Well I’m not really finding any solid answers to the question of life, death, body and soul as I’d hope to easily accept in Plato’s Phaedo. 

While it is very clear (as is Plato’s way) in explanation, I think that I still tend to force scientific principles upon philosophy, and therefore approach it with an attitude of disbelief until proven, and the logic that forms Socrates discussion of the "proven" existence of a soul falls a bit short, at least to my mind.

"Very well then," said Socrates, we must ask ourselves what sorts of things properly undergo this; I mean, what sorts of things are dissolved and scattered, for what sorts we must fear such an end, and for what, not?  Next we must consider which sort the soul belongs to.  We shall know then whether to be confident or fearful for our own soul."  (p. 482)

From here Socrates "proves" that that which is unchanging cannot be seen, such as the soul, versus that which changes, such as the body, that can be seen.  Beauty and justice and purity is not seen or felt by the senses, but rather known by the mind, and therefore belongs to the soul.  Then we come to mortal (changing, body) versus the ever existing (unchanging, soul) that cannot be seen. 

It is difficult here to summarize this section but worse, I swear, to type it all out word for word so you may readily disagree with me that this form of logical process of thought to me, doesn’t exactly "prove" anything.  Not that it has to, I understand; but it should form a theory that isn’t based on necessary explicit assumptions along the line of "if all redheads have green eyes, and Jane is a redhead…" 

I truly need to take a course in Philosophy so that this is more immediately open to discussion and therefore, my own sad attempts at understanding and poking holes in Plato’s theories can be honestly and productively argued.  I love studying philosophy, but I need to have some means of clarifying some points as they come up and be convinced of them.  Otherwise, I tend to either reject a concept or not take it seriously enough.  Either way, it does not have the impact of conviction.

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2 Responses to LITERATURE: Phaedo

  1. Ben Walker says:

    Hmm, the Phaedo isn’t strictly speaking doctrinal, and so shouldn’t be treated as such, but rather more as a fictional dialogue that incites response in the reader, i.e. the would-be philosopher. It’s by no means clear that Plato intended any of his dialogues as direct representations of his own stance, but rather dialogical tools with which to get the reader all het-up and ready to engage in argument. So maybe it’s quite understandable, your reaction to the argument proffered in Phaedo: what next, is the question? What is your argument against those four or so discreet chains of logos conatined in Plato’s story of Socrates’ death? Your own philosophical reaction – rather than the defendability of the arguments found in the text – is Plato’s aim, and the criteria by which Phaedo should be judged. And the deeper you dig into the text’s context, the more rewarding and cunning it will become for you. I recommend, for example, GA Press’ Plato: A Guide for the Perplexed, it’s a great little book.

    good luck with it all,

    Ben Walker

  2. susan says:

    It’s been a while since I read Phaedo but I think I always knew I’d be rereading it again. Thanks for the suggestion on the Guide–maybe it’ll help the second time around.

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