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2_phaedo - 1 24.01 Classics of Western Philosophy Prof Rae...

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1 24.01 Classics of Western Philosophy Prof. Rae Langton I. Plato Lecture 2. The Phaedo Reading: Phaedo 57a-72e 1. Background to the Phaedo. Socrates spends his final hours with his friends. They discuss the immortality of the soul, a philosophical question of some urgency given the circumstances. We can identify five different arguments, which we’ll call the Separation Argument (64a-69e); the Cyclical Argument (70c-72e); the Recollection Argument (72e- 77d); the Affinity Argument (78b-84b); and the Final Argument (100b-107c). These arguments are important for what they say not only about the soul or self, but also about the Forms : the eternal, ideal universals, which particular perceptible things only roughly approximate. 2. The Separation Argument. The philosopher has no need to fear death, for to do philosophy is to practice dying: ‘all who actually engage in philosophy aright are practicing nothing other than dying and being dead’ (64a). Death is the separation of soul and body, and doing philosophy involves separating the soul as much as possible from the body. In understanding or contemplating the Forms, the soul comes to be ‘alone by itself as far as possible, disregarding the body’: the body is a source of distraction from this quest (64d), and the bodily senses (hearing, sight) are a source of inaccurate beliefs (65b). Since the body is an obstacle to the achievement of philosophy’s goal, in being
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