At the end of the Meno (around 100b), Socrates says that if Meno can convince Anytus of the things they have concluded in the dialogue, he will provide a benefit to the Athenians. Given the...

At the end of the Meno (around 100b), Socrates says that if Meno can convince Anytus of the things they have concluded in the dialogue, he will provide a benefit to the Athenians. Given the background of the Apology, what do you think Socrates means by this? What is the overall topic of the Meno? How is it relevant to the Athenians--or to us, for that matter?

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thanatassa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The first important fact here is that Anytus was one of the accusers of Socrates in Apology. Unlike Plato, Alcibiades, and many of the followers of Socrates, Anytus was not born into an aristocratic family, but was a tanner whose father had become newly wealthy, something mentioned as Socrates draws him into the conversation in Meno (90a-b). He also was a supporter of the extreme democratic party, which was politically opposed to the the aristocratic faction. 

The main theme of the discussion has been whether virtue can be taught and whether the sophists live up to their claims as teachers. Anytus agrees with Socrates that in terms of skills such as leather working, music, and medicine, the best teachers are themselves experts in their crafts who charge fees for teaching. When asked, though, about whether he thinks people should pay fees to sophists to acquire political knowledge and virtue, he vehemently condemns objects to sophists.

Socrates moves the discussion on to an investigation of whether anyone, sophist or not, can inculcate virtue, proving the negative by several examples of eminent fathers with undistinguished children. Anytus leaves angrily after expressing vague threats against Socrates (95e).

In the end, Socrates concludes with a few related points. First, correct opinion is not the same as knowledge, but is often useful in areas in which true knowledge is not possible. Second, as true knowledge and virtue are not teachable, they must be acquired by a form or "recollection" (of what the soul knew before it descended into the body) or divine inspiration. This is a hint that Socrates' own form of wisdom is connected to his divine sign; the divine sign becomes the basis for the accusation of impiety in Apology.

The benefit to the Athenians is leading them to self-understanding and dispelling false beliefs as well as undermining the sophists. Also, of course, if Meno can convince Anytus to have a better opinion about Socrates, Athenians will continue to have the benefit of Socratic questioning. 

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