Socrates & the Afterlife
Socrates & the Afterlife
“When I have drunk the poison I shall leave you and go to the joys of the blessed…” (Plato, p.67) In his final hours, as written in Plato’s Phaedo, Socrates spoke of death and the afterlife while awaiting his execution. Socrates was tried and convicted of two charges: corrupting the youth and impiety (blasphemy), he was imprisoned and sentenced to death. According to his final words, Socrates does not seem to fear death but instead sees it as a release of his soul from his physical body; “…beyond question, the soul is immortal and imperishable, and our souls will truly exist in another world!” (Plato, p.63) Socrates lack of fear in death appears to be greatly influenced by his beliefs that after ones physical body is “relieved” their soul lives on for all eternity. He argued that the philosopher spends his life training to detach ones soul from the needs of the body, and that the soul takes the nurture and education with it on its journey to the world after. His views on the afterlife and death are very deep and he has what I see to be somewhat of a death ‘flow chart’, he has it all mapped out based on what he spoke. In Plato’s Phaedo, Socrates goes on to explain that the souls travels to the other world, or afterlife, are not a straight path as others have stated. In his opinions the soul leaves the body and travels to be judged and if the soul had acted impurely while in the body it would be ignored and left to wander alone in the other world until enough time would pass to make up for its wrongdoings (similar to the catholic idea of penance). He believed that when the dead would arrive at the other world if any were impure they would travel through Acheron, which is a river in the underworld where those whose lives on Earth were meaningless or impure would be cleansed and then released; those whose souls were incurable were sent to Tartarus (torment pit, Hell) for the rest of eternity. He did say that some of those who committed heinous acts, such as murder, could be released from this hell after spending no less than 1 year and only if they could obtain mercy from those whom they wronged in their life. I personally do not have the same views as Socrates does on the afterlife and death so I disagree with what he was saying, I have objections similar to those raised by Simmias and Cebes. In the interactions between Socrates and the others, the objections were raised that the soul was an attachment of the living body and was gone when the body was or that just because the soul lives on after the body doesn’t make it immortal, per Simmias, “But is not the soul acknowledged to be a harmony, and has she not the same relation to the body, as the harmony—“(Plato, p.8). What I take from that statement is that the body and soul are one; this is my personal stance on the subject. I believe that one does not truly live after death in the way that most think. I am of the belief that it is ones actions in this life that lead to their life living on forever. For example, we are discussing a philosopher who has been dead for roughly 2,500 years, his teachings still live on to this day and to me that is his ‘immortality’. When ones name is spoken for years after their death I believe that to be the meaning behind ‘eternity’, and it is how ones soul continues to live forever. I don’t believe that we are judged and cast into groups after death like most deity’s do, I find it hard to believe in the spiritual thinking. The Socratic Method is basically a form of consistent questioning to find the right question to ask that will not end with a contradiction. It searches for commonly held truths that shape opinion, and scrutinizes them to determine their consistency with other beliefs. This method is much like the ‘The Good Thinker’s Tool Kit’ that we went over in week 1 of this course; a series of questions to come to a solid thought, idea, or question. If I were to utilize...
References: Plato. (1871). Phaedo. Phaedo, 1-70.
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