• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

How convincing are Platos arguments for the immortality of the soul in the Phaedo?

Extracts from this document...

Introduction

How convincing are Plato's arguments for the immortality of the soul in the Phaedo? Plato's Phaedo begins with Echecrates asking Phaedo of Elis about what happened in Socrates' cell during his final hours. A number of Socrates' friends were present; amongst them were two Pythagorean philosophers, Simmias and Cebes. The dialogue set forth in Phaedo, is narrated to us through Phaedo by Plato. The account begins with Socrates engaging in dialectic with Simmias and Cebes, discussing the afterlife. Socrates argues that the soul is detachable from the human body, and that a "true votary of philosophy is always pursuing death and dying."1 However, he also explains that it would be wrong to commit suicide because man is not the sole possessor of his body, and so he does not have the right to take his own life. Socrates then discusses why a philosopher would look forward to his own death, and this is because "the thought is best when the mind is gathered into herself"2 and "this purifies the soul from preoccupation of the senses and physical desires".3 So considering that death is the separation of the soul from the body, the greatest acquirement of knowledge and wisdom is gained after death. This is better understood through the words of Socrates in Phaedo: "He who has got rid, as far as he can, of eyes and ears and, so to speak, of the whole body, these being in his opinion distracting elements when they associate with the soul hinder her from acquiring truth and knowledge." ...read more.

Middle

Plato believes that this knowledge is pre-natal, and so through dialogue argues that if man has a priori knowledge, the soul must exist before the body. This argument however does not prove that the soul exists immortally. It provides a logical argument that soul can exist before birth, it could also exist after death but there is no argument for its immortality. The soul could exist after many deaths, millions of deaths, and possibly even after the extinction of human race as we know it to be, but that does not mean the soul can exist eternally. It could also be argued that it is impossible for someone to recollect knowledge such as the time of the fall of Rome unless they have learned of it, or were present at the time. This theory of having prior knowledge would only work with concepts like logic and mathematics. However, Plato believed that logic and mathematics were the only types of true knowledge (with the exception of mystic insight). Cebes was not convinced by this argument for the immortality of souls, so Socrates presents his third argument, known as the Affinity Argument. For this argument Socrates works with the assumption that there are two types of existences: the seen and the unseen. He says that the seen is an existence susceptible to change and the unseen is not. His next point that there is a part of us that represents the body and another part representing the soul, and therefore concludes that the body is changing (as it is seen) ...read more.

Conclusion

Socrates' surrounding friends find this final argument to be irrefutable and logically valid. Plato's approach to proving the immortality of the soul seemed to be to provoke the reader to question and object. This he did by presenting the Cyclical Argument, the Theory of Recollection and the Argument of Affinity. It would be obvious to say that these first three arguments are not wholly convincing, as Socrates' interlocutors criticised the arguments. Plato carefully explores the existence of the soul in different worlds in an attempt to take the reader through the steps he has taken to come to his final argument and conclusion. The arguments may also serve the purpose of showing the reader examples of invalid arguments and false premises. Each of the first three arguments manages to prove the existence of the soul, the existence of the soul before birth and death (though the latter is less convincing) but none manage to prove the immortal existence of the soul. The final argument is most definitely the most convincing, and it can be seen that Plato knows this too. He uses the Theory of Forms in last argument, which he believes to be the most certain of all his theories. A factor concerning all four of Plato's arguments is that one must accept a number of assumptions for the arguments to be valid. If the assumptions are unproven and eventually turn out to be invalid, then even Plato's final and most convincing argument would be regarded as invalid. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our University Degree Philosophy and Theology section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related University Degree Philosophy and Theology essays

  1. Assess Platos justification of inequality in the Polis?

    1987: 414b-415d). Plato plans on convincing the citizens of the polis to accept the hierarchal system as it was God who has chosen which class each citizen falls into by adding different metals into their souls.

  2. Explain Plato's dualistic theory.

    In order to illustrate and justify his views of reality, Plato provides the Allegory of the Cave - as well as the Sun and the Divided Line in the Republic - whereby the prisoners (who have lived in an underground cave since their childhood)

  1. Kant's Philosophy

    and Dependence Limitation Community Of Modality Possibility-Impossibility Existence-Nonexistence Necessity-Contingency While Kant does not give a formal derivation of it, he believes that this is the complete and necessary list of the a priori contributions that the understanding brings to its judgments of the world.

  2. Might you have a soul?

    He therefore did not believe them to possess a soul in the same way that humans do. Smith and Jones brilliantly summarise the problem this presents when they state 'If there is, in particular, no chasm between men and such animals as the higher apes, then it really can't be

  1. Outline and assess Platos defence of philosophy understood as critical thinking, as it is ...

    Socrates "says of himself that it 'seems' he 'really' possesses this. And he hints that, "limited" though it be, the knowledge or wisdom that can be secured via philosophy is of decisive importance for human beings" (Young, 1996, p.3). The vital knowledge Socrates talks about is the abilities and vital

  2. Body and Soul

    Because of this 'cycle' Plato believed that the soul was immortal. The Platonic soul comprises three parts: 1. The Logos 2. The Thymos 3. The Pathos Each of these had a function in a balanced and peaceful soul. The logos equates to the mind.

  1. It has sometimes been remarked how much has been written, both by friends and ...

    When a man firmly believed that if lie violated the sacredness of a particular sanctuary he would be struck dead on the spot, or smitten suddenly with a mortal disease, he doubtless took care not to incur the penalty: but when any one.

  2. Platonic love. The Symposium and the Phaedrus. Each of these works is a ...

    The real crux of the argument follows presenting Plato's view through the words of a priestess named Diotima. She is said to have shared the secrets of love with Socrates. It is of interest that Plato uses a woman to relate his view on love.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work