Transcendent Simples

  • Erik Nis Ostenfeld
Part of the Martinus Nijhoff Philosophy Library book series (MNPL, volume 10)


In the Meno Socrates is inquiring into the nature of virtue as such, thereby carrying out the task he set himself at the end of the Protagoras. Having been presented with men, women, and old men,26 he explains to Meno what he is after by introducing the analogous problem of the nature (ousia) of a bee. It will not do to reply that there are many bees and many kinds of bees. As bees they do not differ. They all have (echousin) one identical character (hen ti eidos tauton) by virtue of which (d’ho) they are bees. One ought to “look away” (apoblepsanta) at this, telling what it is (72). It may not be too difficult to tell what a bee is, but it seems rather more obscure what virtue is. Meno’s second (and third) attempt begs the question by introducing part (meros) of virtue in the definition (79). He fails to see the single virtue that permeates all (dia or kata pantōn 74ab) the parts and embraces (katechei 74d) them. Meno is reduced to silence, unable to find out what virtue is as a whole (kata holou 77a). He chops virtue up into fragments (79a).


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Copyright information

© Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, The Hague 1982

Authors and Affiliations

  • Erik Nis Ostenfeld
    • 1
  1. 1.University of AarhusDenmark

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