PHIL 1F91 October 26 2012
Lecture Eight: The Phaedo
Historical Context and Background
Depicts the last dialogue between Socrates and his disciples. It occurs on the day of Socrates‟
Cebes and Simmias are the most important characters in the dialogue – Plato is absent.
Apparently, he was very ill at the time
Phaedo recalled the story to Plato and hence this is why it is called The Phaedo
About Socrates‟ last speech and the moments leading up to his eventual death
The dialogue has a number of important themes. First, what happens to the soul at death? And
indeed does the soul exist?
Second, if the soul continues on after death, is the soul immortal or just lasting?
Third, the first mentioning of Plato‟s metaphysical and epistemological theory of the Forms. The
Phaedo is the first dialogue of Plato‟s middle period
We see Plato‟s theory of recollection more fully developed then in the Meno
Fourth, we have a fully developed ethics for the true philosopher
“Philosophers ought cheerfully…” (pg. 554)
Why is Socrates cheerful just a few hours before he drinks the Hemlock? And why has Socrates
refused his friends offer of escape?
Socrates‟ answer: Because the philosopher must care for the soul and the soul is more important
than the body
You are always relating to yourself
Philosophy and Death
Cebes asks: If the Philosopher sees and practices death then why is suicide immoral?
Socrates responds that we are the possessions of the gods and therefore it is not up to us to end
All are satisfied with this response. The question now turns on whether Socrates can prove that the
soul lives on after death. If he cannot, Socrates‟ philosophical ethos is in trouble
What is this ethos?
“The fact is that to tackle philosophy aright one simply and solely practicing dying, practising death,
all the time but nobody sees it.”
“If this is true, then it would be…” (pg. 556)
The Ethos of the True Philosopher
Seeks purification and this can only be achieved at death once the body dies
Agon: strife (agony) th
PHIL 1F91 October 26 2012
Body and soul are in a constant agon with each other
The body is the source for greed, wars, and wickedness
The body is the Soma (body)-Sema (tomb) the body is the tomb of the soul. Thus, we should not
fear death because we will be released from this tomb
“Then from all this…” (pg. 559)
Socrates‟ First Argument for the Immortality of the Soul
“And is not purification…” (pg. 560)
If death frees the soul from the shackles of the body, then Socrates must also show that the soul
continues to exist after the body dies. There would be no point in studying philosophy if the s