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[77a]

Meno
But I should stay, Socrates, if you would give me many such answers.

Socrates
Well then, I will spare no endeavor, both for your sake and for my own, to continue in that style; but I fear I may not succeed in keeping for long on that level. But come now, you in your turn must try and fulfil your promise by telling me what virtue is in a general way; and you must stop producing a plural from the singular, as the wags say whenever one breaks something, but leave virtue [77b] whole and sound, and tell me what it is. The pattern you have now got from me.

Meno
Well, in my view, Socrates, virtue is, in the poet's words, “to rejoice in things honorable and be able for them”1; and that, I say, is virtue—to desire what is honorable and be able to procure it.

Socrates
Do you say that he who desires the honorable is desirous of the good?

Meno
Certainly.

Socrates
Implying that there are some who desire the evil, and others the good? Do not all men, [77c] in your opinion, my dear sir, desire the good?

Meno
I think not.

Socrates
There are some who desire the evil?

Meno
Yes.

Socrates
Thinking the evil to be good, do you mean, or actually recognizing it to be evil, and desiring it nevertheless?

Meno
Both, I believe.

Socrates
Do you really believe, Meno, that a man knows the evil to be evil, and still desires it?

Meno
Certainly.

Socrates
What do you mean by “desires”? Desires the possession of it? [77d]

Meno
Yes; what else could it be?

Socrates
And does he think the evil benefits him who gets it, or does he know that it harms him who has it?

Meno
There are some who think the evil is a benefit, and others who know that it does harm.

Socrates
And, in your opinion, do those who think the evil a benefit know that it is evil?

Meno
I do not think that at all.

Socrates
Obviously those who are ignorant of the evil do not desire it, but only what they supposed [77e] to be good, though it is really evil; so that those who are ignorant of it and think it good are really desiring the good. Is not that so?

Meno
It would seem to be so in their case.

Socrates
Well now, I presume those who, as you say, desire the evil, and consider that the evil harms him who gets it, know that they will be harmed by it?

Meno
They needs must.


1 Perhaps from Simonides.

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