The name of this site is inspired by one of Plato’s dialogues, called the Meno. Like all of Plato’s dialogues, the Meno is about his teacher, Socrates, who confounded, infuriated, and inspired others by asking questions that everyone assumed they knew how to answer, such as “What is virtue?” One of the people who engaged in dialogue with Socrates was an ambitious young man named Meno, who sought Socrates’ advice on how to acquire virtue. In response, Socrates asked Meno to define virtue, which caused Meno to become so frustrated that he likened Socrates to a torpedo fish, which has a stinger that causes numbness in its victims.
Meno was not the only person who found Socrates vexing. Eventually his hometown of Athens voted to have him put to death because of his odd ways. Some thought he was trying to corrupt the youth, others thought he was impious, and still others probably just thought he was a smartass.
Socrates insisted that he himself did not know the answers to the questions he posed, and I believe he meant it: the more he contemplated something, after looking at it from every possible angle, he may well have concluded that he did not know its true nature. He did not find this numbing, however; for Socrates the notion that there was always more to learn about an idea, feeling or object, was exhilarating. It is in that spirit that the idea for this website was conceived.