Protagoras and Meno by Plato

Protagoras and Meno cover

I first read these dialogues a few years ago, not long before I started blogging. My son was sent Protagoras and Meno when Penguin did a pot luck book giveaway. When I saw what he got I thought, How unfortunate – or words to that effect! I thought it would be dry and dusty but I was completely wrong. This translation by Adam Beresford is a really enjoyable, smooth read and it even has humour.

So I was happy when I realised that The Classics Circuit was having an ancient Greek Tour because it gives me the opportunity to spread the word to anyone else who hasn’t read it.

The dialogue begins with Socrates speaking about Protagoras the famous sophist to a friend and gives him the news that Hippocrates had woken him, wildly excited because he had heard that Protagoras was in Athens. The young Hippocrates wants to pay to become a pupil of Protagoras but Socrates isn’t so sure that he should do so.

What does Hippocrates hope to gain from it and doesn’t he realise that he’ll be handing over his soul not knowing whether it is to something good or bad? Hippocrates thinks he knows what a sophist is – it’s someone who has sophisticated knowledge and is a master at making people skilled at speaking.

Socrates points out to Hippocrates that he wouldn’t hand over his body to someone if he didn’t know whether it was going to end up in good or bad shape. So why would he be less careful with his soul?

Socrates and Hippocrates end up going round to Callias’ house where Protagoras is and continue the philosophical conversations with more sophists. I found it very interesting anyway.

Meno is a dialogue mainly between Socrates and Meno but also involving a slave and Antyus a politician. It’s about virtue, and Meno asks if goodness can be taught, or is it natural to some people?

Great stuff! I recommend it to anyone who is a wee bit wary of Greek philosophy, as I was.

Thank you Rebecca for organising the tour.

10 thoughts on “Protagoras and Meno by Plato

  1. How intersting! I have not read Plato yet. Are these a part of the larger “Republic” or is this separate? I’ll have to give it a try. I’m glad you didn’t find it dry đŸ™‚

    • Rebecca,

      The dialogues are not part of ‘Republic’ and are regarded as a good introduction to Plato’s writing. I certainly intend to read more Plato, I just haven’t got around to it yet. Thanks again for The Classics Circuit.

  2. This isn’t one I’m familiar with but after your post, I think I am going to give it a try. Thanks very much. By the way, did your son read it?

    • Falaise,
      Thanks for the comment. I think you’ll like it. My son did read it. It was part of the Penguin giveaway that you had to review the book. He wrote a far more detailed review which you can read here. I hope you enjoy it.

  3. Kudos to you, Katrina, for plunging into the waters! I’m glad it was an enjoyable read. Tackling literature that’s different, or not on the regular schedule, is usually eye-opening. At least that’s how I feel when I delve into German novels, nonfiction, and poetry. The practice rejuvenates, doesn’t it?


    • Judith,
      It’s amazing how you just get an idea into your head that a particular sort of literature is just not going to be for you, so when you’re proved wrong – it’s a real treat.
      I’ve been impressed that you would tackle reading books in German. My German is so rusty, I think I would end up getting very frustrated. It’s probably the best way to learn lots more vocabulary, other than actually going there to live – and that’s taking it too far!! Good luck with the teaching.


      • Do you know, I recently read an article by a scientist who studies the brain that “keeping up” with a language one has learned in the past or learning a new language is an excellent practice for keeping dementia at bay.

        I suppose that’s wonderful, but I’d do it for that reason alone.


        • Judith,

          It seems to me that it would certainly help to keep the brain sharp. I read recently that they believe that walking is very good for the brain as they’ve recently discovered that exercise reverses the damage done by something which forms on the brain surface and causes dementia. I thought about all those poor sufferers who have wandered off, feeling compelled to walk. Maybe they have an instinct that the walking will help them? All your ‘bushwhacking’ should help you! I laughed when you first used that word because I’d only ever heard it used in old Western films. I had a vision of you jumping out on unsuspecting people to kidnap them! Then I looked on the urban dictionary!!!

          Don’t you just love words! Now I’m wishing that I had bought the copy of The Shell Seekers in German which I saw at the last library sale.

  4. This does sound like a good entry point for Plato, simple but fulfilling. I’ve yet to read and Plato or any Greek philosophy (I think), so I’m thankful for your highlighting this!

    • Shannyn,

      Thanks for the comment. I hope you enjoy it when you do get around to reading it. I’m definitely going to be looking for Greek lit at my local library, it all sounds so interesting.

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