Lecture on the Phaedo

Lecture on the Phaedo - Lecture on the Phaedo Background...

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Background The Phaedo is generally conceded to be a middle period dialogue, being written well after the Crito and Apology, although it follows them in chronological order recording the occasion of the execution of Socrates. The dialogue is narrated by Phaedo to Echechrates, probably at Phlius, and it records the dialogue between Simmias, Cebes, and Socrates on the question of the immortality of the soul. Simmias and Cebes are students of Philolaus, a noted Pythagorean. The subtle grasp of orphic and pythgorean doctrines pertaining to the soul demonstrates Socrates (and Plato’s) ability to make use of ordinary religious conventions in an ironic manner which does not contradict but which casts the doctrines in a new rational light. Numerous literary brushstrokes render the Phaedo a masterpiece: the shackle around Socrates leg, Xanthippe’s wailing, Phaedo’s hair,etc. Notes What is Socrates justification for saying at 61 c that we are not permitted to commit suicide? A: 62 b secret doctrine of men in a prison and we are the chattel of the gods. Cebes objects at 62D that to say that philosophers ought to be ready willing and able to die is in apparent contradiction with the statement that men are the chattel of the gods: the wise ought to be troubled by leaving the company of those who are our betters. Socrates answers that 63b he believes he will be going to better men and guardians than here. As it is said of old, ‘something better for the good than for the wicked’. (Luke 16: 19-31 the story of the rich man in hell who will not be rewarded with the drops of water since in this life he had his good things) Why does Socrates say at 64a that those who study philosophy correctly study nothing but dying and being dead? Death is the separation of the soul from the body. 64c Philosopher cares not for the body, but for the soul, separating it from the body. 65a Soul thinks best (acquires pure knowledge) when it thinks alone by itself. It is corrupted when contaminated with the body.65b-c Absolute justice, beauty and goodness are not acquired by the bodily senses. The man who comes nearest to the things themselves is he who thinks these things by preparing himself. To prepare oneself means to approach the contemplation with the reason (dianoia) alone, pure, to seek out the pure, absolute essence of things. (66a) This man strikes upon being. The body keeps us perpetually busy and shackled to its maintenence of desires, etc. 66c
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This note was uploaded on 04/07/2008 for the course PHIL 50 taught by Professor Hahn during the Spring '08 term at Marquette.

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Lecture on the Phaedo - Lecture on the Phaedo Background...

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