Some of the High Moments From Plato's Meno
The Meno seems to present the original Socratic formula in the most basic terms. But because it has distinctive and important ideas in the beginning, middle, and end, it somewhat defies clear cut analysis. It is too good a piece to analyze without some measure of arrogance. I think that if you are not honestly baffled by the end of this dialog, I must impute your intelligence with rude names.
Socrates deftly prises the definition of virtue free from commonsense and common practice in the opening. It starts bad and gets much worse: not only don't we know what the Good is, but we seem to imagine there are many different goods.
Then in the middle, Socrates neatly demolishes the easy commonplace that education educates people to be good. We finish hardly even sure how learning itself occurs. Education goes quantum in Plato's Meno - it seems as if we become virtuous by some kind of spooky action at a distance.
Then in the end we figure out that we can't define any of these terms without first defining the ultimate context in which these terms occur. That is, 'education', 'goodness' and 'virtue' all occur in the ultimate context of the reality of a divine maker. Like it or lump it. But the deux ex machina is no easy answer here. The discussion of opinion versus knowledge that crowns the dialog completely undercuts any easy certainty you might place in the guidance of religious faith.
I'm surprised Meno didn't take his life there and then from philosophical despair. But the fact is that Socrates is quite definite in his faith that these things are knowable. And that once you begin to listen to the Socrates, something in his faith gives you faith and you begin to respond with genuine feelings, from disquiet to outrage, against the easy certitudes that falsehoods parade as under the name of "common sense".
Socrates show how uncommon true commmon sense is, and the Meno is an indefatigable guide to demolishing falsehood in the search for truth.