Socrates, Body and Soul

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 22 November 2016

Socrates, Body and Soul

In the first part of the Phaedo, Socrates lays out his theory regarding the immortality of the soul. Near the end of this part he breaks down the body and soul and shows us that they are very different in permanence and structure. The body and soul, which are are interlinked when alive and separated at death, are fundamentally different constructs. The dichotomy here is expressed through the argument as opposites of composition, ideal forms, solidity, spirituality, and visibility.

Socrates opens the overall discussion at 64c by defining death as separation of the soul from the body while the argument regarding the duality of body and soul is picked up again at the end of 78b with the major premise being whether or not the soul is something that can be scattered. Socrates continues by stating that anything that is non-composite will likely stay in one piece over time, while composite or compound items will eventually break down into individual parts. Furthermore, composite objects are subject to change and “vary from one time to another” (78c) with things that are static likely being non-composite in nature.

Socrates now elects to pull in the invisible perfect forms that are the ideals of the corporeal existence. “The Equal itself, the Beautiful itself, each thing in itself, the real … remain the same and never in any way tolerate any change whatever. ” (78d) This is a continuation of a previous line of reasoning that starts at 65d with the introduction of the pure concepts that are partially enumerated as the Beautiful, the Just, and the Good and culminating with the realization that perfect knowledge of these can only be obtained with a total disconnect of the soul from the body.

The perfect forms presented are actually assumptions that serve to further the argument along. Our direct existence allows us to experience the particulars of the beautiful such as “men, horses, clothes, or other such things … and all those which bear the same name as the others. ” (78e) These particulars help to form our day to day experience and are always in a constant state of flux with relation to themselves or each other. Socrates goes on to posit that those that are static in nature can be grasped only directly by the mind and are among the

invisible. Furthermore, we are to assume that the classes of visible and invisible exist and are real and that the visible is in constant change and the invisible is static in nature. Socrates then establishes the visible and invisible existences and states that the visible is in constant change, while the invisible in absolutely never changes. The argument is further refined at 79c by defining the body and soul as parts that can be split into two separate entities with the body being visible and the soul invisible.

Now, at the bottom of 79c, the soul is described as being “dragged by the body to the things that are never the same, and the soul itself strays and is confused and dizzy as if it were drunk, in so far as it is in contact with that kind of thing. ” This is a continuation of the argument near 66a, whereby “the body confuses the soul and does not allow it to acquire truth and wisdom whenever it is associated with it. ” In 79d, Socrates tells us that the soul is akin to the “pure, ever existing, immortal, and unchanging.

” When investigation is done by the soul itself, it enters the spiritual realm and “will cease straying and only then will it experience wisdom. The logical conclusion of this argument is that “the soul is altogether more like that which always exists in the same state rather than like that which does not. ” (79e) The argument proceeds to lay out the notions of the nature of the divine and the mortal as that of to lead and to follow.

Next the body is posited to resemble most closely the mortal and the soul the divine. To summarize the argument , at 80b, Socrates said “that the soul is most like the divine, deathless, intelligible, uniform, indissoluble, always the same as itself, whereas the body is most like that which is human, mortal, mustiform. Unintelligible, soluble and never consistently the same. ” Based on this Socratean argument, the body and soul are fundamentally different constructs.

Their properties are diametrically opposite to each other, with the soul being immortal, unchangeable and non-composite. On the other hand, the body is mortal, changeable, and a composite structure. It has been shown that composites really has a risk of blowing away after death, while the soul does not. References Morito, Bruce (2000). Introduction to Philosophy West and East, Study Guide. Athabasca: Athabasca University. Grube, G. M. A. (1977). Plato Phaedo (translation). Indianapolis, Indiana: Hacket Publishing Company, Inc.


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  • University/College: University of Chicago

  • Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter

  • Date: 22 November 2016

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