The Society for Ancient Greek Philosophy Newsletter

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The aim of this paper is to present Plato's doctrine within a perspective that will both explain why Plato found himself prompted to formulate it, as well as explore some enduring insights exhibited in its applications. First, the paper will argue that Plato was prompted to adopt the doctrine given the difficulties that had arisen from the employment of the Socratic elenchus. Second, it will argue that hypothesis, already implicit in the elenchic method, will begin to be developed into a more complex and refined method that Plato sees necessary for the whole learning process. The retention of a hypothesis within a learning situation is what allows that process to succeed. This retention is a major, albeit not the sole, aspect of what Plato means by anamnesis or recollection. This section of the paper will consider in some detail parts of the Meno displaying the use of recollection (e.g., the slave boy conversation) as well as the excursus on the geometrical use of the method of hypothesis with some reference to that method's use in the later part of the dialogue. Third, the paper will give some indication of other uses of recollection in Plato that will make more plausible the doctrine that "learning is recollection."


Joseph Novak presented “The Meno, Recollection, and the Role of Hypothesis” to the Society at its meeting with the Central Division in Chicago in 2005.

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