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The Phaedo

The Phaedo is an accounted dialogue from the early to middle period of Plato’s writing, which is comparable to his other earlier works the Republic and the Symposium. Put simply, it narrates the death of Socrates, who is credited to be one of the founders of Western philosophy. To date, Phaedo is Plato’s seventh and, ultimately, his last discussion detailing the philosopher’s final days, the prior six being Theaetetus, Euthyphro, Sophist, Statesman, Apology and Crito, respectively. (Gallop, 1996) Like Plato’s other works, Phaedo is a legitimate dialogue, though more spiritual and metaphysical in nature than the others.

The person “Socrates” becomes a channel for Plato’s own thoughts, the dialogues becoming much longer, and having a far bigger cast of characters. (Gallop, 1996) A valuable feature of the Phaedo worth noting is the fact that the arguments of Socrates’ interlocutors are definitely much clearer and stronger compared with the many other dialogues, both early and middle versions. Another appealing mark is that some Platonic doctrines introduced in the Phaedo , which would be developed further in subsequent dialogues, are presented in a pristine and more convincing manner here than in the other related later works.

STORYLINE The dialogue begins by Phaedo’s recounting to some fellow Pythagoreans the different events and varied conversations he witnessed on the unfortunate last day of Socrates’ life. Socrates’ anxious wife, Xanthippe, was also present, but was understandably very distressed at the moment thus prompting Socrates to request that she be taken away. Situated not roughly far from Athens at a Pythagorean center in the Peloponnesian town of Phlius, the dialogue is narrated from the standpoint of one of Socrates’ students, Phaedo of Elis.

The philosopher discusses the character of the life after death on his final day before giving up his right to live by drinking the dreadful Hemlock poison. Socrates has been incarcerated and was condemned to death by the vicious Athenian political leaders for not attesting complete faith in the Athenian gods and for invariably corrupting the minds of the cities’ youth. Having been given the chance of a lifetime to be present at Socrates’ death bed, Phaedo relates the dialogue from that day to Echecrates, a fellow philosopher.

Notably many other persons where present, but the principal discussants besides Socrates are the two other Pythagorean philosophers by the names of Simmias and Cebes. These other theorists were a fascinating and very important group established in southern Italy, which was then still part of Greece, by the group’s eponym who existed in the middle of the sixth century BC. Its constituents were engaged both in arithmetical and scientific research, but they also represent a religious sect or more famously termed brotherhood, and were reasonably prominent in affairs of state.

Through engaging in a lively conversation with a cluster of Socrates’ associates, the philosopher delved into an assortment of arguments regarding the soul’s immortality in order to affectionately prove that there exists an afterlife in which the auspicious soul will reside following its demise here on Earth. Phaedo recants the story that subsequent to the conversation, he and the others were present to behold the untimely death of Socrates. HISTORY In his account, Phaedo notes that Plato was absent because of a lingering illness.

Such a statement was actually Plato’s distinctive way of telling his readers that he, himself, did not essentially witness the reported events. Of the many varied attendees and truants mentioned in the dialogue, three were distinct loyal followers of Socrates who would later become reputable founders of what are now known as the minor Socratic schools. Aristippus of Cyrene was the legitimate founder of the Cyrenaic School, which has the universal teaching that Pleasure is the goal of living. It is worthy to note that it paved the way for the more moderate Epicurean School.

Euclid of Megara, on the other hand, established the Megarian School, which also spawned another academy comfortably term Pyrrhonist, in which both advocated Skepticism. Lastly, Antisthenes of Athens instituted the Cynic school, having the most famous member Diogenes of Sinope. They basically taught that civilized life is unnatural. It was around 300 BC that a Cynic named Zeno of Citium founded a revised version of his former academe and christened it Stoic school, which mainly taught that living in a society is the natural life for human beings.

ARGUMENTS Perhaps one of the foremost premise in the Phaedo is the exceptional idea that the soul is an eternal, enduring, and undying entity that lives on after the mortal body it previously “resided in” ceases to properly function. From the long, intriguing and serious dialogues that transpired between the characters, four arguments were essentially proposed by the philosopher to his audience regarding the soul’s assumed immortality. (Audi, 1997) The first contention is termed the Cyclical Argument, or Opposites Argument.

It generally elucidate that Forms are everlasting and ageless. Socrates argues that since the soul always bestows nothing but the gift of life, then naturally it must and cannot simply die, and is therefore “imperishable”. However, taking note that as the earthly body is mortal and is consistently prone to physical death, it logically follows that the soul must be its unyielding counterpart. (Audi, 1997) Plato, on his part, modestly suggests the simple resemblance of fire and cold in lieu of such a premise.

If the form of cold is indestructible, and fire, its exact opposite, was within close propinquity, it would unsurprisingly have to withdraw intact comparable to the soul’s “detachment” during the occurrence of death. Such logic can be related to the idea of the opposite North and South Pole charges of the present day magnets. (Vlastos, 1991) The Theory of Recollection, on the other hand, suggests that the human body naturally possesses some non-empirical data at birth, reasonably implying that the soul existed prior to the process of birth in order to contain such knowledge.

It is with such grounds that Socrates asserts to his interrogators that all his answers to their queries must have originated from the unknown recollections of an existing knowledge vaguely familiar to him, imposing that he learned and gained all this from a previous life lived . An alternative account of such a conjecture can be located Plato’s other writings known Meno, although in such a case Socrates merely implies Anamnesis, or the preceding complete understanding of everything. (Vlastos, 1991)

The Affinity Argument reasons out that indiscernible, perpetual, and intangible things are far different and greatly incomparable from observable, corporeal, and tangible things. The soul is a perfect example of the former, while the human body is of the latter, so naturally when the body fails to maintain homeostasis and becomes a corpse prone to utter decay, its eternal, perfect and enduring soul will undeniably continue to survive, outlasting it earthly “shell”. (Cooper, 1997) It is in this principle that the quality of the previous life the soul has lived is taken into serious consideration.

If it was a virtuous, exemplary and untainted life of harmony, then the soul will be eternally in peace, and the afterlife will understandably be full of goodness. Alternatively, the soul who lived a life of ruckus and hostilities will never find an afterlife of bliss since it will constantly crave for its rotting corpse. These souls will even be punished while in Hades, and will suffer eternal damnation. (Cooper, 1997) The final proof Socrates narrates to his audience and disciples’ regarding the soul’s immortality was the argument from Form of Life.

He explains that the Forms, intangible and inert entities, are the cause of existence of all things in the world, and all living things participate in it. He further adds that all Forms will never become their complete opposites. Following such a logic, the Philosopher argues that since the Soul is the immediate cause of life and the complete opposite of life is death, then it follows that the soul would never administer into its very self the opposite of what it henceforth brings in the first place. Ergo life is incomparable to death since they are completely true opposites.

By its very nature, the soul participates in the formation of any given life, modestly implying the disposition it is utterly above the grasp of the claws of death. INTO THE AFTERLIFE As with Plato’s other writings, the death scene contains arguments implicating the application of Socrates’ teachings. (Benson, 1992) Crito, one of those present in the audience, asks the great philosopher how they should properly dispose of his corpse when the unimaginable has already happened. Socrates replies he will no longer be concerned of such since his soul would definitely have gone into the unknown.

But such a statement paved the way for more clarifications. If the soul would go through a number of incarnations as stated in the arguments, then the former self of the soul would be lost and be replaced by a new one. The philosopher replies that the new soul, once reincarnated, would contain both its old self and the newer one, under a completely fresh, different name. Finally, with his last ounce of remaining strength, he asks Crito to sacrifice a cock to the divine healer, a way of expressing gratitude for his souls’ liberation from its weak, soon-to-be useless body.

REFERNCES Audi, R. (1997). The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy. New York: Cambridge University Press. Benson, H. H. (1992). Essays on the Philosophy of Socrates. New York: Oxford University press. Cooper, J. M. (1997). Complete Works of Plato. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company. Gallop, D. (1996). Introduction to Phaedo. Oxford University Press. Vlastos, G. (1991). Socrates, Ironist and Moral Philosopher. New York: Cornell University Press.

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