Is there a Catholic Interpretation to Meno's Question?

In the old Platonic dialogue the Meno… Meno asks Socrates a question with respect to virtue…

The question is… if one doesn’t know what one is seeking, then how will one know if one has found it?

Throughout history different people have offered different explanations… for instance, an economist might suggest a person simply discovers something that satisfies an appetite - perhaps like when one visits the refrigerator a million times before deciding upon what one actually wants to eat…

The question as I am contemplating it here is more in the Catholic sense… with respect to prayer… so, if one was praying for something non-specific (so as to leave room open to the Spirit) - how would one know when one’s prayer was answered?

I think it depends on what you expect for an answer. This joke always come to mind to me:

A big storm approaches. The weatherman urges everyone to get out of town. A man says, “I won’t worry, God will save me”.

The morning of the storm, the police go through the neighborhood with a sound truck telling everyone to evacuate. The man says “I won’t worry, God will save me”.

The storm drains back up and there is an inch of water standing in the street. A fire truck comes by to pick up the man. He tells them “Don’t worry, God will save me.”

The water rises another foot. A National Guard truck comes by to rescue the man. He tells them “Don’t worry, God will save me.”

The water rises some more. The man is forced up to his roof. A boat comes by to rescue the man. He tells them “Don’t worry, God will save me.”

The water rises higher. The man is forced up to the very top of his roof. A helicopter comes to rescue the man. He shouts up at them “Don’t worry, God will save me.”

The water rises above his house, and the man drowns.

When he gets up to heaven he says to God “I’ve been your faithful servant ever since I was born! Why didn’t you save me?”

God replies “First I sent you a fire truck, then the national guard, then a boat, and then a helicopter. What more do you want from me!!??”

In slang terms, what you are describing is called “begging the question”.

It’s easy to see why people would start begging the question when contemplating Socratic thought. Socrates questions everything, so it is just what he was like.

Aristotle called it an “infinite regress”.

in computer programming it’s called an “infinite loop”, and nothing will lock up one’s computer faster than an infinite loop. The way out of it is to set a sentinel value that flags the procedure to stop so when the computer finds the value is seeking it stops running the loop.

In human and prayerful terms, you’re saying we tend to use expectation, but then you’re saying it is often the case people refuse to accept and appreciate what they have been given. That makes a lot of sense. Gratitude and thankfulness definitely drive up our sense of moral value in life. That’s just what appreciation is/does.

In prayer, however, expectation is subjective, so let’s assume the person fell to the ground and died, like the grain of wheat. Assuming the seed fell on good soil, had everything it needed, and so on - the conversion process has begun… And, since we’re really talking about a human soul, the “grain” isnt actually dead - it’s more like it is just changing in order to grow… i.e. appreciate…

To grow, the plant cannot accept everything, but it must accept some things.

I think what I am asking is… how to identify the stuff it should accept and reject, as like the sentinel value would…

The rest of the time one should keep searching though… Jesus tells us to pray constantly… and to persevere in prayer… so to stop begging the question is not really an option…

However, when you’re praying for a specific intention, identifying those sentinel moments are a bit challenging…

I would guess that Saint Thomas Aquinas addressed the issue at some point.


Yeah, well… given that I am a Cradle Catholic, a philosophy major, and posing a question that was first written down as asked by a guy who lived between 470-399 bce… I don’t really think your meme applies… I am not trying “to stump Catholics”… I’m already stumped by it myself…

But, while we’re on the topic of Aquinas, since the Summa is the size of a small set of encyclopedias, and I am more Franciscan than Dominican… can you please provide a simple reference in your response?

Otherwise, I’d appreciate it more if you just spoke from your heart…

It was just a joke. I didn’t think you are trying to stump Catholics.

I’m not sure that you can riff off the Meno in this way. I’ll give it a try, though…

… if you’re not asking for something specific (e.g., “Dear Lord, please let me win the lottery tonight”), but rather, something quite non-specified (e.g., “Thy will be done”), then what would the “knowledge of the answer of the prayer” look like, anyway?

(In fact, to ask the question about “answer” to prayer seems off-base to begin with; shouldn’t the question be about “fulfillment” of prayer requests?)

And, if what you’re asking in prayer meets the definition of what Christ says will be fulfilled (i.e., that God’s will be done), then the question self-answers, don’t you think? If you have sufficient faith in God to pray for it, don’t you have sufficient faith to believe that God will do it? :thinking:

So… the answer is “believe”, I think… no?

I think I’d start by Googling “Aquinas on prayer” and then look for reputable sites that discuss his thoughts on the question. But that’s just me… :wink:

One might not consciously realize what one seeks in any specific conscious manner
Internally Children of God seek Love - whether they could verbalize that truism or not.
If Love/Agape… comes their way - Yes… They’ll Know.


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