Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Meno 72b-d

I started my translation of this dialogue a while ago. I've already posted some of it here, here, and here. Here's the next installment.

Socrates: Indeed, I seem to have furnished myself with some great fortune, Meno, if by my inquiring into virtue I have discovered some beehive of virtues lying near you. But, Meno, going with this image about the beehive, if after I asked about a bee, concerning [its] being (ousia), [b] what it is (pot’ estin), you said them1 to be of many and of all kinds, what would you answer me, if I asked you, "Are you declaring there to be many, of all kinds, and different from one another? Or in this2 do they differ in nothing, but [they differ] with respect to other things -- beauty or size or another of these things?" Speak, how would you answer having been asked?

Meno: I would say this, that they differ in nothing (they are bees) the one from the other.3

[c] Socrates: If then I were to say after that, "Now tell me just this, Meno: By what4 do they differ in nothing but are entirely (apasai) identical (tauton)? What do you declare this to be?" You'd have, perhaps, something to tell me?

Meno: Indeed.

Socrates: Thus indeed, concerning virtues, too. Even if they are many and all kinds, they have some form (eidov) entirely (apasai) identical (tauton) by which they are virtues, by which perhaps the person answering, having looked to [it] beautifully, is to make visible to the one asking what he hit upon [namely,] [d] the being of virtue. Or do you not understand (manqaneiv) what I’m saying?


1. autav: pl. fem. acc; the plural number is a bit odd because Socrates (in answering his own question!) began with the singular (a bee) and switches to plural (themselves, them). But note that if Socrates had been consistent in his number, his question either would not be coherent ("if I asked you about a bee, would you say it is of many and all kinds?") or as clear ("if I asked you about bees, would you say they are many and of all kinds?").

2. toutwi: sing. masc. dat, the antecedent is unclear; is it ousia? To back up a little, Socrates says, "if I asked you to tell me about the being of a bee, and you said they (see note 1) were all different, then I might ask you if you meant they were all different, but they are not different in this but in some other way." What is Socrates referring to when he says "in this"? Or is there no direct antecedent?

3. This translation is awkward. Most translators opt to treat the phrase hi melittai eisin playing the role of "qua bees." But that seems to be add too much to the text; this is, after all, Meno’s speech, and I am not convinced he has grasped the concept expressed by "qua."

4. Sing. masc. dat. of ov, taken in an instrumental way; note the singular number corresponds to the second question What do you declare this to be? Not to lean on the grammar too much, but already it is clear Socrates is looking for one thing in virtue of which the same things are all alike.

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