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An Examination of Socrates Attitude Towards Death and Dying

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Matthew Whalen Intro to Philosophy 10/12/05 An Examination of Socrates Attitude Towards Death and Dying When presented with a problem or argument Socrates, the philosopher, attacked most issues with a relatively disingenuous attitude. A question or idea would be presented and he would automatically respond with either another question or a new philosophy for his opposite party to ponder. These were the ways of Socrates, an intelligent yet humble man who knew the limits of his knowledge. And through his passion for knowledge and quest for the meaning of life, Socrates often stumbled across the theme of death and dying. Now of course the natural human instinct when presented with the idea of death is to run away from the problem and dismiss such thoughts from ones head. For what happens after death remains in the world of the unknown, and although death is expected to occur at the end of each human life, it is easier to hide behind fear even during the process of dying. However Socrates stoically examined matters of death and dying with great admiration. In fact according to Plato's dialogues, when Socrates is presented with the idea of death he not only remains strong and steadfast in his philosophies, but cheerful in the expectation and meeting of death as well. In the Apology Socrates is presenting his case before the jury due to an accusation on three accounts: not recognizing the gods recognized by the state, inventing new deities, and corrupting the youth of Athens. ...read more.


This ignites a debate between Socrates and Crito over what is just vs. what is unjust. Crito maintains his position that Socrates should in fact leave the prison. Socrates however, is overcome by a feeling of doubt. If Socrates were to leave, he would escape death and possibly live on the spread his philosophies throughout Athens. But this is not what Socrates is concerned about. He instead wants to make sure that what he does in this moment does not in turn create an unfavorable afterlife for himself. If Socrates were to break free from prison now, he would be making himself an outlaw. And through this realization he understands now that when he dies he will be harshly judged in the underworld for behaving unjustly toward his city's laws. He presents the theory to Crito and says to him that "If you go forth returning evil for evil, and injury for injury . . . we shall be angry with you while you live, and our brethren, the laws in the world below, will receive you as an enemy" (54b). Socrates is conscious of the fact that what he does now, will determine his afterlife: His philosophies continue to remain strong and steadfast. The optimism which he presents in the Apology is remembered: "be of good cheer about death, and know of a certainty that no evil can happen to a good man either in life or after death" (41c). ...read more.


I sent away the women mainly in order that they might not offend in this way, for I have heard that a man should die in peace. Be quiet, then, and have patience (117e). This last hour did not disturb Socrates in the the way it did his friends. The thought of his own death does not even sway his ability to carry out the actual deed of his execution. He welcomes the cup of poison and "cheerfully" (117b) drinks it down. And as Socrates lie there unmoved Phaedo recalls the man he most admired: "Such was the end, Echecrates, of our friend, whom I may truly call the wisest, and justest, and best of all the men whom I have ever known" (118a). For a man not to fear death, not even the slightest bit is a remarkable feat. However when examining the life of Socrates, his daily life involved the preparation for his own death. Through his daily philosophical debates, Socrates engaged in conversations which forced him to examine his life. After all as Socrates states himself in the Apology, "the unexamined life is not worth living" (38a). For me personally it is difficult to understand how Socrates could totally commit his life to this. And ironically Socrates was aware of this type of difficulty and responds with fear: "I am afraid that other people do not realize that the one aim of those who practice philosophy in the proper manner is to practice for dying and death" (64a). ?? ?? ?? ?? - 2 - ...read more.

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