Phaedo: The Theme of Death and Immortality of Human Soul

The Meaning of the Life of the Human Soul

Phaedo is one of the famous dialogues, written by ancient Greek philosopher Plato. It describes the situation, when the teacher of Plato – Socrates, was sentenced to death by the State of Athens. This dialogue is the last one in the series of dialogues, devoted to the theme of trial and death of Socrates. Phaedo takes place very close to the moment of death of Socrates from poisoning with hemlock. The dialogue states four arguments of the immortality of soul and the relation between soul and body, as it was understood by Plato. During the whole course of the dialogue Socrates explains that human soul is immortal. Considering this, Socrates states that he is not afraid to die. He was sentenced to death, but he took the poison earlier and thus there was an opinion that he wanted to commit suicide. Phaedo by Plato is a dialog between Phaedo, Cebes and Simmias regarding Socrates explanation of why a true philosopher should not be afraid of death. Socrates assumed that in case a person could really apply himself in the correct way to philosophy and the pursuit of ultimate truth, then he is getting ready for the act of dying. Plato claims that human soul is immortal and it is the origin of human intellect. In order to prove that the soul is immortal, it is necessary to make certain steps. First of all there is a need to discredit the complete information, which was obtained by human body. It is important to consider the question of the possibility to trust the sensory information, because it is useless to look inwards the soul and the essence of truth. If Plato did not prove that this was correct, then Socrates could have been seen as an individual, punished for crime and condemned to death and not a philosopher, who had the chance to release his soul from his body with the aim of achievement of ultimate knowledge. All the body desires have the potential to distract an individual from intellectual engagement, and this is the reason why the pursuit of philosophy, according to him, was denial of all these desires. Individuals perceive a lot of things with the help of their senses and all this information needs to be quantified by their intellect.  Phaedo stands out of the other dialogues because it is the representation of the metaphysical and epistemological views of Plato during his middle period.

The description of Socrates’ death is rather vividly described by Plato with enough dramatic detail. Along with this the author generates a lot of interesting arguments regarding the major theme of the dialogue- the theme of death. First of all Socrates comes for the idea that death is just separation of human body and soul. Then he assumes that if a philosopher is acting as a philosopher, he aims at affecting this separation as far as it is possible, and this could be interpreted as if philosopher practices his death. Using these set of arguments, Socrates explains, why he is not afraid of dying and why his thinking and lack of fear should be considered rational. Plato uses Socrates to claim about his own ideas that the soul is immortal. There seems to be a problem, when Socrates assumes that the process of learning happens with the help of mind only, without application of senses and human bodies. It is evident that  it would be really difficult for humans to obtain new knowledge and experience absolutely without their senses. Here Plato refers to the sensibles, as the form of properties and uses them as the first argument. He wants to convince the audience that sensibles and the Forms are different things. Examples of sensibles are books, mountains, they are perceived with the help of human senses, and Plato stated that they are inferior to the Forms. The ideas of Beauty, Truth, Good are the examples of the Forms. The knowledge of all the things is concentrated exactly in the Forms and they are important causes of the sensibles. The Forms are compared with the heaven, where humans are able to commune with them as souls. Socrates often underlines the connection between the Forms and the soul. Both the Forms and human souls are indivisible and indestructible. Further Plato uses a ranger of arguments of immortality of souls, for example that the soul is a carrier of life, the opposite of life is death and due to the fact that opposites can not admit of their opposites then the soul can not admit death, it should instead perish or flee, thus the soul is deathless and all the deathless things are indestructible, which means that the soul is indestructible and thus immortal. Socrates treated the issues of death from philosophical position and came to the conclusion that those individuals, who could be characterized as good upstanding, should not be afraid of death: “The fear of death is indeed the pretence of wisdom, and not real wisdom, being a pretence of knowing the unknown” (29a) and “in other words, death lies in the realm of the unknown, and it is impossible to fear something before one understands it. After receiving the death sentence Socrates does not invite fear into his thoughts, instead he realizes that “those of us who think death is an evil are in error” (40c). The ability to dismiss fear of death provides the chance for him to examine death completely. Socrates related his discussion of fear of death with the existence of human soul and its characteristics. He assumed that “either death is a state of nothingness and utter unconsciousness, or, as many say, there is a change and migration of the soul from this world to another” (40d).

When Cebes speaks about his concerns that the soul leaves the body and then goes nowhere, Socrates mentions his second argument of the immortality of the soul, which is called the Cyclical Argument and it states that the soul is immortal due to the fact that living come from the dead. The dead in their turn are generated from the living in the process of death and then the living are again generated from the dead in the process of birth. One more argument of Socrates is based upon his Theory of Recollection, stating that it is possible to take information out of an individual, who seems to have no knowledge due to the fact that he obtained that knowledge in his previous life and can recollect it from his memory. The Affinity Argument is the fourth argument of the immortality of the soul and it shows how the soul resembles the things, which are divine and invisible, whereas the body resembles the things, which are visible and mortal. On this basis it is possible to conclude that as the body becomes a corpse after death, then it is mortal and the soul is divine and thus it could outlast the human body. Socrates faces the final hours of his life with outstanding grace. Plato did his best to reveal the way, how he saw his teacher and used it as motivation of the individuals, who were able to truly support their personal philosophy. Socrates was really dedicated philosopher and revealed great talent of leading a discussion. His friends considered him to be wise and good-natured, which could be traced in the last lines of Phaedo.

Overall, Phaedo is one of the greatest dialogues, reflecting the personal positions of Plato regarding the meaning of life and death and immortality of human soul, presented through the conversation with Socrates during the last moments before his death.

Works cited:

Dorter, Kenneth. Plato’s Phaedo: An Interpretation. Toronto: Univ. of Toronto Press, 1982

Gallop, D. Plato: Phaedo. Oxford, 1975

The terms offer and acceptance. (2016, May 17). Retrieved from

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"The terms offer and acceptance." freeessays.club, 17 May 2016.

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freeessays.club (2016) The terms offer and acceptance [Online].
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[Accessed: February 4, 2023]

"The terms offer and acceptance." freeessays.club, 17 May 2016

[Accessed: February 4, 2023]

"The terms offer and acceptance." freeessays.club, 17 May 2016

[Accessed: February 4, 2023]

"The terms offer and acceptance." freeessays.club, 17 May 2016

[Accessed: February 4, 2023]

"The terms offer and acceptance." freeessays.club, 17 May 2016

[Accessed: February 4, 2023]
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