Can Virtue Be Taught?

A short disputation refuting the 2500 year old Socratic claim.

The Debate of Socrates and Aspasia

This was created in refutation to the 2500 year old Socratic claim stated in the dialogue Protagoras in which Socrates concludes that virtue can indeed be taught. The passage where Socrates reverts his original thesis by asserting that virtue is one part of the whole, namely knowledge, therefore capable of being taught is cited below: Socrates concludes the dialogue by speaking to himself and Protagoras in third person regarding the absurdity of his new claim.

Source: Protagoras and The Meno, Penguin Classics (Pg 99) line 359 section B & C.

‘I assure you’ said I, (Socrates) ‘that in asking all of these questions I have nothing else in view but my desire to learn the truth about virtue and what it is in itself. I know that if we could be clear about that, it would throw the fullest light on the question over which you and I have spun such a coil of argument, I maintaining that virtue was not teachable (Socrates original argument, undone by dialogue) and you that it was. It seems to me that the present outcome of our talk is pointing at us, like a human adversary, the finger of accusation and scorn. If it had a voice it would say: “What an absurd pair you are, Socrates and Protagoras. One of you, having said at the beginning that virtue is not teachable, now is bent upon contradicting himself by demonstrating that everything is knowledge — justice, temperance, and courage alike — which is the best way to prove that virtue is teachable. If virtue were something other than knowledge, as Protagoras tried to prove, obviously it could not be taught. But if it turns out to be, as a single whole, knowledge (which is what you are urging Socrates) then it will be most surprising if it cannot be taught!”

A Short Refutation.

Virtue itself can never be taught, only understood.

My sentiments conclude that virtue itself, the physical manifestation of knowledge as actionable principle, lies within the concurrent assumption of the existence of universal truth. I for one hereby support this assertion and believe wholeheartedly that the metaphysical construction of knowledge, as identified with the fundamental nature of good exists. I suppose it to be accessible to all, present a priori, as the shared sensorial manifestation of the phenomenon we call “emotion.” It is not to be taught, but merely discovered. By this I assume that virtue, knowledge, and truth exist universally, but can only be understood by the individual realization of such ideas, manifest through relativistic individual experience, observation and analysis.

Regarding the essence of instruction opposite realization, Socrates demonstrates this case paradoxically to his own conception. Knowledge itself remains a metaphysical construct, only to exist in the form of true ideas. Nature alone must define and act as a guide to the relativistic, personalized discovery of the innate phenomena we term to be virtue, knowledge or truth. It is, in a word, impossible to teach a metaphysical construct, which remains entirely removed from the realm of experience. Yet Socrates declares that “knowledge” i.e virtue can be taught! Socrates is wrong, and I hope with utmost clarity and demonstration, I have aided in the resolution of this err.


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