Meno's Love of Freedom

What does Socrates mean on p. 243 when he complains about Meno’s love freedom? Are Meno’s weaknesses as a student like those of the resistant students in the cave allegory? Or are they different?

Socrates says that loves his freedom so much in 86E that “you try to control me and you do.” By being so focused on keeping his freedom of choice, ends up controlling the learning process. The implication is that if we are always trying to meet the needs of our students and respecting their freedom, then they truly control the learning process. The teacher loses freedom because their teaching process is controlled by the needs of the learner.

This is a different way of thinking for me, and something I have never considered in-depth before, but I do feel that we get our best results working with the students and if that means valuing the freedom of the student over the freedom of the teacher at times, then that is a path we need to follow, even if it means that we take longer to reach our desired destination in the learning process.

Both and the students in the cave allegory want to be comfortable. One wants to feel free, while the other wants to return to the only life they know, but both want to continue down the path that they are familiar with. As mentioned, I feel that educators need to respect the experiences of the students, but not at the expense of best practices. We want them to be interested and feeling good about the process, but we also need to make them feel uncomfortable at times, as I mentioned in my previous post about reading strategies and multiplication strategies, even if it makes the student feel uncomfortable or that their freedom is being constrained, in order for them to continue on their learning journey, gaining greater skills along the way.

Plato. . Reason and Persuasion: Three Dialogues by Plato, 4th, translated by Belle Waring, commentary and illustrations by John Holbo, Holbo and Waring, 2016, pp. 211-263,

Craig Skinner



Steve Hawkins teacher May 15, 2019, 1:53 PM

Hi Craig, Some of what you say here about discomfort echoes Lisa's post about the value of confusion - but also the importance of that confusion being *temporary*. In the cave allegory, we don't see much attention to the temporal (dramatic? rhythmic?) character of learning, i.e. to what you call the "process". (The 'process philosopher' Alfred North Whitehead gives a lot of attention to this in his book *The Aims of Education*, and Dewey is sensitive to this aspect of learning as well.) There are educational stages in the cave allegory (the untying of the hands, the climb out of the cave, the emergence into the light), but we don't see Plato dramatising the sequence of confusion/clarity/confusion/clarity (or discomfort/comfort/discomfort/comfort...) that you and Lisa point to, although this pattern is often there in Socrates' conversations themselves. What you have to say here in response to the tug-of-war between Meno and Socrates is also interesting, and I'm inclined to agree with your view that the freedom (and the good more generally - I'm thinking here of the current push-back by Quebec teachers against recent changes to sex education) of the student must sometimes defeat the freedom of the teacher. The Greeks (as I was saying in an earlier comment on Sara's work - were a perhaps unusually competitive or 'agonistic' people, and they saw value emerging from uncomfortable tension or conflict. The central place of dialogue in Socrates' and Plato's work is related to this insistence on the kind of interested, heels-dug-in engagement between people generally (and teachers and students more particularly). Learning happens in a space of tension, so it's normal and desirable that both sides resist each other instead of submitting passively to the will of the other. As an aside: Plato's and Socrates' worries about the dangers of *writing* are related to this: when readers try to 'stand up' to texts and challenge them, the texts are silent in reply. Many students of literature, theology, etc., of course, disagree about the 'silence' of texts, but it is easy enough to see what Plato and Socrates feared...

Join linkr for free today!

linkr is easy to use and will make your teaching more interactive