Inquiry is the heartbeat of dialogue. A monologue answers, while a dialogue asks. A monologue is as narrow as the mind, but a dialogue reaches as far as infinity, or the square root of two.
Socrates guides Meno to a state of utter bewilderment, where everything is a question waiting to be answered. Meno's mind is laid open to dialogue only when he acknowledges his ignorance. He ceases to answer and begins to question. The recognition of ignorance is the starting point of all dialogues, because unless there is ignorance, there is no need for inquiry. One must know one does not know, to inquire into that which is unknown.
Meno humbly asks, "How will you enquire, Socrates, into that which you do
not know? What will you put forth as the subject of enquiry? And
if you find what you want, how will you ever know that this is the
thing which you did not know?" That is, how do we know what we do not know unless we already know it? But if we already know it, then why do we ask?
This is Meno's paradox, termed so by my mother and I. As with all paradoxes, its solution is a mystery. It points to God, that Creator from whom we often feel so distant, yet Whose presence is made manifest in all that we do and think.
Above all, our intellectual inquiry points directly to God. Our doubt in God, our sense that He is absent from our lives, is the experience of a mind created "in the image of God." (Gen 1:27) In doubting, we ask, in asking we already intuit the answer. According to Socrates, we cannot question God unless our minds are created to know what we doubt.
Jeremiah prophesies, "You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart." (29:13) Is it the answer that ends the search, or is the search in itself the answer? Even in doubting, man knows the truth. He must only ask to enter a dialogue which is itself an encounter with the truth.
The dialogue we are all called to is prayer. Prayer is a dialogue with the Truth that leads us to an encounter with that Truth. God converses with our ignorance, guiding us out from the narrow confines of our finite answers to an infinite inquiry into the infinite Mystery. Through the dialogue of prayer, we come to see the world, not as we thought it, but as it truly is. Inquiry begets the knowledge of truth, and the truth is the reality which far exceeds our dreams.
My mother and I are leading a class for some homeschoolers on the great works of the ancient Greeks. This post contains my after-class musings. The infinite incomprehensibility of the square root of two was a major theme of todays discussion.