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Ancient Greek Philosophers – Plato's Phaedo I
Posted In: Ancient Civilizations  5/2/12
By: Yona Williams

The ancient Greek philosopher Plato contributed many writings that concentrated on the last days of Socrates – another infamous philosopher of their days. "Phaedo" is the seventh and last dialogue that details the final days of Socrates. It focuses on his death and explores Socrates' view on the immortality of the soul. In this article, you are introduced to a summary of "Phaedo" with some of the key points.

A Primary Theme – the Soul

One of the primary themes of "Phaedo" is the idea that the soul is immortal. From explaining why he has no final instructions for his burial or easing the fears of a friend who questions what happens after death, Socrates provides four arguments regarding the immortality of the soul.

1. The Cyclical Argument (also referred to as the Opposites Argument) explains that the Forms (non-material things, such as ideas) are eternal and do not change. The soul will always bring life, and then it must not die. He calls it "imperishable." If the body and soul are opposites, then the body is a mortal entity that experiences a physical death, while he viewed the soul as its indestructible opposite. Plato gives an analogy involving fire and cold, where they are opposites that are in close proximity of one another.

Socrates introduces this argument when Cebes voices his fear of death to the philosopher. It is said: "...they fear that when she [the soul] has left the body her place may be nowhere, and that on the very day of death she may perish and come to an end immediately on her release from the body...dispersing and vanishing away into nothingness in her flight." Socrates comforts Cebes by explaining that the soul must be immortal since the living come from the dead.

Socrates states: "Now if it be true that the living come from the dead, then our souls must exist in the other world, for if not, how could they have been born again?"

2. The Theory of Recollection highlights the non-empirical knowledge that we possess when we are born. He implies that the soul existed before birth so that the knowledge could be carried on.

3. The Affinity Argument states that invisible, immortal, and incorporeal things are not the same as visible, mortal, and corporeal things Souls are invisible, while the body is something that is mortal and can be seen. When our bodies die and decay, our soul will continue to live on.

4. The Argument from Form of Life (also called The Final Argument) states that non-material things (Forms) are responsible for all of the things found in the world, and all things play a role in these ideas. For instance, the number eight participates in the Form of the Even. Since the soul participates in the Form of Life, it means that the soul can never die.


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