Literature Study GuidesDialogues Of PlatoThe Myth Of The Afterlife And Socratess Death Summary 107c 118a Summary

Dialogues of Plato | Study Guide

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Dialogues of Plato | The Myth of the Afterlife and Socrates's Death Summary (107c–118a) | Summary

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Summary

After securing Simmias and Cebes's agreement on the correctness of the argument, Socrates turns to some implications of the soul's immortality. It's imperative, because the soul is immortal, that one always care for it. The journey to the underworld, as Socrates describes it, begins with a judgment of the dead soul. Guided by a guardian, the soul then sets out for the next world. The "wise and disciplined soul follows its guide and is not ignorant of its surroundings." The soul attached to its body, on the other hand, "hovers round ... the visible world ... and it is only after much resistance and suffering that it is at last forcibly led away by its guardian spirit." The wicked soul is punished, and the good soul is rewarded.

Upon completing the myth, Socrates tells his friends that he must prepare to drink the hemlock that will kill him. Crito asks Socrates for burial instructions, and Socrates replies that, when he dies, his body will not be him. So, he says, they can bury him as they see fit. After, he bathes, bids goodbye to Xanthippe and his three sons. His guard declares his admiration for him as "the noblest and the gentlest and the bravest of all the men that have ever come here," and then begins crying. Socrates says goodbye to the guard before telling his friends how he has enjoyed spending time in discussions with him. Then he tells his friends it is time to take the poison.

Socrates receives the cup "quite cheerfully" and admonishes his friends for crying. The man who administered the poison has told Socrates to walk around until his legs feel heavy, which he does. Then Socrates lies down, and the man pinches his feet and asks if he can feel it. Socrates says he cannot, and his limbs grow numb and cold. The man says that when the poison reaches the heart, Socrates will be dead. As the poison reaches his waist, Socrates says, "Crito, we ought to offer a cock to Asclepius. See to it, and don't forget." Shortly after, he dies.

Analysis

Socrates's equanimity leading up to and including his death is in keeping with the values he repeatedly articulates across the dialogues. His last request, to sacrifice a rooster to the Greek god of Medicine, Asclepius, is telling. People typically engaged in this ritual upon recovering from an illness. Perhaps Socrates sees life as an illness from which death provides the cure.

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