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The Metaphysics of Recollection in Plato’s Meno

  • Whitney Schwab EMAIL logo
From the journal Apeiron


Recollection is central to the epistemology of Plato’s Meno. After all, the character Socrates claims that recollection is the process whereby embodied human souls bind down true opinions (doxai) and acquire knowledge (epistêmê). This paper examines the exchange between Socrates and Meno’s slave to determine (1) what steps on the path to acquiring knowledge are part of the process of recollection and (2) what is required for a subject to count as having recollected something. I argue that the key to answering these questions is to get clear on the kind of process recollection is supposed to be. In particular, I argue that recollection is a process akin to the kind of process Aristotle calls “changes” (kinêseis or incomplete energeiai). The key feature of such processes is that they aim at an end beyond themselves and are not complete until that end comes about. In the case of recollection, the end is knowledge, but inferior mental states, such as false opinion, puzzlement (aporia), and true opinion can come about because of a process of recollection without making it the case that the subject has recollected anything. I argue that this interpretation provides a textually supported and philosophically coherent understanding of Socrates’ conception of recollection.


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Published Online: 2020-09-17
Published in Print: 2020-09-25

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