• Wayfarer
    21
    Note that in the middle of the dialogue is the problem of misologic. At 107b Socrates tells them to keep investigating, to not be content with the arguments as they stand.Fooloso4

    But he seems, in the end, to believe, himself, in the immortality of the soul, even if it cannot be proven.

    “All, I think,” said Socrates, “would agree that God and the Principle of life, and anything else that is immortal, can never perish.” — 106d

    Cebes [107a] “I have nothing more to say against that, and I cannot doubt your conclusions."

    I don't think this admits any doubt.

    Simmias expresses reservations, to which in part the reply is:

    “But my friends,” he said, “we ought to bear in mind,[107c] that, if the soul is immortal, we must care for it, not only in respect to this time, which we call life, but in respect to all time, and if we neglect it, the danger now appears to be terrible. For if death were an escape from everything, it would be a boon to the wicked, for when they die they would be freed from the body and from their wickedness together with their souls. But now, since the soul is seen to be immortal, it cannot escape [107d] from evil or be saved in any other way than by becoming as good and wise as possible.

    For the soul takes with it to the other world nothing but its education and nurture, and these are said to benefit or injure the departed greatly from the very beginning of his journey thither. And so it is said that after death, the tutelary genius of each person, to whom he had been allotted in life, leads him to a place where the dead are gathered together; then they are judged and depart to the other world [107e] with the guide whose task it is to conduct thither those who come from this world; and when they have there received their due and remained through the time appointed, another guide brings them back after many long periods of time. And the journey is not as Telephus says in the play of Aeschylus; [108a] for he says a simple path leads to the lower world, but I think the path is neither simple nor single, for if it were, there would be no need of guides, since no one could miss the way to any place if there were only one road.

    But really there seem to be many forks of the road and many windings; this I infer from the rites and ceremonies practiced here on earth. Now the orderly and wise soul follows its guide and understands its circumstances; but the soul that is desirous of the body, as I said before, flits about it, and in the visible world for a long time, [108b] and after much resistance and many sufferings is led away with violence and with difficulty by its appointed genius. And when it arrives at the place where the other souls are, the soul which is impure and has done wrong, by committing wicked murders or other deeds akin to those and the works of kindred souls, is avoided and shunned by all, and no one is willing to be its companion or its guide.

    An essay says 'Commentators commonly refer to this story as a “myth,” and Socrates himself describes it this way (using the Greek word muthos at 110b, which earlier on in the dialogue (61b) he has contrasted with logos, or “argument.”). Readers should be aware that for the Greeks myth did not have the negative connotations it often carries today, as when we say, for instance, that something is “just a myth” or when we distinguish myth from fact.'

    So, I find it implausible that the dialogue fails to establish Socrates' belief in the immortality of the soul, although I do agree that Socrates might accept that he can't prove it. But I wonder if you think that 'the arguments must fail' because you yourself can't see how the soul can exist - that It seems an anachronistic or archaic idea, or wishful thinking. My views are different - I will acknowledge that I am probably more on the religious side of the ledger - but at the same time, I want to try and understand the metaphysics in such a way that it is credible in the modern context, which is what I sought to do in the post on the soul as the 'principle of unity'.
  • Apollodorus
    11


    Not all statements being made here are correct. For example, the statement "At 107b Socrates tells them to keep investigating, to not be content with the arguments as they stand" is a Straussian straw man.

    What Socrates actually says, is that they should consider the hypotheses more clearly and if they do this well enough they will follow the argument and when the argument becomes clear they will have nothing further to seek:

    And if you analyze them completely, you will, I think, follow and agree with the argument, so far as it is possible for man to do so. And if this is made clear, you will seek no farther.”
    “That is true,” he said.

    And just a few lines down, at 107c, Socrates says :

    But now, since the soul is seen to be immortal, it cannot escape from evil or be saved in any other way than by becoming as good and wise as possible. For the soul takes with it to the other world nothing but its education and nurture, and these are said to benefit or injure the departed greatly from the very beginning of his journey thither. And so it is said that after death, the tutelary genius of each person, to whom he had been allotted in life, leads him to a place where the dead are gathered together; then they are judged and depart to the other world ...
  • Wayfarer
    21
    Don't forget Egypt. Hindus, of course, believed in Karma, but the Egyptian concept of a soul living after death was closer to home for Athenians, and explicitly referenced in at least one dialogue of Plato (Timeus).Gary M Washburn

    True. Some time ago, I visited a Theravada Buddhist monastery. The Abbott there gave a talk on his belief that the Indian wisdom schools originated in Egypt (which I was surprised to hear.)
  • Wayfarer
    21
    This is a book on my must-get-around-to-reading list.
  • Apollodorus
    11


    I think the Phaedo is a very interesting and very important dialogue if one wants to correctly understand Plato. As long as one avoids reading it through the eyes of anti-Platonists like Leo Strauss, that is .... :smile:
  • Wayfarer
    21
    Let's not forget that there's room for a diversity of opinion. I've gotten a lot from this thread from reading and debating the dialogue.
  • Apollodorus
    11


    I fully agree. It's just that when people take for their model the likes of Strauss who wrote:

    Why Plato thought of this apparently fantastic doctrine [of the Forms] is a very difficult question. ... According to an interpretation which I read in certain writers, Plato teaches that there is an idea of everything which is designated by a term which is not a proper name. There is no idea of Socrates. But whenever you find a noun or an adjective, there is surely an idea conforming to that. My favorite example is the third undersecretary of the Garment Workers Union. Even if there exists only one of those, there could exist an indefinite number, and therefore there is is an idea of it. Somehow this sounds like an absolutely absurd doctrine. What is the use of such a duplication?
    - L Strauss, On Plato's Symposium, p. 199

    then the whole project of attempting to understand Plato goes out of the window.
  • Fooloso4
    7
    But he seems, in the end, to believe, himself, in the immortality of the soul, even if it cannot be proven.Wayfarer

    See the following:

    I won’t put my heart into making what I say seem to be true to those present, except as a side effect, but into making it seem to be the case to me myself as much as possible.” (91a).

    He goes on tho say:

    “ For I am calculating - behold how self-servingly!- that if what I’m saying happens to be true, I’m well off believing it; and if there’s nothing at all for one who’s met his end, well then, I’ll make myself so much less unpleasant with lamenting to those who are present during this time, the time before my death.” (91b)Fooloso4

    Saying that he would be well of believing it is true in case it happens to be true is quite different than saying he believes it to be true.

    Simmias says he has some lingering distrust:

    “I myself have no remaining grounds for doubt after what has been said; nevertheless, in view of the bigness and importance of our subject and my low opinion of human weakness, I am bound still to have some lingering distrust within myself about what we have said.” (107b)

    Socrates responds:

    “Not only that, Simmias. What you say is good, but also our very first hypotheses - even if to all of you they’re trustworthy - must nevertheless be looked into for greater surety. And if you sort them out sufficiently, you will, as I think, be following up the argument as much as its possible for human beings to follow it. And should this very thing become sure, you’ll search no further.” (107b)

    Socrates is telling them that they should not be so ready to accept what is said as the truth. There seems to be a play on a double sense of human weakness, the limits of human argument and Simmias’ ongoing concern that death means our destruction, that we are too weak to endure. There is a limit we human beings cannot go beyond. That limit occurs at death. The search ends only with surety, but surety cannot be found in life.

    And regarding the final myth:

    “No sensible man would insist that these things are as I have described them, but I think it is fitting for a man to risk the belief—for the risk is a noble one—that this, or something like this, is true about our souls and their dwelling places …” (114d)

    To risk the belief is not the same as simply believing.

    The one thing that seems certain is that he is not afraid to die.
  • Wayfarer
    21
    The one thing that seems certain is that he is not afraid to die.Fooloso4

    For you which you think that the text offers no real explanation?

    There is a limit we human beings cannot go beyond. That limit occurs at death. The search ends only with surety, but surety cannot be found in life.Fooloso4

    There is certainly nothing of what we would accept as empirical proof, but that says as much about our beliefs and standards as it does about Socrates'. But he thinks it is 'fitting' - suitable, reasonable - even if it can't be proven to a 'sensible' man.
  • Apollodorus
    11


    The question as to why Socrates is not afraid of dying arises early in the dialogue.

    Socrates provides several reasons for his calm attitude in the face of imminent death:

    The soul is different from the body and death is nothing but the separation of soul from body. (64c)

    A virtuous soul will enjoy a happy life in the other world (Hades), which is a much better place, ruled by better and wiser Gods and inhabited by more noble souls. (63c)

    Socrates also makes some important statements regarding philosophy:

    The philosophical life is a preparation for death. (64a, 67e)

    Philosophy encourages the separation of soul from body through the acquisition of wisdom and direct access to non-physical realities represented by the Forms. (65a -d)

    Now true philosophers (those who truly love wisdom) practice dying. They are at odds with the body and desire to have the soul alone by itself. It would be extremely irrational for them not to cheerfully go to that place where they hope to attain the object of their life-long love, namely, wisdom (phronesis). (67e – 68a), etc., etc.
  • Wayfarer
    21
    :up: Agree. But as I tried to articulate in this post, this runs up against the prejudices of a secular culture. 'Scepticism' in Plato's culture, is not the same as today's 'scientific scepticism'.

    But because of the massive influence of Christianity on Western culture, the distinction between believing and knowing in respect of metaphysics has been blurred or even obliterated. And post-enlightenment culture will naturally understand Plato's metaphysics through that lens - positively for those favourable to Christian Platonism (e.g, Thomists, often Catholic), negatively to those who are sceptical about anything they deem religious (for example, philosophical naturalists). I think that's a powerful undercurrent in all of these debates, unstated but implicit.Wayfarer
  • Apollodorus
    11
    Scepticism' in Plato's culture, is not the same as today's 'scientific scepticism'.Wayfarer

    Unfortunately, this would seem to be the case ....
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    6
    The harmony is the tuning.Fooloso4

    A harmony is a group of notes played together, like a chord, which are judged as sounding good. This is why I do not like your interpretation of the work. The tuning is what creates or produces the harmony as cause of it. It is not the harmony.

    The organic body is an arrangement of parts. They do not first exist in an untuned condition and subsequently become tuned. A living thing exists as an arrangement of parts. An organism is organized.Fooloso4

    Right. Now do you see that this "arrangement of parts", which constitutes "the organic body", is analogous to a harmony. The organic body is an harmonic arrangement of parts. Now, Socrates' argument is that the soul is what directs the parts in such a way as to be an harmonic arrangement of parts. This thing "the soul", which directs the arrangement of parts, is temporally prior to the arrangement of parts, as the cause of it. Since the arrangement of parts is the organic body, then the soul is prior to the body.

    The assumption is that the mind or soul exists independently of the body. That is what is in question. All of the arguments for that have failed.Fooloso4

    Since the body only exists as an organized arrangement of parts, and the soul is the cause of that organized arrangement, then it is necessarily prior in time to it, therefore independent of the body, at that prior time.

    Yes, that is the argument, but it assumes the very thing in question, the existence of the soul independent of the body, that they are two separate things. (86c) The attunement argument is that they are not. But Simmias had already agreed that the soul existed before the body. It is on that basis that Socrates attacks that argument. In evaluating the argument we do not have to assume the pre-existence of the soul.Fooloso4

    The argument is that a harmony, or "attunement", whatever you want to call it, requires a cause. The cause is prior to the harmony, in time, and therefore existed independently of it at that prior time. The body is analogous to the harmony, as an organized arrangement of parts. The soul is the cause of that organized arrangement of parts. Therefore the soul was independent of the body at that prior time.
  • Wayfarer
    21
    Although, as Apollodorus pointed out to me, 'the argument from harmony' is actually dismissed in the dialogue.

    I fully agree. It's just that when people take for their model the likes of Strauss who wrote:

    "Why Plato thought of this apparently fantastic doctrine [of the Forms] is a very difficult question. .."
    Apollodorus

    It's a very subtle question. My interepretation of the idea of the Forms is that they're not existent - they're like the ideal archetypes of existence. But that doesn't mean they're simply unreal. Consider the 'form of the wing' - that has evolved many times, in ancient pterosaurs, now in birds, bats, and flying lizards. All of the evolutionary pathways are completely different, but if a wing is to fly, then it has to have certain characteristics. But I think, as nominalsm carried the day back in later medieval times, understanding of the idea of 'the ideas' has been so thoroughly extinguised that even famous exegetes misinterpret it.

    among all the kinds of forms which can be signified by terms, according to Aquinas, there is no one uniform way in which they exist. The existence of the form “sight,” by which the eye sees, may be some positive presence in the nature of things (which biologists can describe in terms of the qualities of a healthy eye that gives it the power to see), but the existence of the form 'blindness' in the blind eye need be nothing more than the nonexistence of sight‒the form of blindness is a privation of the form of sight and so not really an additional form at all.

    In general, distinguishing and qualifying the different ways there can “be” a form present in a thing goes a long way toward alleviating the apparent profligacy of the (Aristotelian) realist account of words signifying forms. ...

    Aquinas’s famous thesis of the unicity of substantial forms is an example of another strategy: linguistically I may posit diverse forms (humanity, animality, bodiliness) to account for Socrates being a man, an animal, and a body, but according to Aquinas there is, in reality, just one substantial form (Socrates’ soul) which is responsible for causing Socrates to be a man, an animal, and a body. In this and other cases, ontological commitment can be reduced by identifying in reality what, on the semantic level, are treated as diverse forms.
    Joshua Hochschild, What's Wrong with Ockham?

    A snippet from later in this essay, which is a defense of scholastic realism

    Thomists and other critics of Ockham have tended to present traditional realism, with its forms or natures, as the solution to the modern problem of knowledge. It seems to me that it does not quite get to the heart of the matter. A genuine realist should see “forms” not merely as a solution to a distinctly modern problem of knowledge, but as part of an alternative conception of knowledge, a conception that is not so much desired and awaiting defense, as forgotten and so no longer desired.

    Characterized by forms, reality had an intrinsic intelligibility, not just in each of its parts but as a whole. With forms as causes, there are interconnections between different parts of an intelligible world, indeed there are overlapping matrices of intelligibility in the world, making possible an ascent from the more particular, posterior, and mundane to the more universal, primary, and noble. In short, the appeal to forms or natures does not just help account for the possibility of trustworthy access to facts, it makes possible a notion of wisdom, traditionally conceived as an ordering grasp of reality.

    :clap:
  • Apollodorus
    11
    The argument is that a harmony, or "attunement", whatever you want to call it, requires a cause. The cause is prior to the harmony, in time, and therefore existed independently of it at that prior time. The body is analogous to the harmony, as an organized arrangement of parts. The soul is the cause of that organized arrangement of parts. Therefore the soul was independent of the body at that prior time.Metaphysician Undercover

    Socrates advances several arguments against Simmias’ harmony analogy.

    One of them is that the soul pre-existing the body, it cannot be compared to the harmony of the lyre that only comes into being after its components have been assembled. (92c)

    But there are others, for example:

    The soul being devoid of degrees, it cannot be compared to a harmony that has degrees. (93b)

    The soul leading the body, it cannot be compared to a harmony that depends on the body of the instrument. (94d)

    And, of course, the soul being non-composite, it cannot be compared to a harmony that is composite in the first place.

    Socrates’ argument does not depend on the pre-existence of soul. Even if the soul's pre-existence is not assumed, Simmias’ analogy still fails.

    This is precisely why Socrates smiles at the analogy (86d) and Cebes points out that it failed to withstand Socrates’ first attack of it (95b)
  • Apollodorus
    11


    Yes, Hochschild makes a good point.

    However, authors like Strauss are a different matter. Strauss is not a trained classicist. He studied al-Farabi and Maimonides who lived in Muslim-occupied Spain - when philosophers had to be very careful about what they said - and developed the theory that all ancient philosophers had “secret teachings”. As a political philosopher and atheist, he believes that Plato’s dialogues have a hidden political message and he makes no effort to see anything metaphysical in the dialogues. In fact, he positively resists the idea just as he ridicules Plato’s theory of Forms.

    Strauss does make a valid observation, though:

    There is an infinite literature on the Platonic myth. They all suffer, as far as I know, and I don’t know all of them, from the fact that the scholar himself decides what is a myth, a most unscholarly procedure. One has to find out from Plato what a myth is. In other words, I would regard only that as a myth of which Plato or his characters say it is a myth.

    The Forms, of course, do not seem to be a myth in the dialogues. On the contrary, they represent a logical attempt to reduce the number of fundamental principles to the absolute minimum. Whether they actually exist as such, is an open question. Plato, in any case, does not think that they are a figment of imagination.
  • Fooloso4
    7
    For you which you think that the text offers no real explanation?Wayfarer

    It does. Once again

    “ For I am calculating - behold how self-servingly!- that if what I’m saying happens to be true, I’m well off believing it; and if there’s nothing at all for one who’s met his end, well then, I’ll make myself so much less unpleasant with lamenting to those who are present during this time, the time before my death.” (91b)Fooloso4

    This is the same thing he said in the Apology:

    “...to be dead is one of two things: either the dead person is nothing and has no perception of anything, or [death] happens to be, as it is said, a change and a relocation or the soul from this place here to another place .”(40c).

    The problem that must be faced in the Phaedo is fear of death. One has it within their power to live in such a way as to avoid fear of punishment for wrongdoing in death. What about the fear of nothingness? Here the practice may involve meditation along the lines of Epictetus:

    “Why should I fear death? If I am, then death is not. If Death is, then I am not.”

    It is entirely consistent with the text to think that Socrates' self-persuasion may be, in whole or in part, along these lines.

    There is certainly nothing of what we would accept as empirical proof, but that says as much about our beliefs and standards as it does about Socrates'. But he thinks it is 'fitting' - suitable, reasonable - even if it can't be proven to a 'sensible' man.Wayfarer

    First, empirical evidence is not a modern invention. Second, my response said nothing about empirical proof. What I said is that the arguments fail. I also said that this is a matter of the limits of argument. The limits of argument is the central theme of the text, literally occuring at the center.
  • Fooloso4
    7
    Now, Socrates' argument is that the soul is what directs the parts in such a way as to be an harmonic arrangement of partsMetaphysician Undercover

    That is not Simmias' argument. Note the following:

    For I certainly suppose, Socrates, that you've gathered that we take the soul to be just this sort of thing - that while our body is strung and held together by warm and cold and dry and wet and the like, our soul is as it were, a blend and tuning of these very things, whenever, that is, they're blended with one another in a beautiful and measured way. (86c)

    By "we take" he means the Pythagoreans.

    The argument is that a harmony, or "attunement", whatever you want to call it, requires a cause.Metaphysician Undercover

    That is not what Simmias' argument says. And according to Socrates' argument, the soul does not cause the body that is strung and held together by warm and cold and dry and wet and the like
  • Fooloso4
    7
    There are three issues under discussion with regard to Simmias' or the Pythagorean argument for attunement.

    1) Simmias' argument
    2) Socrates' refutation
    3) An argument consistent with the Forms.

    Simmias' argument was presented in my last post. The argument consistent with the Forms is neglected:

    Things that are beautiful are so, according to the hypothesis of Forms, they are so because of Beauty itself. In the same way, things that are harmonious are so because of Harmony itself. Beauty and Harmony are the cause of things that are beautiful and harmonious. This extends to the human body. It is not the soul that causes the body to be harmonious, it is Harmony.

    There is nothing in Simmias' Pythagorean argument about a separate pre-existing soul. Socrates introduces it into Simmias' argument when he reminds Simmias that they had previously agreed that the soul was something pre-existing. But there was no one there to remind Socrates of his own hypothesis of Forms.

    He will, however, call the hypothesis of Forms an "ignorant" answer and propose a new sophisticated answer that is much like the sophisticated answer he rejected in favor of Forms. (105b-c)
  • Wayfarer
    21
    The problem that must be faced in the Phaedo is fear of death.Fooloso4

    I think that it's the fact of death that is at issue. Immediately prior the first passage quoted is:

    For when they argue about anything, they do not care what the truth is in the matters they are discussing, but are eager only to make their own views seem true to their hearers. And I fancy I differ from them just now only to this extent: I shall not be eager to make what I say seem true to my hearers, except as a secondary matter, but shall be very eager to make myself believe it. For see, my friend, how selfish my attitude is. If what I say is true, I am the gainer by believing it; and if there be nothing for me after death, at any rate I shall not be burdensome to my friends by my lamentations in these last moments. And this ignorance of mine will not last, for that would be an evil, but will soon end.

    Bolds added. It's a sentiment very like Pascal's Wager, I'd wager. Nothingness is nothing to fear, but it's only one of the possibilities, no more certain than the alternative.
  • Fooloso4
    7


    I quoted this same passage in response to your question about what Socrates believes:
    https://thephilosophyforum.com/discussion/comment/569248

    I think it likely that Pascal's wager is derived from this.

    Nothingness is nothing to fear, but it's only one of the possibilities, no more certain than the alternative.Wayfarer

    Right, none of the possibilities are certain, but as far as Socrates is concerned, none are to be feared if one has led a just life. He thinks he lived a just life and so if death means rewards and punishments he is confident he will be rewarded rather than punished. Early on in this thread I tied that to what it might mean for philosophy to be preparation for death. Live in such a way that you will be rewarded rather than punished for what you did in life if, in fact, that is what happens in death.

    I bolded the passages in order to dispel the notion that Socrates believes that the soul is immortal.
  • Valentinus
    3

    It is like Pascal's wager but there are differences.
    Pascal presumed you had some days to live before the end so changing your relationship to it could kick in before one's death. The offer only being viable for a limited time.

    Socrates doesn't have a lot of time left. He does not seem interested in making some last minute deals.
  • Wayfarer
    21
    I bolded the passages in order to dispel the notion that Socrates believes that the soul is immortal.Fooloso4

    Well, I don't think you have succeeded in doing that. The conventional view was that Phaedo presents four arguments for the soul's immortality, and I see no reason to doubt that Socrates believes them to be true. The passage about misologic is simply a warning not to be too easily convinced by false arguments, so as to become cynical. So I think in this regard, we will have to agree to disagree, but as said before, I have benefitted a lot from this thread, as it has made me pay much more attention the text.

    there are differencesValentinus

    Some, but the point remains.
  • Fooloso4
    7
    Socrates doesn't have a lot of time left. He does not seem interested in making some last minute deals.Valentinus

    I agree. It does not seem likely that any of these things are occurring to him for the first time. I think the whole thing is rhetorical. Persuading himself of anything is antithetical not only to a life spent in pursuit of truth, it is contrary to the advice given in the dialogue not to accept any argument about which one cannot be sure.

    But Cebes and Simmias are not Socrates. They need something to believe. Socrates' attitude seems to me to be, wait and see. The final irony is that if death is nothing then he will not see.

    For Socrates it is not a matter of belief but of trust, that is, not something to be taken as true, but of an attitude toward life, that he will not be harmed.
  • Fooloso4
    7
    The conventional view was that Phaedo presents four arguments for the soul's immortality, and I see no reason to doubt that Socrates believes them to be true.Wayfarer

    Socrates himself is never persuaded by conventional views. If you have followed the arguments yourself and found them convincing and do not think my arguments showing them to be problematic to be convincing then we are at an impasse.

    The passage about misologic is simply a warning not to be too easily convinced by false arguments, so as to become cynical.Wayfarer

    The problem is deeper than that. Of course one should not be convinced by false argument, but how do we know which arguments are false?

    Phaedo:
    “ Who knows, we might be worthless judges, or these matters themselves might even be beyond trust.” (88c)

    Echecrates:
    “'What argument shall we ever trust now?” (88d)

    … when someone trusts some argument to be true without the art of arguments, and then a little later the argument seems to him to be false, as it sometimes is and sometimes isn’t, and this happens again and again with one argument after another. And, as you know, those especially who’ve spent their days in debate-arguments end up thinking the’ve become the wisest of men and that they alone have detected that there’s nothing sound or stable - not in the realm of either practical matter or arguments - but all the things that are simply toss to and fro, as happens in the Euripus, and don’t stay put anywhere for any length of time.” (90b-c)

    From the first part of the last quote one might conclude that having the art of argument is the solution, but the second part indicates that it can be part of the problem.

    I have benefitted a lot from this thread, as it has made me pay much more attention the text.Wayfarer

    Glad to hear that. In my opinion, no interpretation is final or definitive.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    6
    Although, as Apollodorus pointed out to me, 'the argument from harmony' is actually dismissed in the dialogue.Wayfarer

    Socrates' argument is that the soul is not like a harmony, it is more like the cause of the harmony.

    Socrates’ argument does not depend on the pre-existence of soul. Even if the soul's pre-existence is not assumed, Simmias’ analogy still fails.Apollodorus

    That's right, Socrates' argument doesn't depend on the pre-existence of the soul, but he uses the proposed harmony analogy to demonstrate that the pre-existence of the soul is a necessary conclusion. That's why he proceeds at 95 to say that proving that the soul existed before we were born does not prove that it is immortal, (because he believes to have proven the soul's pre-existence) only that it has existed for a very long time. He says that entering the human body might be the beginning of its destruction, and it might perish with the death of the human body.

    That is not Simmias' argument. Note the following:Fooloso4

    That's right, it's not Simmias' argument, it's Socrates' argument I am talking about. That is Socrates' way, to take another's argument, put it in his own words, and turn it around to produce the opposite conclusion as the one produced by the person who proposes the argument. This is how he demonstrates the faults in the arguments of others, and shows what the real conclusion ought to be.

    That is not what Simmias' argument says. And according to Socrates' argument, the soul does not cause the body that is strung and held together by warm and cold and dry and wet and the likeFooloso4

    Yes, Socrates does argue this. The soul directs the parts, which creates a harmony. I gave you the quotes 94 c-e.
  • Fooloso4
    7
    turn it around to produce the opposite conclusionMetaphysician Undercover

    In this case he did more than just turn it around. Simmias' argument did not include a separate soul. Socrates does not deal with Simmias' argument because the result would be that the soul does not endure.

    Yes, Socrates does argue this. The soul directs the partsMetaphysician Undercover

    Directing the parts does not mean creating the parts. The soul does not cause the body.
  • Fooloso4
    7
    In response to @Wayfarer and the conventional view of the arguments, I would like to briefly go through the arguments and show why they fail.

    Before doing so we need to look at how Socrates defines death:

    And that it is nothing but the separation of the soul from the body? And that being dead is this: the body's having come to be apart, separated from the soul, alone by Itself, and the soul's being apart, alone by itself, separated from the body? Death can't be anything else but that, can it?(64c)

    Simmias agrees. But of course death can be something other than that! Death may simply be, as Socrates said in the Apology, annihilation. The question of the soul is the very thing that will be the focus of the discussion, but argument is made that at death the soul is alone by itself. It is simply accepted from the start as a given.

    Cebes will soon raise an objection:

    ... what you say about the soul induces a lot of distrust in human beings. They fear that the soul, once she is free of the body, is no longer anywhere, and is destroyed and perishes on that very day when a human being dies; and that as soon as she’s free of the body and departs, then, scattered like breath or smoke, she goes fluttering off and is no longer anywhere. Of course, if she could be somewhere, herself by herself, collected together and freed from those evils you went through just now, there'd be a great hope - a beautiful hope - that what you say, Socrates, is true. (70a)

    Cebes' hope is that what Socrates says is true. Socrates responds:

    What you say is true, Cebes, but now what should we do? Or do you want us to tell a more thorough story about these things to see whether what we’re saying is likely or not? (70a-b)

    Cebes' hope is based on the truth of what Socrates is saying, But Socrates lowers the standard from truth to what is likely.

    The first argument is the Cycle of Opposites:

    “ … do the souls of men exist in Hades when they have died, or do they not? Now there's an
    ancient doctrine, which we've recalled, that they do exist in that world, entering it from this one, and that they re-enter this world and are born again from the dead; yet if this is so, if living people are born again from those who have died, surely our souls would have to exist in that world? Because they could hardly be born again, if they didn't exist; so it would be sufficient evidence for the truth of these claims, if it really became plain that living people are born from the dead and from nowhere else; but if that isn't so, some other argument would be needed.'”(70c-d)

    But, of course, some other argument is needed. A reborn soul is one that has previously died. It exists in Hades as a dead soul. This is incompatible with the next argument, recollection. The other problem with the cycle of opposites argument is that obviously the living come from the living.

    Recollection:

    “ 'Well now, you know what happens to lovers, whenever they see a lyre or cloak or anything else their loves are accustomed to use: they recognize the lyre, and they get in their mind, don't they, the form of the boy whose lyre it is? And that is recollection. Likewise, someone seeing Simmias is often reminded of Cebes, and there'd surely be countless other such cases.'(73b-d)

    His example of recollection surprisingly has nothing to do with life in Hades or a previous life. There seems to be no distinction here between recollection and being reminded of something. In the example given recollection is independent of stories of death. It is about what we are reminded of here and now.

    Socrates shifts from things perceived to “the equal itself”.

    Then we must previously have known the equal, before that time when we first, on seeing the equals, thought that all of them were striving to be like the equal but fell short of it. (75a)

    It is through the combination of sense and thought that we perceive that things are equal. That this is either based on or leads to recollection of “the equal itself” is dubious. All that is necessary to see how implausible this is is to consider how we learned what it means for things to be equal.

    “If those realities we are always talking about exist, the Beautiful and the Good and all that kind of reality, and we refer all the things we perceive to that reality, discovering that it existed before and is ours, and we compare these things with it, then, just as they exist, so our soul must exist before we are born” (76d-e).

    But they are, as he says in the second sailing, hypotheses, not things recollected while dead.

    Forms:


    “ 'Now these things you could actually touch and see and sense with the other senses, couldn't you, whereas those that are constant you could lay hold of only by reasoning of the intellect; aren't such things, rather, invisible and not seen?'
    'What you say is perfectly true.'
    'Then would you like us to posit two forms of things that are - the Visible and the Unseen?'
    'Let's posit them.'
    'And the unseen is always constant, whereas the seen is never constant?'” (79a)

    Obviously, not everything that is unseen is unchanging. More to the point, Socrates talks about such things as the corruption of the soul "polluted and impure" (81b) and the soul of a human being becoming the soul of an ass or some other animal or insect. (82a-b) So, the claim that the soul is unchanging is questionable at the least.

    Most important is the distinction between a Form and some thing of that Kind. Beauty is unchanging but beautiful things are not. The Form Soul may be unchanging but it does not follow that Socrates' soul is not.


    Sophisticated Cause:

    The final argument alters the hypothesis of Forms "safe but ignorant" (105b-c)

    And if the non-hot were of necessity indestructible, then whenever anyone brought heat to snow, the snow would retreat safe and unthawed, for it could not be destroyed, nor again could it stand its ground and admit the heat?—What you say is true.” (106a)

    But it is not true. The snow does not retreat, it melts. Cold itself may be indestructible but something that is cold is not. Socrates is deliberately conflating Form and thing. The same holds for all other things. It is not the Form Life that causes something to be alive, it is the soul that brings life with it that causes body to be alive. At the approach of Death the soul, being a thing rather than an indestructible Form, does not retreat. Like the snow it perishes.

    The failure of the arguments does not mean that the soul is not immortal, it simply means that Socrates has not shown that it is. He says it is worth the risk of believing that it is, but if the philosopher seeks truth she does not settle for a belief. What the soul is and what its fate may be remains unknown.
  • Apollodorus
    11
    The conventional view was that Phaedo presents four arguments for the soul's immortality, and I see no reason to doubt that Socrates believes them to be true.Wayfarer

    Correct. And nor must we forget that the dialogue's author is Plato who uses his Theory of Recollection to establish the validity of his Theory of Forms.

    The basic argument from recollection is as follows:

    (A). On seeing something that reminds us of something else, there is a case of recollection (anamnesis) (Phaedo 73c – 74a).
    (B). On seeing things that are equal, e.g., sticks, and thinking “these sticks are equal”, we intuitively think of Equality, i.e., the Form of Equal (Phaedo 74a – c).
    (C). This cognitive act corresponds to the one described in (A), hence it is a case of recollection (74c – d).
    (D.) As we can recollect only things that were previously known to us (73c), the Form of Equal was previously known to us (74d - 75a).
    (E). But the knowledge of it was not acquired at any time between birth and the present act of recollection (75a - 76c).
    (F). Nor was it acquired at birth (76c - d).
    (G). Therefore it was acquired before birth (76c).
    (H). Therefore our soul existed before birth, and possessed knowledge or wisdom, including knowledge of the Forms (76c).

    It may of course be argued that what Socrates calls “recollection of Forms” is simply the result of pattern recognition produced by neural activity in the brain. However, research has shown that humans are capable of pattern recognition within days of being born and, to some extent, even whilst in the womb, which brings us very close to the concept of knowledge as a result of previous existence (see Ian Stevenson and others).

    In any case, the existence of Forms remains a possibility, quite independently of pre-existence. Certainly, we know from Diotima’s teachings in the Symposium that the Form of the Beautiful does appear to the philosopher who has learned how to look at it.

    In connection with learning how to see, Socrates in the Phaedo makes some important observations.

    Through the use of our senses, we start regaining our lost knowledge of the Forms (75e).
    In normal circumstances, the soul is dragged down into the world of material particulars whose ever-changing nature leaves it disturbed and giddy as if drunk (79c).
    But when the soul is detached from the body and the material world, and is alone by itself, it perceives immaterial things that are pure, eternal, and immortal like itself (79d).
    Therefore the true philosopher distances himself from the body and turns toward the soul (64e).
    The philosopher releases his soul as much as possible from its association with the body (65a).
    The Forms cannot be grasped through the bodily senses. Only those who train themselves most and with the greatest precision to think about each thing investigated as an object in its own right, will come closest to knowing each of them (65e).
    The man who will hit upon reality is he who attempts to hunt down each real thing alone by itself and unalloyed, by using thought alone by itself and unalloyed, and separated as far as possible from eyes and ears and virtually from his entire body (66a).
    To have pure knowledge of something we must be separated from the body and view things by themselves with the soul by itself (66e).
    Full wisdom can only be acquired when we are dead because that is the only time when the soul will be alone by itself apart from the body (67a).
    However (as philosophy is the practice of being dead, i.e., being detached from the body), we will be closest to knowledge even whilst living if we do not associate with the body except to the extent absolutely necessary, and we retain that state of purity until the God himself releases us (67b).

    It can be seen that in order to acquire knowledge of the Forms, in addition to living a pure life, we need to detach ourselves from the body and sensory perception, and try to grasp reality first with our reason and then with our soul (nous).

    Detachment from the body, and focus on the soul and on a higher reality by means of our thought alone, and without the assistance of sensory perception, can only refer to a contemplative or meditative state.

    So, without going into details, my feeling is that a Buddhist or Hindu may be in a better position to understand Plato than a Straussian atheist.

    In any case, some key lessons to draw from the Phaedo are:

    Philosophy = Separation from Body
    Separation from Body = Death
    Death = "Retreating" to or Rejoining the Intelligible World
    The Intelligible World = The Realm of Eternal Realities like Soul and Forms
    Knowledge of the Realm of Eternal Realities = Knowledge of Reality, including Forms

    As already stated, additional pointers occur in other dialogues, such as Symposium:

    “It neither comes to be nor perishes, neither waxes nor wanes … nor again will the beautiful appear to him [the philosopher] like a face or hands or any other portion of the body … or piece of knowledge … but itself by itself with itself existing for ever in singularity of form” (Symp. 211a ff.)
    “In that state of life above all others, a man finds it truly worth while to live, as he contemplates essential Beauty […] there only will it befall him, as he sees the Beautiful through that which makes it visible, to breed not illusions but true examples of virtue, since his contact is not with illusion but with truth” (211d – 212a).

    The Beautiful here stands for the Good or Truth itself and seeing the Good is identical with being with the Good and part of the Good. (As later Platonists would say, being one with the Good.)

    Similarly, in the Republic we find the Analogy of the Sun where the Good is compared with the Sun (508a ff.).

    Here again, we can learn something from Strauss himself:

    Plato never chooses an example at random. The example always means more than just an example … Let us not forget that the Sun is a cosmic God
    - On Plato’s Symposium, pp. 201, 277

    The analogy can only mean that the Good is a divine being like the Sun. We know that Plato’s theology has a hierarchy of divine beings proceeding from (1) the Gods of the City of Athens to (2) the Cosmic Gods like the Sun to (3) the Supreme God (the Good, the Creator of the Universe, the Universal Intelligence/Consciousness) who is the Ultimate Reality.

    Come then, and join me in this further thought, and do not be surprised that those who have attained to this height are not willing to occupy themselves with the affairs of men, but their souls ever feel the upward urge and the yearning for that sojourn above. For this, I take it, is likely if in this point too the likeness of our image holds (Rep. 517c – d).

    Where the Republic describes the hierarchy of sensible realities ascending from sensible objects to sight, light, and the source of light (the Sun) itself, and of intelligible realities ascending from intelligible objects to knowledge, truth, and their source (the Good), the Phaedo and the Symposium explain how the true philosopher may learn to obtain the vision of the highest.

    In sum, quite aside from the arguments' ultimate validity, and considering that all Platonic logoi can only be pointers, the dialogue certainly presents valuable advice for the philosophical and spiritual life.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    6
    In this case he did more than just turn it around. Simmias' argument did not include a separate soul. Socrates does not deal with Simmias' argument because the result would be that the soul does not endure.Fooloso4

    Saying that the soul is like a harmony, or attunement, is to assume that there is such a thing as "the soul" which is being talked about. .Socrates simply demonstrates that if there is such a thing, it is not like a harmony, and separate. Simmias could have insisted that there is no such thing as the soul, and it makes no sense to talk about the soul, but of course Plato, as the author of the dialogue, is dictating what the characters are saying.

    Directing the parts does not mean creating the parts. The soul does not cause the body.Fooloso4

    You don't seem to be grasping the issue. The body only exists as an arrangement of parts, you said so yourself, above. Therefore the thing which directs the parts is necessarily prior to the body, as the cause of it. Not even modern physics has an understanding of fundamental particles, so we cannot say how a body comes into existence, only that the body has no existence until the parts are arranged properly. We cannot say that the fundamental parts are bodies because we do not understand what these parts are. and if we assume that they are bodies, then they would be composed of an arrangement of parts, which would also be composed of an arrangement of parts, ad infinitum.
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