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The PHAEDO The death of the philosopher, and the immortality and nature of the soul.

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Presentation on theme: "The PHAEDO The death of the philosopher, and the immortality and nature of the soul."— Presentation transcript:

1 The PHAEDO The death of the philosopher, and the immortality and nature of the soul

2 Background – the PHAEDO consists of two parts  the death scene 60a-63e and 115b-118a (beginning early in the morning when his jailors took off his chains and ending in the evening with his taking the hemlock, and his death process),  and the final philosophical discourse/conversation with friends who visited him in his cell. The first part of this (64a-69e) is on his attitude toward death, and the rest (70a-115a [not part of the NCEA requirement –as it is thought to be more Plato than Socrates]) covers the soul’s immortality. This whole section takes the form of a second “apology” – a trial before a jury – his friends – who ‘charge’ him with showing undue cheerfulness in the face of death.

3 How the dialogue goes?  The Phaedo this takes place sometime after Socrates death in a remote Peloponnesian town of Phlius near Corinth  a friend Echecrates – a follower of Pythagorean philosophy buttonholes Phaedo, who was present at Socrates’ death  He wants to be told precisely happened.  [an unusual dialogue in that it is a report through Phaedo, though he is not much involved in them.]

4 Background: death – as understood by common people  Greek notions of death  In order to ‘get’ the issues we need to grasp the Greek understanding of death. (nothing like our ‘heaven’)  Hades is a place of shades, ghosts – the senses are dull – pleasure and pain blunted – a ½ alive state –  Homer in his Odyssey shows death, where Achilles tells Odysseus that had he known he’d have preferred a dull life without honour to a short life and immortal fame.  Some followers of the mystery cults, Orpheus, and Pythagoras had more optimistic views. Though most Greeks would have had the Homeric vision.

5 Background: Socrates’ notion of death that we have already met in the Apology and Crito.  Apology: He says the fact that people fear death proves their ignorance. Since they can’t be certain it is bad, it is not rational to assume that it is – so why fear what you can’t know (maybe it’s the uncertainty that they fear)  In the sentencing section he puts forward 2 desirable alternatives – \ a) the sleepless oblivion b) the souls migration to a better place and the joy of companionship with the great figures of the past.  He also mentions the judges of the underworld – implying an element of retribution there.  Crito: He thinks it is absurd for an old man with a worn out body to dread death.  He also mentions how he will be judged in the afterlife if he has fled his agreement with “Laws” to live. He says we are morally accountable for our lives “before the authorities there.”

6 DIALOGUE begins with pleasure and pain [57a- 61c]  In the Phaedo, Echecrates catches up on Socrates end by having Phaedo, who was there, tell him what occurred in minute detail.  He is told about the delay due to the religious trip to Delos (and its background). About who was there – Plato specifically excluded – and even the detail of what strange ambiguous emotions Phaedo experienced.  How they had all assembled early, but had to wait as the jailors were with Socrates explaining the execution procedure to him, and removing his leg chains.  When they entered he was with his wife Xanthippe and youngest son, but she became distressed and was taken home.  He talks about the pain of the chains, transforming to pleasure at the ceasing of the pain – noting that pleasure and pain a never together but always very close together (like two bodies attached to the same head 60c) – they cause one another.  The discussion moves on to some verses Socrates had been writing in prison based on Aesop’s fables (obeying dream’s he’d had recently “Socrates – follow the Arts 60e”). Then him sending his complements to a friend, Evenus, who he says should follow him soon (to death).

7 The Philosophers attitude to suicide – if death is so to be desired why not suicide? [61d-63c]  This leads to comments that the philosopher should welcome death, (but not by suicide).  Cebes asks how can that be? Socrates says he is happy to talk about death now since it is a journey he is about to take.  So why are we not allowed to pursue is this good – death? It is an exception to the usual rule of the philosopher “to pursue the good.”  Socrates suggests that it is forbidden because we belong to the gods, and may not destroy their possessions.  Cebes objects that for philosophers (lovers of wisdom) to desire death is to desire to be parted from the gods’ care – which is not sensible as their guidance is good, the best.  Socrates answers that this would be fair criticism if he did not have a high expectation of what followed life. Conversing with good men, and in the care of good masters (the gods). His philosophy will be more rewarding as well with such companions.  He also mentions that the good can expect better than the bad.

8 SOCRATES 2 nd APOLOGY: [63c-66c]  TO HIS FRIENDS CHARGE OF HIM BEING TO HAPPY ABOUT HIS DEATH  A philosopher’s life is a preparation for death, and he should not fear it when it comes.  Death is simply the separation of body and soul – the 2 constituents of men.  Body - bound for decay, Soul - for life.  And soul not the body is the business of the philosopher.  He spells out the realm of soul as opposed to body:  Soul – intellectual, moral, reasoning, truth, make judgements, immortal. It works best when unencumbered by the body – tiredness, hunger, desire, illness.  Body – the 5 senses, pleasure/pain, appetites for food, sex, ego, pride, disease, loves, fears, desires, emotions. The senses mislead us, and distract the soul as it seeks truth.  The soul, seeking wisdom beauty, and truth, avoids the distractions of the body, and this best when it is removed completely from the body.  Socrates introduces an important notion of abstract ideas like justice, beauty, truth, beauty, goodness, tallness, etc. which he suggests are the real nature of something.  These are pure qualities, unpolluted by the senses. These unchanging Ideas (Forms) are the only way we can comprehend anything.  They are the form we use to make sense of chaotic sense inputs. (Plato went on to develop his famous theory of Forms from this line of reasoning).

9 Why “True philosophers make dying their profession” [66d-69e]  Only after we are free from the body’s “infecting” influences are we free to enter the realm of truth. Till then – in life – we can’t attain truth. In fact the effect of the body may so contaminate the soul that it is hard for it to enter the afterlife (realm of purity), because it is a ‘breach of the divine order’. Note the idea of judgement – morality and truth are intimately linked for Socrates.  “True philosophers make dying their profession” – means that for a lover of wisdom, a) the focus is on virtue & wisdom (soul) rather than senses and pleasure, and b) the ultimate physical purification of death is the ultimate goal – hence they will not fear death.  Self control and courage is the practice of philosophers. Courage and self control of ordinary people has an ulterior motive – courage because they are fearful of appearing cowardly, self control because they enjoy it (self indulgence).  Philosophers don’t use their emotions (like or fear) to decide what to do, but wisdom. Wisdom acts to cleanse emotions from our decisions, which is good because emotions are fickle and distract form truth.  So, purity and enlightenment are necessary to enter the afterlife.  This concludes Socrates “apology” – the rest of the Phaedo delves further into the problem, as Cebes still worries that maybe the soul simply disappears after death, rather than having the life Socrates has claimed [not in our syllabus].

10 The death scene – one of the most influential death scenes in western literature [115b-118a]  Socrates tells his friends how to live well without him, and to take care of themselves  He says not to fret over how to bury him, as he is not there – only his body (especially Crito – who is slow realising Socrates’ confidence).  He goes to bathe – to save the women doing it after his death  His family (3 sons) visit, then leave  The sun sets and the jailer brings him the bowl of Hemlock to drink, and explains to him what to expects as the poison takes hold.  He says Socrates is the kindest and noblest who he has had to serve this way and bids him farewell  Crito tries to persuade him to delay taking the poison, but Socrates is ready to begin his adventure after life.  Socrates takes the hemlock without fear and, commenting that he will depart, and leave his corpse there in the cell (he identifies with the soul).  His friends all weep now but Socrates chides them to stop – it is good for a person to die in peace.  He gets cold and numb up his legs, and about to die  his last words – are to Crito –” I owe a cock to Asclepius” for curing his soul of the disease of physical life.  And he dies  The Phaedo closes with Phaedo saying to Echecrates that this was “the end of our comrade, who was we may say, of all whom we knew in our time the bravest and also the wisest and the most just.”

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