The Doctrine Of Recollection Essay

1256 words - 5 pages

Socrates’ Doctrine of Recollection is invalid because of the flawed procedure that was employed to prove it, its inability to apply to all types of knowledge, and the weakness of the premises that it is based on.
In Plato’s Meno, Socrates suggested that knowledge comes from recollection, or, in Greek, anamnesis. He believes that the knowledge is already implanted in the human mind, and by recollection, men can retrieve back knowledge. There are two stages to this: first, a “stirring up” of true, innate opinions, then, a conversion of the knowledge (Gulley). Furthermore, Socrates believes that we acquired knowledge before this life. “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” (Plato 81c). Socrates holds the idea of reincarnation—as the soul reincarnates through many lives, it learns everything. Overall, the Doctrine of Recollection is based on two premises. The first is the immortality of the soul, along with its incarnations, and the second is the kinship of all nature (Ionescu).
To demonstrate Socrates’ theory, a slave boy was brought in. Knowing that this slave boy never had any training in geometry, Socrates asks him a geometric problem. In answering every questions Socrates asked, the slave boy eventually reached the correct answer. Above all, Socrates emphasized that he never taught the slave boy anything during the entire process. He only asked questions that led the slave boy to his own “recollection” of the topic discussed. Because the boy gave the correct answer at the end, Socrates was convinced of his theory of recollection.
I do not believe in the Doctrine of Recollection for several reasons. First, the method that Socrates used to prove this doctrine is inadequate. The slave boy reached the correct answer only because Socrates asked leading questions. He asked questions such as “does not this line from one corner to the other cut each of these figures in two” (Plato 85a)? In asking these questions and drawing diagrams, Socrates leads the thought process of the slave boy. Because the boy never had any training in geometry, he would never advance far by himself without Socrates giving him “hints” with these questions. In response, the boy answered using observation and critical thinking, which all men are capable of. In the end, it is unlikely that the boy reaches the correct answer because he had known this knowledge in his previous lives, and done so by recollection.
It could also be possible that Socrates fed the boy the right answer. Most of the questions asked by Socrates were yes or no questions. For example, “but if it is two feet also that way, it would surely be twice two feet? – Yes” (Plato 82d). If the questions were only meant to help the boy recall, wouldn’t they be a bit too specific? So specific that answers were included in them? Moreover, with this type of questions asked, the boy could have easily complied with...

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