Meno by Plato

SOCRATES: The speakers were among the priests and priestesses whose care it is to be able to give an account of their practices. Pindar too says it, and many others of the divine among our poets. What they say is this; see whether you think they speak the truth: They say that the human soul is immortal; at times it comes to an end, which they call dying; at times it is reborn, but it is never destroyed, and one must therefore live one’s life as piously as possible…As the soul is immortal, has been born often, and has seen all things here and in the underworld, there is nothing which it has not learned; so it is in no way surprising that it can recollect the things it knew before, both about virtue and other things. As the whole of nature is akin, and the soul has learned everything, nothing prevents a man after recalling one thing only–a process men call learning–discovering everything else for himself if he is brave and does not tire of the search for searching and learning are, as a whole, recollection. We must, therefore, not believe that debater’s argument, for it would make us idle, and fainthearted men like to hear it, whereas my argument makes them energetic and keen on the search. I trust that this is true, and I want to inquire along with you into the nature of virtue. (pp. 880-881 {~88b-88e})

Meno by Plato

Obviously, I do not adhere to the concept of reincarnation. However, I do believe the soul to be immortal. However, that is not what I want to explore or question. I want to question the idea of recollection. In this particular dialogue, Plato explores the idea that all knowledge is already with us since we have been living (through other lives) for a long time). Therefore, we have the knowledge of all of those lives, so instead of “learning” new things, we recollect previously learned knowledge of old lives.

Given my rejection of reincarnation, I can’t fully adhere to this idea of recollection. There is a deep truth, even if partial, to this idea of recollection. I will get to this through a question I have.

How did the first living people come to have knowledge?

Before there had been “rebirth,” (I am supposing reincarnation to be true for questioning purposes). They couldn’t do any recollecting from previous lives since there weren’t any previous lives. So, there must be some origin of knowledge. Socrates (or maybe his interlocutors) would answer that the gods had knowledge in the beginning. I agree with this proposition extremely conditionally. I believe that the one triune God is the source and fountain of knowledge. From Him knowledge originates and through Him knowledge is available. We can come to knowledge without being “taught” (in a strict sense of the word) because the Lord makes available knowledge.


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