LITERATURE: Phaedo – On the Higher State of Knowledge

Surrounded by at least fifteen friends, Socrates is in his final hours before he sips his aperitif of hemlock.  He explains the viewpoint of the philosopher, who understands that the soul’s departure from the body is considered then unfettered by misleading information given it empirically which is considered to be inferior to reason.

"By any other sense of those the body has did you ever grasp them?  I mean all such things, greatness, health, strength, in short everything that really is the nature of things whatever they are:  Is it through the body that the real truth is perceived?  Or is this better–whoever of us prepares himself most completely and most exactly to comprehend each thing which he examines would come nearest to knowing each one?

"And would he do that most purely who should approach each with his intelligence alone, not adding in any other sense along with reasoning, but using the intelligence uncontaminated along by itself, while he tries to hunt out each essence uncontaminated, keeping clear of eyes and ears and, one might say, of the whole body, because he thinks the body disturbs him and hinders the soul from getting possession of truth and wisdom when body and soul are companions–is not this the man, Simmias, if anyone, who will hit reality?"  (Phaedo, p. 468)

While I cannot dispute that eyes and ears deceive us, and while I do believe in some sort of existence beyond this earth, I wonder what we are indeed put here on this earth to learn if not of itself and the human form of the nature of man.  Even in the belief, as that of Socrates, in a rebirth upon this earth after an extended period of time, what are we sent to study but man himself again, in but a different time. 

It’s a curious enigma, that while here, we have only available to us what is here and known, though from it we can conceive of more, and yet this is worthless in the grander story of what we may truly be.  And that, of course, is unknown to us here.

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