MENO: Can you tell me, Socrates — is being good something you can be taught? Or does it come with practice rather than being teachable? Or is is something that doesn’t come with practice or learning; does it just come to people naturally? Or some other way?
MENO: No, I suppose not. But come on, Socrates; do you really not even know what being good is? Is that what you want us to say about you to people back home?
MENO: Really? Didn’t you meet Gorgias when he was here?
MENO: So, didn’t you think he knew?
MENO: That’s right, I do.
MENO: Well, it’s not very difficult, Socrates. First, if you want to know what being good is for a man — well, that’s easy. Here’s what being a good man is: having what it takes to handle your city’s affairs and, in doing so, to help out your friends and hurt your enemies (while making sure they don’t do the same to you). Or, if you want me to explain what being a good woman is, no problem: she’s got to be good at looking after the home, be thrifty with household goods and always obey her man. And then there’s being a good child (a boy or a girl) or being a good old man (free, if you want or, if you like, a slave) — and there are all sorts of other cases of being good. So there’s no need to feel baffled about what being good is! The thing about “being good” is that it’s different for each of us; it varies according to what we’re doing, according to our role in life. And I imagine, Socrates, the same goes for being bad.
MENO: That’s just what I’d have said: no bee, in so far as it’s a bee, is any different from any other bee.
MENO: I think so… only, I don’t see what you’re asking me quite as fully as I’d like.
MENO: In the case of health, yes, I think it’s the same thing for a man as for a woman.
MENO: No, I don’t.
MENO: Somehow I don’t feel it works in quite the same way as those other things, Socrates.
MENO: Of course not.
MENO: Of course not.
MENO: It looks like it.
MENO: I suppose not.
MENO: Well, obviously being good is a matter of being able to rule other people, if what you’re looking for is a single, overall definition.
MENO: No, Socrates, obviously not.
MENO: Yes, I suppose we are. After all, Socrates, doing what’s right is the same as being good, isn’t it?
MENO: How do you mean?
MENO: Yes, good point… that’s what I meant as well; I’m saying there are other ways of being good besides being right.
MENO: Alright then, there’s being brave. I think that’s a form of being good; and being sensible, and having knowledge, and being generous — and a whole lot of others.
MENO: No, that’s right, Socrates; I still can’t do it the way you want me to. I can’t get just one, overall take on what it is to be good, the way I could with those other things.
MENO: Yes, I could.
MENO: Obviously not, Socrates.
MENO: That’s right.
MENO: I’ve got a better idea. Why don’t you tell me, Socrates?