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Laches

Part Eight (197c–201c)

Summary Part Eight (197c–201c)

However, one might interpret the men's failure to come to an understanding as signifying more than merely the impossibility of knowledge. Perhaps the lesson to be learned is that courage is not the kind of thing that can be taken by itself and defined in isolation. One might learn from the Laches dialogue that "courage" is a property that a person can have rather than an existing independent entity. It is difficult to imagine what use a word like courage could have if there existed no courageous people to which it applied. And even if we cannot give a satisfactory definition of courage we might just say that it is the kind of thing known when you experience it, much like the property of beauty or ugliness. In line 190b Socrates wonders, "must we not first know the nature of virtue" before it may be taught to children. Perhaps what Socrates and his friends have discovered about virtue in the Laches is that it is not something a person can know in the way one knows an idea or a belief. It seems that in this dialogue as in many others, Socrates has not discerned a way that virtue should be imparted to children but rather a way that it should not.