Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Whether Socrates should have instructed Meno’s slave

          In Aristotle’s Politics I.5, the noted philosopher wrote: “For that some should rule and others be ruled is a thing not only necessary, but expedient; from the hour of their birth, some are marked out for subjection, others for rule.” That some are fit to rule, while others to be ruled is a very controversial statement and has bearing on the broader question of who should receive an education. More specifically, it has some relation to the issue of Socrates and Meno’s slave. Socrates should have instructed Meno’s slave for three reasons: Socrates was skilled at teaching, the slave was made in God’s image, and an educated slave was a benefit to Meno.

     Socrates should have instructed Meno’s slave because Socrates himself was skilled at teaching. Meno respected Socrates and recognized the benefit of having a conversation with him about life’s most essential questions. Socrates was very capable of helping even the hostile Anytus better understand what virtue is and what it is not. Socrates demonstrated throughout the Meno dialogue his ability by helping Meno himself gain deeper insight into virtue.

     Socrates should have instructed Meno’s slave because the slave was made in God’s image. God created the slave, and all men, with the capacity for reason, and the slave demonstrated this clearly. Socrates also revealed to Meno that his slave was not merely a soul, but a soul and a body that was able to observe the world around him. Finally, Socrates’ interactions elicited the slave’s capacity for language and speech, another critical human attribute associated with Imago Dei.

     Socrates should have instructed Meno’s slave because an educated slave was a benefit to Meno. An educated slave had greater capacity and usefulness to their masters. This led to a slave saving more of his master’s time, as Meno would not have to laboriously explain exactly what he wanted accomplished. Together, the slave’s greater ability and economy with Meno’s time enabled the slave to make and save more of Meno’s money and resources.

     Socrates should have instructed Meno’s slave because Socrates was skilled at teaching, the slave was made in the image of God, and an educated slave was a benefit to his master. This issue matters to all men because, independent or indentured, prosperous or poor, they were made in God’s image and flourish through the education of the soul.

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