Set as a conversation in the prison while Socrates is awaiting execution, this dialogue examines whether the soul --the human soul -- is immortal or not. Plato more than the historical Socrates is speaking. Does the human soul (= life principle) live on after death? Does the human soul live on as a conscious/ self-conscious entity? These are the questions that "Socrates", Simmias and Cebes discuss.

        A soul (psuche) for the Greeks was a life principle. Hence, it is accepted that all living things have souls (= life principles). Furthermore, the soul (= life principle) and the body seem to be distinct for some bodies can be alive and others dead, so what a body is can be defined independently of saying whether it is alive or not. Lastly, death appears to be an event when the soul is separated from the body.

Summary: The things assumed:     1) There are souls.
                                                         2) Souls are distinct from bodies.
                                                        3) At death, the soul is separated from the body.
First Argument of the Phaedo: A Kind of Alternation or Oscillation Argument.

Consider things that have contrary characteristics, F & G.

Something now smaller must have been once larger. It comes to be smaller from having been larger.

Something now larger must have been once smaller. It comes to be larger from having been smaller.

Then other examples . e.g. hot and cold, awake and asleep, etc. . . . . . . . . . .

Suppose that this is a kind of physical law -- a law of alteration that holds of all things that have contrary states (and degrees). Then apply the generalization to the problem case: Being alive/ being dead.
Something now dead must have been once alive. It comes to be dead from having been alive.
Something now alive must have been once dead. It comes to be alive from having been dead.
Here, "being alive" must be read as "being in an in-the-body state". "Being dead" cannot mean "ceasing to exist." Instead it must mean" being in an out-of-the-body state."

Subsidiary argument: It was admitted that there are souls. Admit also that souls cannot be created from nothing. Then if souls do not recycle, then there will come a time when nothing will be alive.

[In fact, if -- as the Greeks thought -- matter and perhaps essences have always exists and never had a beginning, then an infinite amount of time has already passed. Yet we still see beings that are alive. Hence, souls (=life principles) must be recycling from "in-the-body" to "out-of-the-body" states. This is a reincarnation view. Steady state supply of souls. No new souls infused.]

1) Suppose the principle isnít universal in physical matter. That is, the induction is
2) Even if this alternation holds for all physical objects, if the soul is not physical then
        how know that the laws applies to non-physical entities.
3) Even if argument works, it doesnít prove intelligence persists after death.
Second Argument of the Phaedo: Recollection

        We entertain conceptions of various kinds of perfection, such as perfect equality (or circularity) although we have never perceived anything that is exact or perfect on this earth. Therefore, these conceptions must result from latent knowledge, acquired before birth, of which we are reminded through sense perception. This implies that our souls existed before birth and had intelligence.

        This argument implies pre-existence of human soul and, joined with first argument, survival of intelligence. It also implies existence of perfect realities in the unseen world.

        In this argument, to remember X implies having known X previously.

        Objections to this view? How would you argue against this view?
Third Argument of the Phaedo: Affinity

Only what is composite can be decomposed. Only what is constant and invisible is likely to be incomposite. Then "Socrates" of the dialogue sets up classes of things.

                A                                                             not-A

            BODY                                                         SOUL

        1) visible                                           invisible

            Soul is more likely akin to things that are invariable, constant, non-composite.

        2) variable                                         invariable

    When the soul considers changing phenomena, it is confused.
    When the soul considers unchanging truth, it is at peace.
        Notice: a "two world view" is being presented:

           the visible world                                                 the invisible world
         of changing phenomena                                         of unchanging truth

         3) mortal                                              divine

                The soul rules the body. Hence is superior to the body as undying, immortal realities are superior
                to dying, decomposing realities.


Countercase 1: The soul might be stronger than the body like a sturdy coat that outlasts several people. Yet eventually it wears outs. Hence, the affinity "argument" is weak.

Countercase 2: The attunement of a lyre is invisible, beautiful and divine. But it comes to an end when the strings are snapped. Hence, the affinity "argument" is weak.

Before considering Argument Four, I want to consider the more developed Theory of the Forms or Essences. Then, in returning to the fourth argument, to see how this entire dialogue contributes to Platoís thought.

Twin Pillars of Platonism: Immortality of the Soul & Doctrine of the Forms.


                FORMS or KINDS or NATURES                                SENSIBLES

            (Norms; Patterns; Essences;                                     (Particulars whose nature is
                T-N-T = The True Nature of Things)                         to participate in the Forms)

            ETERNAL, UNCHANGING, PERFECT                     In time; changing; imperfect

                REALM OF WHAT TRULY IS                                 Realm of what is becoming

                    Objects of KNOWLEDGE                                 Objects of sense perception
                    (episteme; nous; sophia)                                    and (ungrounded) opinion

                    Forms are what is essential                             Even if opinion is true, still
                    about things; knowing this,                               one who has only opinion will
                    one can give an account of                                not be able to give an account
                    why things are as they are.                               of why things are as they are.

            Something like the NATURE OF X                          Something like an instance of X
                    (what is expressed                                           (something expressed in a
                        in a true definition)                                           necessarily crude description)

            THE IDEAL WHICH IS MOST REAL                          Imperfect copies of the real


Here is a modern characterization of Plato's distinction between Forms & sensibles. TO BE MEMORIZED!

Consider any pair of contrary characteristics. Call them F and G. (for example: F & G
                        could be hot and cold; beautiful and ugly; odd and even; just and unjust; etc.)
                        [It makes no difference which of the pair you call F and which G.]

DEFINITION: "Where F and G are contrary characteristics,

the statement `X is a Form' is defined to mean that
                                                           X is F if and only if X is not G;

the statement `x is a sensible' is defined to mean that
                                                            x is F if and only if x is also G.

        TWO  RIDERS:

Something can be (or have) F and also be (or have) G according to two riders:

1. according to a DIFFERENCE IN TIME:

(x at time t1 can be F; the same x at time t2 can be G.)
                                                    Example: tea that is now hot; later cold.


           2. according to a DIFFERENCE OF RESPECT OR DEGREE:
(x can be F with respect to object or person W;
                the same x can be G with respect to object or person Y.)

Example: Sullivan is tall with respect to midgets but short with respect to basketball players
                playing center in the NBA

[Rider 1 asserts that sensibles are the sort of being which can CHANGE.
[Rider 2 asserts that sensibles are the sort of being which can HAVE DEGREES OF A QUALITY.]

Now consider a Form. To say that "X is a Form." is to say X is ALWAYS F and NEVER G.

            In the first place, a Form is NOT the kind of being that can change. A Form cannot be now F and later G.
                What is Beauty Itself cannot ever be ugly. What is Hotness Itself cannot ever be cold.
                Hence Forms are unchanging (therefore indestructible, not composite, not bodily, not visible.)

            In the second place, Forms are NOT the sort of being which can have degrees.

                Two sensibles can have (participate in) the same quality (being tall or smart). Furthermore, two sensibles can have the same characteristic in different degrees. Jane and Joe are both tall but to different degrees; Harry and Tom are both smart but to different degrees. Sensibles can be arranged along a continuum:  v, w, x, y, z where all share imperfectly in tallness, or smartness, or being beautiful.

Person B may be beautiful with respect to person A who has less beauty and more ugliness, but person x may not be beautiful (be ugly) with respect to person C who has more beauty.

FORMS ARE NOT LIKE THIS. Suppose X is the Form of the Beautiful -- Beauty Itself. Nothing is or can be more beautiful than Beauty Itself. (There is no z such that in comparison to z the Form of X can be said to be ugly. The Form of Beauty is totally and perfectly beautiful. Nothing can be more beautiful than the Form of Beauty. (The Form of F is perfectly F. Nothing can be more F than "F-ness Itself.")

What kind of beings are there in the universe? Plato answers: two kinds only: FORMS and sensibles.

Sensibles are the kind of thing that can have contrary characteristics F and G --
either according to time (Now F, later G.) -- therefore sensibles are the kind of being that can change
or according to respect or degree (F wrt w; G wrt z) -- therefore no sensible can be perfect.


The Form of Circularity is always circular and perfectly circular.
vs. a particular sensible wheel which (a) may change and become not circular or (b) can have
degrees -- i.e., with respect to a more perfect wheel, it may be called less circular (somewhat bumpy).

Contrast Triangularity with material things triangular in shape. Contrast Justice Itself with this or that just man or woman.

        In the Phaedo, Socrates says that anything that is beautiful (except Beauty itself) is beautiful because it partakes of beauty.
Helen of Troy (a sensible) is beautiful because she partakes of the form of beauty. Helen can be now beautiful, later ugly. Helen can change. Furthermore, middle-aged Helen can be beautiful with respect to 300 lb. Mrs. Coach Potato but relatively non-beautiful (somewhat ugly) when compared to the latest Miss Universe. Contrast Helen with the Form or Essence of Beauty -- Beauty Itself -- which never changes and is perfectly beautiful -- i.e. does not admit of degrees, There is nothing that can be more beautiful than Beauty itself.
Now look back at the last argument in the Phaedo: The inductive examples lead to this sort of
generalization: A quality F -- at the onset of its opposite, G -- is destroyed or withdraws.

Level 1:    F <-------------> G                   cold             hot             odd                 even


Level 2:   A                                     snow                fire             pencils             pencils (the kind of
                                                                                                                    things which can have
                                                                                                                    the above qualities -- oddness/evenness)


Level 3: "a"                                 a particular          a lit            a trio of                a pair of
                                                   snowball           match      particular pencils      particular pencils
Application to the problem case:

Level 1: Being Alive   vs.    Being Dead        Looks like Plato is treating the soul as a Form

Level 2: the soul                                            Soul is by definition alive. Hence when death comes,
                                                                     the soul withdraws. Death only affects body not the
                                                                                                                soul. (???)

Level 3: the body                                           ("what soul possesses" -- i.e. life) ------- we would expect
                                                                      in this third -- exemplification spot -- a particular soul --
                                                                      e.g. the soul of Socrates.

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