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Ancient Greek Philosophers – Plato's Phaedo II
Posted In: Ancient Civilizations  5/3/12
By: Yona Williams

An array of topics is addressed in Plato's "Phaedo" – a dialogue that concentrates on the final days of Socrates who is awaiting execution. Because of the impending end of a great philosopher, much of the subject matter presents viewpoints concerning death, the afterlife and the soul. In this article, you will learn more about the topics discussed in "Phaedo."

The Beginning

The first conversation that takes place in "Phaedo" sets a scene of Compoton, where Echecrates abnd Phaedo meet. He is curious to the last days of the great philosopher Socrates. Phaedo talks about the delay between the trial and death of the philosopher, as well as describes what occurred on the final day that Socrates was in the jail at Athens, including mentioning all of the people who were present. Phaedo visited Socrates early in the morning with others, including his wife Xanthippe. She was not handling the situation very well and Socrates asked that she be taken away.

One of the topics that Socrates mentions is the issue of suicide. He believes that man should not kill himself because he does not actually possess ownership of himself. Socrates says that people are the property of the gods. The philosopher says, "I too believe that the gods are our guardians, and that we men are a chattel of theirs."

The Topic of the Afterlife

In "Phaedo," Socrates discusses the nature of the afterlife as he approaches his last day on Earth. He is set to be executed by drinking hemlock poison. The Athenian jury has imprisoned and sentenced him to death for not believing in the gods of the state and for being a corrupting influence on the youth of the city. The dialogue is presented from the perspective of one of his students, Phaedo of Elis, who was at Socrates' death bed. The dialogue is what Phaedo tells of the day to Echecrates, who is a Pythagorean philosopher. Socrates explores different arguments that can be made to explain the immortality of the soul. He wishes to prove there is an afterlife where the soul will reside after the body has died. After the discussion, Phaedo and others are there to see the death of Socrates.

One of the final points that Socrates makes before he drinks the hemlock poison is told through a myth that describes what happens to souls after death. Following the telling of the myth, Socrates states that it is time for him to drink the poison. But first, he wants to take a bath so that no one will have to clean his corpse. Crito asks if Socrates has any instructions for them, such as what is to become of his children. Socrates replies that if they all take care to look after themselves, then good things will eventually fall in line. Crito asks about burial wishes and Socrates says that he can do whatever he wishes.


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