewhat interesting, Socrates meets with Meno to discuss what virtue is and how can it be acquired. Meno seems to have some ideas but he comes in contact with a broad torpedo fish (Socrates) and this leaves him numb and in a state of perplexity, in the end we're not really sure what virtue is but we know a few things its not. The thing this seems to be best remembered for a part where Socrates questions a slave to prove that souls already learned everything before inhabiting a human. To prove this Socrates asks a series of leading questions which the slave gets wrong but then upon further leading questions he figures out the answer. This seems to prove the pre-knowledge to everyone, although I don't see how anyone getting some questions right when they're lead to the conclusion to prove anything.

  • Daniel Wright
    2018-11-29 13:38

    Plato is both an extremely daunting figure in philosophy and a surprisingly accessible (at least, in a good translation such as mine). In fact, I would venture to suggest that in no other Western thinker is the discrepancy greater (though I'd love to hear counter-examples).Protagoras is a notable dialogue primarily in that it is one of Plato's only dialogues in which Socrates does not simply walk all over his interlocutors. Plato's Socrates is well-known for his dislike of the sophists (of whom Protagoras was one), who have since been almost universally derided as a result, but this one proves that they were intellectually formidable figures in their own right, more than capable of holding their ground. The result is more than usually interesting.Meno is almost disproportionately famous because of the vignette in which Socrates teaches a slave (who may have been a young boy - the word pais is a little ambiguous) how to solve an elementary geometry problem. This is sometimes - quite bizarrely - given a liberal reading: anyone can learn anything! If that is a conclusion that may be drawn from it, it is quite beside what Plato actually intends. He is using it to illustrate his intriguing idea that all learning is remembering, specifically, remembering something our eternal souls have known since the beginning of time. It's nonsense, of course, but it's still intriguing.Attempts to co-opt Plato in this, that or the other school of thought in education will be futile, since he rarely agrees with himself, let alone with the reader. It drives me round the bend when people talk about 'Plato's thought' or (still worse) 'Greek thought'. He is and always will be worth reading because he teaches you how to think, not what to think.

  • blakeR
    2018-11-16 09:30

    A couple of the more enjoyable dialogues because they are much more accessible and they concern a more practical topic: virtue. That said, I find it hard to rate it high when I disagree with a large part of Socrates' argumentation and conclusions. I have no certainty that virtue is the same as knowledge, as he states in both of them, and then dismisses later in the Meno. I do think it's possible to have knowledge and still act unvirtuously, unlike Socrates. And I do think that sometimes emotions, passions, or other sorts of impulses can over-ride knowledge in the course of decision-making, unlike Socrates. I vehemently disagree with the conclusion in the Meno that virtue is some sort of divine inspiration. And finally, I completely disagree that it cannot be taught. There is also Socrates' false modesty on great display in Protagoras, especially 361a. I wish I knew how much of this was Plato and how much was the genuine Socrates.

  • Jason Meinig
    2018-12-07 06:37

    I like all of Plato's works, and this was no exception. This time around, he has Socrates questioning if Virtue is teachable. He equates virtue w/ knowledge and continues to insist that knowledge is always, ultimately, the right way to live, with virtue. This is a quick summary, obviously. I like reading Plato because its not just a point-by-point philosophical treatise, but rather a dramatic telling of conversations that seem to naturally bring the reader's mind to conceptualize different ideas. The reader is rarely outright told what to believe, but rather ideas are floated that bring the reader to question what he really knows to be true. For me, this is a 'magical' frame of mind to dwell in.

  • Don
    2018-12-08 06:36

    This review is for the Cornell edition:Five stars for the Protagoras translation alone. I haven't read the essays or Meno translation yet. Bartlett's translation is clear and heavily footnoted, which is nice. Cornell's Plato editions are great: affordable, accurate translations with useful notes and commentary.More notes on the edition: the Meno translation is good as well. Great actually. I like the Hackett edition of the Meno too, but this translation is better and has helpful footnotes.The essays are okay. They pick out some neat things, but they are not mind-blowing. But it doesn't really matter because you're reading/buying this for the translations, not the short essays.

  • Frightful_elk
    2018-11-26 10:36

    This book explains Plato's position on the nature of virtue. The two books provide an interesting contrast of Plato's evolving theory in this area, the first book perhaps representing more truly Socrates theory and character, while Meno shows Plato's later elaboration and sanctification of Socrates.Protagoras is remarkable refreshing and easy to read, it's set up within a very honest and human dynamic, making the philosophy engaging and easy to follow.Short and sweet, nice taster course for Plato.

  • David Evers
    2018-12-14 07:19

    Just re-read Protagoras after a hiatus of 20 years, feeling inspired after having completed the Odyssey. I was hoping for a little more humor given the opportunity: Progagoras as a sophist is paid for imparting knowledge of virtue, and Socrates should have no problem exposing him as a charlatan. Unfortunately, Socrates enlists his "help" in exploring what virtue is. While interesting from a philosophical point of view, Socrates was less insulting and sarcastic than in other dialogues.

  • Jesse
    2018-11-22 10:42

    Protagoras is the father of the postmodernist mantra, "Man is the measure of all things." The dialogue itself is a rhetorically stunning examination of rhetoric, so, in our relativistic age, it is a key text. Meno depicts Socrates drawing geometric lines in the sand to a slave in order to prove that there are innate ideas. The theory is bunk, but the process is pedagogically valid, and it might just get you enthusiastic enough for Euclid.

  • Elena
    2018-12-12 11:26

    I skipped a bit. Not one of my favourites although very interesting. I learned how Epimeteus was commanded by the gods to distribute specific qualities to the different species of animals, and how he ran out of qualities once he got to humans beings. That's how Prometeus came into play, stealing fire from the gods, so that humans could be similar to them, and share with them the gift of virtue. But what is virtue? If you want to know, read the Protagoras....

  • Maddy
    2018-11-30 13:36

    If you want easy access to Philosophy then it's probably good to start with Plato.I find his dialogues the best way to understand and actually absorb the subject at hand. This one is on what it means to be "good" and how it's actually not something that can be taught, very interesting subject! The Republic still remains my favourite though.

  • Claire
    2018-11-24 13:22

    I was guided through both the Protagoras and the Meno by a list of involved questions. If I didn't have that, I would have considered consulting an expert on Plato to get the most out of what these two texts have to offer.

  • Sarah
    2018-11-14 09:44

    This book was interesting. I had to read "Protagoras." It was very back-and-forth at times. It left me with some questions that weren't addressed at the end. Did Hippocrates decide to go to Protagoras who claimed to be one of the wisest people? I don't know if I'll ever know.

  • Laura
    2018-12-03 12:38

    Protagoras and Meno by Plato (2006)

  • Emma
    2018-11-28 10:43

    Professor Bartlett's book!

  • Adrian Stevenson
    2018-11-24 09:34

    Probably the first philosophy book that I ever read, given to me by my dad. This was the one that started me off.