Professor Hannes Charen
Introduction to Philosophy
February 27th, 2014
2. What is the role of philosophy for Socrates and why is it valuable in itself? Explain three arguments Socrates gives for the immortality of the soul. Briefly explain Cebes and Simmias’ counterarguments using examples from the text for support. Finally, based on your understanding of the Phaedo give your interpretation of the last words of Socrates and back it up by citing the text. In Plato’s The Last Days of Socrates, Phaedo gives an account of the last few hours of Socrates’ life, to Echecrates when he encounters him after Socrates’ death. In Phaedo’s telling of the story, we learn about why Philosophy was so important to Socrates, and why he spent his final hours explaining his arguments about the body and the soul, to his two friend Cebes and Simmias. Socrates presents four separate arguments as to how the soul lives separately from the body, the first being the theory of opposites, seconded by the theory of recollection, and followed by his theory of Affinity. After he presents his first three arguments, Simmias and Cebes interject with their opinions and counterarguments to Socrates’ first three, which is then when Socrates comes up with his fourth and final argument – Theory of the Forms. The last and final argument is one of the most important arguments that Socrates will make throughout the whole story. Phaedo ends his account to Echecrates by telling us of the final words of Socrates. Socrates was a well known Greek philosopher, known chiefly through the writings of his students, such as Plato who wrote the novel in which we are reflecting. Socrates did not write down any of his ideas or knowledge, but instead instilled it upon other people who took the responsibility of writing it down for themselves. During Socrates’ final hours, we find out why Philosophy was so important to him. He argues that the soul is a separate entity from the body, and that we must separate the soul as far as possible from it. He relates this to death, by saying that death is this freeing and parting of the soul from the body. Socrates states, on page 100 line 67d exactly why Philosophy is important – “…those that go in for philosophy in the correct way who are always eager to set the soul free; what philosophers practice is exactly this, the freeing and parting of soul from body.” He believes that Philosophers live their lives being as close to death as possible, “those occupied correctly in philosophy really do practice dying, and death is less frightening for them than for anyone else (Plato 67a).” He states that if philosophers desire that one thing, separating the soul from the body, then they must always be close to death and to never be afraid of it. Socrates presents his initial argument that “everything comes to be through opposite things coming to be from no other source than their own opposites (Plato 70e).” He believed that everything that exists, has an opposite and must have came from that opposite. He provided examples such as “the beautiful is presumably opposite to the ugly” or “when something comes to be bigger, it must be from being smaller before (Plato 70e).” In explaining this argument, he presents that between the two members of the pair, there are two-processes for the pair to come into being. In order for something to be big, it had to come from being small, it increased in size but it could go the opposite way and decrease in size as well. This argument relates to the soul and the body by saying that being alive has an opposite, which is being dead. In order for the opposites argument to be logical, one must be able to come back from the dead and be alive, so it is from the dead that living things come to be alive. This leads us to believe that the soul is immortal, and existed before the body. Socrates sums up this argument by stating, “the living have come from the dead no less than the dead from the living;...
Cited: Plato, , and Christopher Rowe. The Last Day of Socrates. New York: Penguin Classics, 2010. 87-169. Print.
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