• Fooloso4
    7
    At Banno’s suggestion I am starting a thread on Plato’s Phaedo.

    I will be citing this online translation: http://www.faculty.umb.edu/gary_zabel/Phil_100/Plato_files/310585462-Plato-Phaedo.pdf

    but relying on this one: Plato-Phaedo-Focus-Philosophical-Library/dp/0941051692. Certain terms from this edition will be used in place of what is found in the online translation.

    EDIT: I have compiled the separate commentary posts in order that it may be read together:

    1. https://thephilosophyforum.com/discussion/10914/platos-phaedo/p1


    2. https://thephilosophyforum.com/discussion/comment/534860


    3. https://thephilosophyforum.com/discussion/comment/535343


    4. https://thephilosophyforum.com/discussion/comment/535924


    5. https://thephilosophyforum.com/discussion/comment/536573


    6. https://thephilosophyforum.com/discussion/comment/537114


    7. https://thephilosophyforum.com/discussion/comment/537698


    8. https://thephilosophyforum.com/discussion/comment/538481


    9. https://thephilosophyforum.com/discussion/comment/539501


    10. https://thephilosophyforum.com/discussion/comment/540733



    The dialogue is written as a first hand account but it is not Plato’s account, it is Phaedo’s as told to Echecrates. We soon learn that Plato was not with Socrates on his final day. He was sick. (59b) We do not know the nature of his illness. What would have been so serious as to keep him away? That question will be addressed in due time. But for now we should note that Plato is twice removed. He was not there with Socrates, and there is no indication he was there when Phaedo told Echecrates what he had witnessed. Plato is mentioned in only two places in the dialogues. Here it is his absence rather than his presence that he draws our attention to.

    Socrates is doing something he has never done before, writing. He explains it this way:

    often in my past life the same dream had visited me, now in one guise, now in another, but always saying the same thing: "Socrates,'' it said, "make music and practise it." Now in earlier times I used to assume that the dream was urging and telling me to do exactly what I was doing: as people shout encouragement to runners, so the dream was telling me to do the very thing that I was doing, to make music, since philosophy is the greatest music. (61a)

    He continues:

    I reflected that a poet should, if he were really going to be a poet, make stories rather than arguments, and being no teller of tales myself, I therefore used some I had ready to hand …(61b)

    Several things need to be noted. First, he calls philosophy the greatest music. Second, he claims that he is not a storyteller. But here he tells a story about a dream from his past life. That it is just a story will become clear.

    Unlike Socrates, Plato did write and he is a very capable storyteller, capable of the greatest music. His dialogues are akin to the work of the poets’ plays. What we will hear are not simply arguments but stories. The question arises as to whether this is a comedy or tragedy. Phaedo says that he was not overcome by pity and that Socrates seemed happy (58e) Phaedo reports feeling an unusual blend of pleasure and pain. (59a). As we shall see, opposites will play an important part in Socrates’ stories.
  • frank
    10
    This is my favorite. I look forward to reading your thoughts on it.
  • Fooloso4
    7
    This is my favorite. I look forward to reading your thoughts on it.frank

    And I look forward to a dialogue about this dialogue.
  • Amity
    9

    Thanks for this. I have downloaded it and hope to read along with you and others.

    We soon learn that Plato was not with Socrates on his final day. He was sick. (59b)... What would have been so serious as to keep him away?...But for now we should note that Plato is twice removed...Here it is his absence rather than his presence that he draws our attention to.Fooloso4

    Ah, how intriguing. The dialogue sounds like a Russian doll. What kind of illness...hmm...physical, mental...a broken leg causing great pain...

    Socrates is doing something he has never done before, writingFooloso4
    Really ?

    the same dream had visited me, now in one guise, now in another, but always saying the same thing:Fooloso4
    I've just been discussing dreams elsewhere in the forum - the fact that strange figures flit in and out and we can have weird conversations with them. Again, I once talked about dreams as a source of inspiration which led to real life problems being solved. Dreams are a bit of a mystery.

    So, whose voice would be it be ? That of his daemonion ? Some kind of a spirit ?

    the dream was telling me to do the very thing that I was doing, to make music, since philosophy is the greatest music. (61a)Fooloso4

    But why would it need to do that, or Socrates assume that - if it is a source of inspiration, then Socrates already has it in spades.

    I reflected that a poet should, if he were really going to be a poet, make stories rather than arguments, and being no teller of tales myself, I therefore used some I had ready to hand …(61b)Fooloso4

    Does S. then see himself as a poet, even as he makes arguments ?
    Why, if he was being encouraged to 'make music and practise it' - or rhythmic lyrics - would he dismiss his own talent and rely on second-hand material?

    But here he tells a story about a dream from his past life. That it is just a story will become clear.Fooloso4

    Oh, hot damn...this is beginning to sound like Dallas. Bobby in the shower. Everything that had happened previously - Bobby dying - was only his wife's dream...
    So, we don't get to read any of Socrates' poems then ?

    What we will hear are not simply arguments but stories.Fooloso4

    I am looking forward to seeing how this all pans out...soap opera meets political drama ?

    a comedy or tragedyFooloso4
    Both ?

    Phaedo says that he was not overcome by pity and that Socrates seemed happy (58e) Phaedo reports feeling an unusual blend of pleasure and pain. (59a). As we shall see, opposites will play an important part in Socrates’ stories.Fooloso4

    A bitter-sweet play.
  • Fooloso4
    7
    Dreams are a bit of a mystery.Amity

    Socrates obeys what the dream commands so as to acquit himself of any impiety. (60e) Only now, at the end of his life, he doubts that he has not obeyed by philosophizing. And it is only by chance that his death was postponed. Since the same dream visited him often in his past life, it is curious that he remembers the dream but only now questions he was doing what it asked.

    So, whose voice would be it be ? That of his daemonion ? Some kind of a spirit ?Amity

    Plato's Socrates says that his daemonion only warned him about what not to do. Xenophon's Socrates tells a different story.

    But why would it need to do that - if it is a source of inspiration, then Socrates already has it in spades.Amity

    I think it is Plato's way of telling us that what follows should be regarded as stories rather than reasoned arguments.

    Does S. then see himself as a poet, even as he makes arguments ?Amity

    I think his intention is, like that of the sophists, to persuade. This leads to the question of the relationship of the sophist and the poet to the philosopher. Rather than attempting to resolve that problem I will leave it open, because I think that tension is always at play in the dialogues.

    Why, if he was being encouraged to 'make music and practise it' - or rhythmic lyrics - would he dismiss his own talent and rely on second-hand material?Amity

    I will be addressing that.

    a comedy or tragedy
    — Fooloso4
    Both ?
    Amity

    Yes. The idea of opposites not being mutually exclusive will come up several times.
  • Amity
    9

    Thanks. I will disappear for a while to read the Phaedo...
    Do you recommend only reading up to a certain point before discussion, or what ?
  • Fooloso4
    7
    Do you recommend only reading up to a certain point before discussion, or what ?Amity

    I recommend reading at your own pace, moving forward and backwards with the eventual goal of seeing the whole.
  • Apollodorus
    11
    According to some, Plato taught "animism" and "atheism". Is that true?
  • Amity
    9
    moving forward and backwards with the eventual goal of seeing the whole.Fooloso4

    To read to get the gist, for simple pleasure - followed by a slower, more analytical read. Perhaps zooming in on something I find interesting or puzzling. Sounds about right for me.
    Look forward to hearing more from you, as and when...
  • Fooloso4
    7
    Do you recommend only reading up to a certain point before discussion, or what ?Amity

    The next section will cover up to and including 64a.
  • Fooloso4
    7


    I will take up issues as they occur in the text.
  • Amity
    9
    up to and including 64a.Fooloso4
    Appreciate that :up:
  • Apollodorus
    11
    I will take up issues as they occur in the text.Fooloso4

    Great. I look forward to that.
  • Banno
    27
    Ah, here it is!

    Thank you, @Fooloso4; it would be remiss of us not to take advantage of having someone who knows what they are talking about to hand, and this is a text that has implications across our subject. It came up in the thread on reincarnation, mentioned in response to the question "what is it that is reincarnated": "There is no coherent idea or concept of the individual soul that is not tied to an actual individual" coheres neatly with the view I expressed there, so I'm interested in how this comes out in the dialogue; there seems then to be a deeper reading of the text that will be enjoyable to investigate.

    But there is also the argument from recollection, which I have long considered somewhat dubious, yet is central to Plato's wider thought, and so worthy of reconsideration.

    But mostly I'm looking forward to this reading because I expect the unexpected, the unknown unknown.
  • Amity
    9

    Plato's Phaedo - this pdf is the translation with notes by David Gallop.
    Contents
    The translation 1
    Notes 74
    Notes on text and translation 226
    Bibliographies 239
    Abbreviations 242
    Index 244

    The next section will cover up to and including 64a.Fooloso4

    An easy and short read; the section up to 64a takes us to p8. I hope more people will join in the conversation that @Fooloso4 has started with encouragement from @Banno. Thanks.
    It should be quite a ride.
    I have decided, against all my natural inclinations, not to search the internet for secondary sources.
    Simply to read, think and make connections for myself. Looking forward to @Fooloso4 as a guide to a closer and deeper understanding - who will take and answer relevant questions.

    What we will hear are not simply arguments but stories. The question arises as to whether this is a comedy or tragedy. Phaedo says that he was not overcome by pity and that Socrates seemed happy (58e) Phaedo reports feeling an unusual blend of pleasure and pain. (59a). As we shall see, opposites will play an important part in Socrates’ stories.Fooloso4

    I've read the section, looking out for these elements. I am intrigued already.
    The concepts of death, suicide with religious themes. The pain/pleasure aspects - the mix and the separation. The subtle comedic parts.

    Before I go into detail, I think it probably best to wait for @Fooloso4 to comment first...
    And he might well be waiting for others to join in. I hope people do :sparkle:
  • Amity
    9
    it would be remiss of us not to take advantage of having someone who knows what they are talking about to hand, and this is a text that has implications across our subject.Banno

    Yes, and thanks for suggesting this to @Fooloso4. It is a most welcome surprise.

    But mostly I'm looking forward to this reading because I expect the unexpected, the unknown unknown.Banno
    :cool:
  • Wayfarer
    21
    Already on the first page I have a question. There is a reference to ‘the ship in which Theseus sailed to Crete’. Is this the same ship which is elsewhere the subject of the famous Ship of Theseus conundrum? Is that conundrum developed in this dialogue? (I suppose I could skip ahead, but I thought I’d ask. And notice that it has direct bearing on @Banno’s question about the nature of identity.)
  • Wayfarer
    21
    60b Socrates sat up on his couch and bent his leg and rubbed it with his hand, and while he was rubbing it, he said, “What a strange thing, my friends, that seems to be which men call pleasure! How wonderfully it is related to that which seems to be its opposite, pain, in that they will not both come to a man at the same time, and yet if he pursues the one and captures it he is generally obliged to take the other also, as if the two were joined together in one head. And I think, (60c) he said, “if Aesop had thought of them, he would have made a fable telling how they were at war and God wished to reconcile them, and when he could not do that, he fastened their heads together, and for that reason, when one of them comes to anyone, the other follows after. Just so it seems that in my case, after pain was in my leg on account of the fetter, pleasure appears to have come following after.

    This is a gem of the perennial philosophy - that pleasure and pain always accompany one another. Men foolishly chase pleasure and revile pain, not seeing that they are conjoined.
  • Amity
    9
    Before I go into detail, I think it probably best to wait for Fooloso4 to comment first...Amity

    Already on the first page I have a questionWayfarer

    Perhaps I am wrong. And the best way would be to post own thoughts and questions first.
    Hmmm...
    But I have so many :scream:
  • Wayfarer
    21
    I intend to stick with the narrative flow. Both those passages are from the first page.
  • Amity
    9
    I intend to stick with the narrative flow. Both those passages are from the first page.Wayfarer

    I think that is the way to go. Will post something later re the pain/pleasure issue.

    [ My mind goes all over the place - I remember the poignant scene from the film 'Shadowlands' where Jack ( C.S Lewis ) and his wife, Joy shelter from the rain. Joy is dying and wants to talk about it. Jack not so much. He doesn't want to spoil what is a happy moment.

    Jack: I’ll manage somehow. Don’t worry about me.
    Joy: No, I think it can be better than just managing. What I am trying to say is that the pain then is part of the happiness now. That’s the deal. ]
  • Banno
    27
    ...and I have a question, too. Presumably - I haven't checked - the word translated as "art" is "techne"?

    So immediately we are involved in the issue of Episteme and Techne?
  • Amity
    9
    p1 59a Phaedo speaking:

    That's why I wasn't visited at all by the pity that would seem natural for someone present at a scene of sorrow, nor again by the pleasure from our being occupied, as usual, with philosophy-because the discussion was, in fact, of that sort - but a simply extraordinary feeling was upon me, a sort of strange mixture of pleasure and pain combined, as I reflected that Socrates was shortly going to die. All of us there were affected in much the same way, now laughing, now in tears, one of us quite exceptionally so, Apollodorus-1 think you know the man and his manner.

    So, here pain and pleasure are mixed together - blending the feelings and senses of reflecting on death and loss of Socrates even as they enjoy the philosophical discussion. Noting that some people are more emotionally affected than others - perhaps a criticism of a lack of rationality ? Being emotionally incontinent is not good ?

    p3 60a
    On entering we found Socrates, just released, and Xanthippe-you know her-holding his little boy and sitting beside him. When she saw us, Xanthippe broke out and said just the kinds of thing that women are given to saying: 'So this is the very last time, Socrates, that your good friends will speak to you and you to them.' At which Socrates looked at Crito and said: 'Crito, someone had better take her home.' So she was taken away by some of Crito's people, calling out and lamenting;

    Again, there seems to be a dismissal of what 'kinds of things that women are given to saying'. Implying that it is an unwanted feminine characteristic. And yet, his wife would be the one to carry on and look after their son. I think she is misrepresented here - she has been the provider of finance. She has been there with her care. Living with Socrates and his absences would require a practical wisdom...at the very least.

    p3-4 60b
    Socrates, meanwhile, sat up on the bed, bent his leg, and rubbed it down with his hand. As he rubbed it, he said: 'What an odd thing it seems, friends, this state that men call "pleasant"; and how curiously it's related to its supposed opposite, "painful": to think that the pair of them refuse to visit a man together, yet if anybody pursues one of them and catches it, he's always pretty well bound to catch the other as well, as if the two of them were attached to a single head...
    This is just what seems to be happening in my own case: there was discomfort in my leg because of the fetter, and now the pleasant seems to have come to succeed it.'

    I think this section important - his pleasurable release from painful tight chains.
    Death might be seen as a welcome release from the physical body with all its discomforts.
    The pain of life v the joy of the afterlife ?*
    There is a separation. Not here a mingling as felt by Phaedo.

    * not convinced that is is how Socrates would see life though, nor about any joy in afterlife.
    Although Phaedo seems to think that even in Hell, Socrates would be fine.
    58e
    I felt assured that even while on his way to Hades he would not go without divine providence, and that when he arrived there he would fare well, if ever any man did
  • Wayfarer
    21
    Again, there seems to be a dismissal of what 'kinds of things that women are given to saying'. Implying that it is an unwanted feminine characteristicAmity

    Socrates despite his many virtues was probably in today’s terms not on board with gender equality. Don’t forget these dialogues hail from 300-400 BC.
  • Cuthbert
    2
    On the other hand, some casual misogyny in chats between men brings it bang up to date.
  • Amity
    9
    Socrates despite his many virtues was probably in today’s terms not on board with gender equality. Don’t forget these dialogues hail from 300-400 BC.Wayfarer

    I am not forgetting time, place or person.
    I don't see Socrates as a perfectly virtuous man, no matter what he says or is alleged to have said.
    There is undoubtedly a bias towards males and their 'drunken' discussions - the strength needed in war - the heroic narrative.
    Women are invisible but for their tears. It shows a complete blindness to the life and battles of women; their role and strength in keeping things going...providing support and care.

    However, I think that Socrates in the business of 'knowing oneself' was concerned with humans; people including women. The vision of a better society with increased wellbeing. That includes acknowledging the opposites or the mingling...of pain and pleasure...of love and war...of life and death.

    It would be easy to skim over, or skip this weeping episode but I think it worthwhile to note, especially given the discussion on supposed opposites. Reason v Emotion.
    As Foolos4 said: https://thephilosophyforum.com/discussion/comment/534374

    The idea of opposites not being mutually exclusive will come up several times.Fooloso4

    Pass me the wine :party:
  • Cuthbert
    2
    The 'no pleasure without pain' question is an example of a bigger issue for Plato. No pleasure without pain; no large without little; no beautiful without ugly; no being without not-being - at least in the things we see when we look around us. But these contradictions are only appearances. In the world that can be grasped by the intellect and not by the senses then we can understand things as they are and not as they seem to both be and not-be at the same time.
  • Amity
    9
    On the other hand, some casual misogyny in chats between men brings it bang up to date.Cuthbert

    I get what you are saying.

    However, I am not sure that any parts of the dialogue written by Plato are 'casual'.
    There is so much there - I don't think a word is ever wasted - we could be here forever...
  • Amity
    9
    A bit of dark humour re suicide and philosophers?

    p5 61b
    So give Evenus this message, Cebes: say good-bye to him, and tell him, if he's sensible, to come after me as quickly as he can. I'm off today, it seems-by Athenians' orders.'
    'What a thing you're urging Evenus to do, Socrates!' said Simmias.
    'I've come across the man often before now; and from what I've seen of him, he'll hardly be at all willing to obey you.'
    'Why,' he said, 'isn't Evenus a philosopher?'
    'I believe so,' said Simmias.
    'Then Evenus will be willing, and so will everyone who engages worthily in this business. Perhaps, though, he won't do violence to himself: they say it's forbidden.'...

    Cebes now asked him: 'How can you say this, Socrates? How can it both be forbidden to do violence to oneself, and be the case that the philosopher would be willing to follow the dying?'

    61 e - [Socrates] I myself can speak about them only from hearsay; but what I happen to have heard I don't mind telling you. Indeed, maybe it's specially fitting that someone about to make the journey to the next world should inquire and speculate as to what we imagine that journey to be like; after all, what else should one do during the time till sundown?'

    Can you imagine having this kind of conversation in your last hours ?
    And why wait until then...
  • Fooloso4
    7
    There is a reference to ‘the ship in which Theseus sailed to Crete’. Is this the same ship which is elsewhere the subject of the famous Ship of Theseus conundrum?Wayfarer

    Yes, it is the ship from the story of Theseus and the Minotaur. I don't think the conundrum is part of the myth, but Plato was aware of the problem. It can be found in a couple of the dialogues. There are several parallels in the Phaedo between the myth of Theseus' journey and Socrates own.
  • Fooloso4
    7
    ...and I have a question, too. Presumably - I haven't checked - the word translated as "art" is "techne"?

    So immediately we are involved in the issue of Episteme and Techne?
    Banno

    The Greek term is mousikê. The translation I rely on uses the transliteration 'music' instead of 'art'. In Plato's Ion Socrates denies that poesis is a techne, it is, rather, enthousiasmos, that is inspiration. But here Socrates calls philosophy the "greatest music". As such it seems to cut across the distinction between episteme and techne. Despite what he says, Socrates is clearly a skilled (techne) storyteller, and further, his stories and images require knowledge (episteme) of the character of the person or persons he makes the story for. With regard to this, consider his calling himself a "physician of the soul".
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