The story of two sisters, Melissa and Melinda, is one of deep philosophical analysis. The harsh scenario is of the two sisters’ brother, Matthew, who is involved in a horrific accident that essentially leaves him brain dead and only alive through a complex network of life support systems. According to Matthew’s last will and testament, he states specifically that if something of this sort ever happens to him, both sisters must mutually agree upon the ultimate decision of whether or not to proverbially “pull the plug.
” This is a massive decision that will take great deliberation upon both parties to inevitably come to common terms with one another. Essentially, both sisters have their own aspect of what they should do regarding this predicament. This leads us into the great question at hand, what does the term “dead” mean to us and does the soul play into our outlook on what constitutes whether or not to pull Matthew off of life support and let him go. Melinda is a firm believer in the existence of the soul in regards to the human body. She argues to Melissa that, “”His soul, Matthew’s soul.
That’s what makes him the person he is, not just a brain doing whatever in his skull! You have to look at everything, not just the X-rays and blood tests! “(1) Melinda would have a significant chance of convincing her sister Melissa that souls do in fact exist by referring to Plato’s defense of the existence of souls to provide ammunition in defending her stance on the dispute. Melinda could argue the cycle of opposites or the argument of knowledge that Plato had utilized in his dialogue, Phaedo, to convey her beliefs. In these dialogues, Plato uses these defenses to justify Socrate’s beliefs in the existence of the soul.
By referring back to these excellent examples that justify the soul, Melinda would almost seem able to convince her sister to agree with her. Melinda could argue that all things have an opposite, including the soul. Plato’s first argument relies on the idea that every quality comes into existence from its own opposite. It depends on the existence of its opposite, or it would not exist at all. He argues that big things would not be bigger or small things wouldn’t be smaller without their opposites as they depend on their opposites for their existence.
Accordingly, people who are awake are just people who were asleep but then woke up, while people who are asleep are just people who were once awake. This sounds pretty obvious at first, but as we apply this to the idea of the human soul, things should begin to trigger deeper thoughts into our own set of beliefs. As he continues on, Plato argued that death must come from life, and life from death. With that said, people who are dead are just people who were in the past alive but then died, and people who are alive are just people who were dead but then experienced being born.
Plato’s thought suggests a continuous cycle of birth, death, and rebirth. Plato explains in this excerpt from Phaedo that, “If generation were in a straight line only, and there were no compensation or circle in nature, no turn or return into one another, then you know that all things would at last have the same form and pass into the same state, and there would be no more generation of them. ” (Phaedo 72a) This shows Melissa that Matthew’s soul existed before “Matthew” and will continue to exist after Matthew. His body is not what defines him, but what is inside of him more or less.
Melinda may also argue that knowledge can justify the existence of the soul. According to Plato, the most important kinds of human knowledge are really remembering things which we already knew. He referred to this as recognition. He described our knowledge of equality by explaining that, “even though we have never seen any two things that are perfectly equal, because there will always be some minute difference; and yet we know what true equality (or the Form of Equality) must be. ”(2) He thought that the same was true with many other things.
Although we experience imperfect examples of these things, we have a somewhat real understanding of what is truth, beauty, or goodness. Plato differentiated this kind of knowledge from the seemingly unreliable knowledge that we gain through our five senses and appear to be only opinion based. Plato believed that this knowledge must be instinctive, and must have been gained by our souls before we were born. As we begin to understand something that is the object of true knowledge, like a basic math problem, that is not available to the human senses but is true.
Regardless, we have some sense of recognition. As for Melinda, this should be enough evidence to prove to Melissa that Matthew’s soul pre-existed Matthew’s body and will continue to exist thereafter. Melissa may remain skeptical after hearing what Melinda had to say, arguing that the soul does in fact exist before, during, and after the existence of the human body. She could argue that the soul is the life of a human and that when the human is gone, as is the soul. Melissa could negate Melinda’s argument of opposites by easily claiming that these are just outlandish speculations.
The fact that there are no hard truths behind the existence of the soul prior to being born leaves much room for assumption. How can we say that the soul lives on indefinitely or what happens to the soul if it does in fact die at some point? Melinda’s arguments are too broad, as were Plato’s, to come to a definitive yes or no answer regarding the soul. Melissa could also negate the theory of knowledge by stating that we must in fact utilize our five senses to obtain knowledge.
It almost seems impossible to obtain knowledge without utilizing our sight, hearing, feeling, smell, or taste. I believe that Melissa would not agree completely with Melinda’s theories and thus would come to a standstill. I speculate that the only way for them to come to terms on this would be through legal mediation of some sort. Works Cited (1) Laurents, Matthew M. Daude. An Invitation to Philosophy. (2) Kemerling, Garth. Philosophy Pages. 2011 04/02/2012 <http://www. philosophypages. com/>.
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