“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” Revelation 1:8 NRSV
A few nights ago, I attended a small group discussion of Plato’s Meno in an effort to explore the depths of virtue and what Plato’s text had to teach us about it. The beginning of the text begins with Meno asking Socrates if virtue can be taught or is a result of practice or if it is possessed by men by nature or some other way. As the text goes, the reader is left wondering what the overarching nature of virtue is and if there is a single way of defining virtue that would also be true of all things which we would label as virtuous. The text itself provides the reader no direct answer but leads the reader to think about the nature of virtue itself. The exercise of reading the text can be a frustrating one because it does not take you from point A to point B in a way that you are able to point back to the text for an operating definition of virtue. Instead, you finish the text without any clear answers and many more questions about the nature of virtue than perhaps you thought you had in the beginning.
The exercise of discussing the text with a small group is also a circuitous route as you attempt to define virtue by way of the dialogue between Meno and Socrates. Just as the text left you with no concrete answers, the discussion between friends may not leave you with any concrete answers; indeed, it may only bring additional questions to the surface that deserve their own explorations in order to come back to the original question of the nature of virtue.
The circuitous route of the conversation – and the diversions presented within the conversation – can also become an exercise of frustration if you lack the patience to make the journey. It is a journey that starts with a claim that you seek to prove by way of logic and knowledge, and you might hope that the journey is of a linear nature by which you proceed from point A to point B to point C and so forth. Yet, a journey seldom plays itself out so neatly. Journeys are embedded with surprises and turns and break downs that cannot be predicted at the beginning. A journey does not have the helpful voice of Google Maps telling you where to turn right and where to turn left. The journey may take you far from home before depositing you right back where you began in your search for truth. Continue reading