This Independent Study Thesis is a critical examination of Plato’s concept of Moral Knowledge as it is presented in his dialogue “Meno.” It is an epistemological project, although there is substantial focus on moral implications.

The first chapter, “The Meno,” lays the groundwork for the problem through a summary and thorough analysis of the dialogue. Three main thoughts about Plato’s views are extrapolated from the text: One, that he held critical inquiry in high esteem, and thought it to be beneficial for the student of morality to frequently critically examine their own beliefs; Two, that he also held knowledge – defined as justified true belief – in high esteem, as only beliefs which are justified and true are ensured long-term value; and Three, that critical inquiry is a tool to be used to gain knowledge. Plato frames these ideas as pertaining to moral knowledge, but the moral theory which he presents with it is found to be incompatible with these three thoughts.

The second chapter, “Theories of Moral Knowledge,” surveys multiple meta-ethical theories in search of one which accords with Plato’s thoughts. The theories are selected from four schools in particular: Realism, Anti-Realism, Cognitivism, and Non-Cognitivism. None of the theories examined are a particularly compatible match. It is suggested that a theory which focuses on moral agency may be more fruitful.

In the final chapter, “Moral Knowledge as Practical Knowledge,” it is determined that the notion of truth is problematic; truth as a complete, fixed attribute is not able to be further developed, and thus a true idea cannot improve with critical inquiry. A less rigid notion of truth is introduced to a theory of moral agency, and in turn, a meta-ethical theory compatible with Plato’s beliefs is created.


Schiltz, Elizabeth




Epistemology | Ethics and Political Philosophy


Plato, Meno, Meta-Ethical Theory, Virtue Theory, Pragmatism

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



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