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[79a] and whatever comes without any such quality, vice.

Meno
I agree that it must be as you say.

Socrates
And were we saying a little while ago that each of these things was a part of virtue—justice and temperance and the rest of them?

Meno
Yes.

Socrates
And here you are, Meno, making fun of me?

Meno
How so, Socrates?

Socrates
Because after my begging you not to break up virtue into small change, and giving you a pattern on which you should answer, you have ignored all this, and now tell me that virtue is [79b] the ability to procure good things with justice; and this, you tell me, is a part of virtue?

Meno
I do.

Socrates
Then it follows from your own admission that doing whatever one does with a part of virtue is itself virtue; for you say that justice is a part of virtue, and so is each of such qualities. You ask the meaning of my remark. It is that after my requesting you to speak of virtue as a whole, you say not a word as to what it is in itself, but tell me that every action is virtue provided that it is done [79c] with a part of virtue; as though you had told me what virtue is in the whole, and I must understand it forthwith—when you are really splitting it up into fragments! I think therefore that you must face the same question all over again, my dear Meno—What is virtue?—if we are to be told that every action accompanied by a part of virtue is virtue; for that is the meaning of the statement that every action accompanied by justice is virtue. Or do you not agree that you have to meet the same question afresh? Do you suppose that anyone can know a part of virtue when he does not know virtue itself?

Meno
No, I do not. [79d]

Socrates
And I daresay you remember, when I answered you a while ago about figure, how we rejected the sort of answer that attempts to proceed in terms which are still under inquiry and has not yet been admitted.

Meno
Yes, and we were right in rejecting it, Socrates.

Socrates
Well then, my good sir, you must not in your turn suppose that while the nature of virtue as a whole is still under inquiry you will explain it to anyone by replying in terms of its parts, or by any other statement [79e] on the same lines: you will only have to face the same question over again—What is this virtue, of which you are speaking all the time? Or do you see no force in what I say?

Meno
I think what you say is right.

Socrates
Then answer me again from the beginning: what do both you and your associate say that virtue is?

Meno
Socrates, I used to be told, before I began to meet you,


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    • Sir Richard C. Jebb, Commentary on Sophocles: Electra, 612
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