The Persuasiveness of Socrates’ Argument in Phaedo That the Philosopher “Should Be Cheerful in the Face of Death”.

Topics: Plato, Heaven, Afterlife Pages: 5 (1887 words) Published: September 15, 2013
A philosopher, by definition, is a lover of wisdom. He conducts himself and does only things that can bring about the attainment of what he loves – true wisdom; not the passions and appetites to which the body is prone to. True wisdom which Plato calls the Form, is not physical as the body is. Since the body, with its appetitive and passionate characteristics, militates against the contemplation of the Form (which results in the attainment of the Philosopher’s quest – true wisdom) death, the liberation of the soul, becomes a rite of passage into the everlasting enjoyment of that true wisdom. So, if the philosophers are lovers of wisdom, and if the true wisdom is invisible as the soul and if death liberates or separates the body from the soul so that the soul now has unlimited access to true wisdom, then the philosopher ought to be cheerful in the face of death because he is about to gain the everlasting reward. To begin, I would like to state emphatically that by my understanding and reasoning, I agree with Socrates’ argument in Phaedo, which points to the fact that the philosopher “should be cheerful in the face of death”. This paper will then go on to show why I think what he says holds water and why I agree with him. In 64a, Socrates tells Simmias and Cebes that people who take philosophy as a serious discipline and apply themselves totally to it, are in all manners of speaking preparing themselves for “dying and death”. This implies that if what he has stated above is true, then the philosopher needs not to fear death because he has been preparing and has been actually looking forward to that experience. I find this idea and notion very true because from the little I know about philosophy, it is about thinking of things that people do not usually pay attention to, and this includes issues like life after death and what that holds in store for us. Most people only come to the realization of thinking about life after death when they are on their death beds, or when they suffer a near death experience. Jay (1998), says that “philosophers think about everything. And they tend to take a broader view of everything than most other people. They look at things as if from farther away, to see how they all fit together.” The philosopher spends ample time, that is, if he is applying himself fully to the rigours of philosophy, reasoning and thinking about the afterlife and what beauties it holds in store. Socrates then goes on to give us a meaning of what death is. However, he does not go straight to give the definition of what he thinks death is, he rather asks if it is “simply the release of the soul from the body?” For me, that is my own notion of death. I agree wholeheartedly that death is the liberation of the soul from the body. I see the body as a shell that has been cast to hold the soul. The body, from my own understanding, is that which gives the soul the opportunity to move in this earthly realm. Socrates states (in 65c-65d) that the soul reasons best or reflects well when it is free of all distractions. These include things like hearing, sight, pain or pleasure. When he says this, he goes further to state that when the soul ignores the body, (by not paying attention to its longings), and becomes independent of it, avoiding all forms of physical contacts and associations, the soul’s quest and search for reason and meaning is easily realised. Then it follows, according to Socrates, that when the philosopher attains such a level, his soul is far ahead of others or those who are not philosophers. Distractions are very real, because they are part of human makeup. As human beings, we tend to easily get swayed from what our minds are trying to grapple with, especially when it is something difficult and not easy to explain or define. Our true human nature, makes us want to just walk away from the problem at hand and try to look for an easy solution elsewhere. We then take delight in looking at pictures or...

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Hamilton, Edith and Huntington Cairns. The Collected Dialogues of Plato . Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1961.
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