Anamnēsis as Aneuriskein, Anakinein, and Analambanein in the Meno

Classical Quarterly (forthcoming)

Douglas A. Shepardson
Fordham University
This article examines the theory of recollection in the Meno and attempts to unravel some longstanding puzzles about it. What are the prenatal objects of the soul’s vision? What are the postnatal objects of the soul’s recollection? What is innate in the Meno? Why does Socrates (prima facie) suggest that both knowledge and true opinion are innate? To answer these questions, the article pays particular attention to the ana- prefix in the verbs aneuriskô, anakineô and analambanô and suggests that they are used for two distinct stages of recollection: a phenomenological stage of ‘finding again’ or ‘awakening’ our innate content, which Plato calls doxa, and an epistemic stage of ‘getting it back’ as epistêmê. Thinking of the verbs with this ‘back/again’ sense of the ana- prefix (instead of as ‘up’, in the common translation of analambanô as ‘take up’) allows us to understand why Plato would simultaneously imply that our souls had prenatal epistêmê, have post-natal innate true opinion and have the potential to analambanein epistêmê. He is not talking about ‘taking up’ epistêmê that he also calls doxa, but about ‘getting back’ the epistêmê we had prenatally. The article concludes with an examination of what this innate content is, suggesting that it is a type of ‘principle’ and ‘essential’ mental content.
Keywords Plato  Recollection  Anamnēsis  The Meno  Innatism
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