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During the voyage of the sacred ship to and from Delos, which has occupied thirty days, the execution of Socrates has been deferred. (Compare Xen. Mem.) The time has been passed by him in conversation with a select company of dis-by
ciples. But now the holy season is over, and the disciples meet earlier than usual in order that they may converse with Socrates for the last time. Those who were present, and those Plato
who might have been expected to be present, are mentioned by name. There are Simmias and Cebes ( Crito), two disciples of Philolaus whom Socrates ‘by his enchantments has Translated by Benjamin Jowett
attracted from Thebes’ ( Mem.), Crito the aged friend, the attendant of the prison, who is as good as a friend—these take part in the conversation. There are present also, INTRODUCTION
Hermogenes, from whom Xenophon derived his information about the trial of Socrates (Mem.), the ‘madman’
AFTER AN INTERVAL of some months or years, and at Phlius, a Apollodorus (Symp.), Euclid and Terpsion from Megara town of Peloponnesus, the tale of the last hours of Socrates is (compare Theaet.), Ctesippus, Antisthenes, Menexenus, and narrated to Echecrates and other Phliasians by Phaedo the ‘be-some other less-known members of the Socratic circle, all of loved disciple.’ The Dialogue necessarily takes the form of a whom are silent auditors. Aristippus, Cleombrotus, and Plato narrative, because Socrates has to be described acting as well as are noted as absent. Almost as soon as the friends of Socrates speaking. The minutest particulars of the event are interesting enter the prison Xanthippe and her children are sent home to distant friends, and the narrator has an equal interest in them.
in the care of one of Crito’s servants. Socrates himself has nation, because man is a prisoner, who must not open the just been released from chains, and is led by this circum-door of his prison and run away—this is the truth in a ‘mys-stance to make the natural remark that ‘pleasure follows pain.’
tery.’ Or (2) rather, because he is not his own property, but a (Observe that Plato is preparing the way for his doctrine of possession of the gods, and has no right to make away with the alternation of opposites.) ‘Aesop would have represented that which does not belong to him. But why, asks Cebes, if them in a fable as a two-headed creature of the gods.’ The he is a possession of the gods, should he wish to die and mention of Aesop reminds Cebes of a question which had leave them? For he is under their protection; and surely he been asked by Evenus the poet (compare Apol.): ‘Why cannot take better care of himself than they take of him.
Socrates, who was not a poet, while in prison had been put-Simmias explains that Cebes is really referring to Socrates, ting Aesop into verse?’—’Because several times in his life he whom they think too unmoved at the prospect of leaving had been warned in dreams that he should practise music; the gods and his friends. Socrates answers that he is going to and as he was about to die and was not certain of what was other gods who are wise and good, and perhaps to better meant, he wished to fulfil the admonition in the letter as friends; and he professes that he is ready to defend himself well as in the spirit, by writing verses as well as bycultivating against the charge of Cebes. The company shall be his judges, philosophy. Tell this to Evenus; and say that I would have and he hopes that he will be more successful in convincing him follow me in death.’ ‘He is not at all the sort of man to them than he had been in convincing the court.
comply with your request, Socrates.’ ‘Why, is he not a phi-The philosopher desires death—which the wicked world losopher?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘T hen he will be willing to die, although he will insinuate that he also deserves: and perhaps he does, but will not take his own life, for that is held to be unlawful.’
not in any sense which they are capable of understanding.
Cebes asks why suicide is thought not to be right, if death Enough of them: the real question is, What is the nature of is to be accounted a good? Well, (1) according to one expla-that death which he desires? Death is the separation of soul 4
and body—and the philosopher desires such a separation.
in the hope that he is one of these mystics, Socrates is now He would like to be freed from the dominion of bodily plea-departing. This is his answer to any one who charges him sures and of the senses, which are always perturbing his men-with indifference at the prospect of leaving the gods and his tal vision. He wants to get rid of eyes and ears, and with the friends.
light of the mind only to behold the light of truth. All the Still, a fear is expressed that the soul upon leaving the body evils and impurities and necessities of men come from the may vanish away like smoke or air. Socrates in answer ap-body. And death separates him from these corruptions, which peals first of all to the old Orphic tradition that the souls of in life he cannot wholly lay aside. Why then should he re-the dead are in the world below, and that the living come pine when the hour of separation arrives? Why, if he is dead from them. This he attempts to found on a philosophical while he lives, should he fear that other death, through which assumption that all opposites—e.g. less, greater; weaker, alone he can behold wisdom in her purity?
stronger; sleeping, waking; life, death—are generated out of Besides, the philosopher has notions of good and evil un-each other. Nor can the process of generation be only a pas-like those of other men. For they are courageous because sage from living to dying, for then all would end in death.
they are afraid of greater dangers, and temperate because The perpetual sleeper (Endymion) would be no longer dis-they desire greater pleasures. But he disdains this balancing tinguished from the rest of mankind. The circle of nature is of pleasures and pains, which is the exchange of commerce not complete unless the living come from the dead as well as and not of virtue. All the virtues, including wisdom, are re-pass to them.
garded by him only as purifications of the soul. And this was The Platonic doctrine of reminiscence is then adduced as the meaning of the founders of the mysteries when they said, a confirmation of the pre-existence of the soul. Some proofs
‘Many are the wand-bearers but few are the mystics.’ (Com-of this doctrine are demanded. One proof given is the same pare Matt. xxii.: ‘Many are called but few are chosen.’) And as that of the Meno, and is derived from the latent knowl-5
edge of mathematics, which may be elicited from an un-The pre-existence of the soul stands or falls with the doc-learned person when a diagram is presented to him. Again, trine of ideas.
there is a power of association, which from seeing Simmias It is objected by Simmias and Cebes that these arguments may remember Cebes, or from seeing a picture of Simmias only prove a former and not a future existence. Socrates an-may remember Simmias. The lyre may recall the player of swers this objection by recalling the previous argument, in the lyre, and equal pieces of wood or stone may be associ-which he had shown that the living come from the dead.
ated with the higher notion of absolute equality. But here But the fear that the soul at departing may vanish into air observe that material equalities fall short of the conception (especially if there is a wind blowing at the time) has not yet of absolute equality with which they are compared, and which been charmed away. He proceeds: When we fear that the is the measure of them. And the measure or standard must soul will vanish away, let us ask ourselves what is that which be prior to that which is measured, the idea of equality prior we suppose to be liable to dissolution? Is it the simple or the to the visible equals. And if prior to them, then prior also to compound, the unchanging or the changing, the invisible the perceptions of the senses which recall them, and there-idea or the visible object of sense? Clearly the latter and not fore either given before birth or at birth. But all men have the former; and therefore not the soul, which in her own not this knowledge, nor have any without a process of remi-pure thought is unchangeable, and only when using the senses niscence; which is a proof that it is not innate or given at descends into the region of change. Again, the soul com-birth, unless indeed it was given and taken away at the same mands, the body serves: in this respect too the soul is akin to instant. But if not given to men in birth, it must have been the divine, and the body to the mortal. And in every point given before birth—this is the only alternative which remains.
of view the soul is the image of divinity and immortality, And if we had ideas in a former state, then our souls must and the body of the human and mortal. And whereas the have existed and must have had intelligence in a former state.
body is liable to speedy dissolution, the soul is almost if not 6
quite indissoluble. (Compare Tim.) Yet even the body may enter the company of the gods. (Compare Phaedrus.) This is be preserved for ages by the embalmer’s art: how unlikely, the reason why he abstains from fleshly lusts, and not be-then, that the soul will perish and be dissipated into air while cause he fears loss or disgrace, which is the motive of other on her way to the good and wise God! She has been gath-men. He too has been a captive, and the willing agent of his ered into herself, holding aloof from the body, and practis-own captivity. But philosophy has spoken to him, and he ing death all her life long, and she is now finally released has heard her voice; she has gently entreated him, and from the errors and follies and passions of men, and for ever brought him out of the ‘miry clay,’ and purged away the dwells in the company of the gods.
mists of passion and the illusions of sense which envelope But the soul which is polluted and engrossed by the cor-him; his soul has escaped from the influence of pleasures poreal, and has no eye except that of the senses, and is weighed and pains, which are like nails fastening her to the body. To down by the bodily appetites, cannot attain to this abstrac-that prison-house she will not return; and therefore she ab-tion. In her fear of the world below she lingers about the stains from bodily pleasures—not from a desire of having sepulchre, loath to leave the body which she loved, a ghostly more or greater ones, but because she knows that only when apparition, saturated with sense, and therefore visible. At calm and free from the dominion of the body can she be-length entering into some animal of a nature congenial to hold the light of truth.
her former life of sensuality or violence, she takes the form Simmias and Cebes remain in doubt; but they are unwill-of an ass, a wolf or a kite. And of these earthly souls the ing to raise objections at such a time. Socrates wonders at happiest are those who have practised virtue without phi-their reluctance. Let them regard him rather as the swan, losophy; they are allowed to pass into gentle and social na-who, having sung the praises of Apollo all his life long, sings tures, such as bees and ants. (Compare Republic, Meno.) at his death more lustily than ever. Simmias acknowledges But only the philosopher who departs pure is permitted to that there is cowardice in not probing truth to the bottom.
‘And if truth divine and inspired is not to be had, then let a The audience, like the chorus in a play, for a moment in-man take the best of human notions, and upon this frail terpret the feelings of the actors; there is a temporary de-bark let him sail through life.’ He proceeds to state his diffi-pression, and then the enquiry is resumed. It is a melan-culty: It has been argued that the soul is invisible and incor-choly reflection that arguments, like men, are apt to be de-poreal, and therefore immortal, and prior to the body. But is ceivers; and those who have been often deceived become not the soul acknowledged to be a harmony, and has she not distrustful both of arguments and of friends. But this unfor-the same relation to the body, as the harmony—which like tunate experience should not make us either haters of men her is invisible—has to the lyre? And yet the harmony does or haters of arguments. The want of health and truth is not not survive the lyre. Cebes has also an objection, which like in the argument, but in ourselves. Socrates, who is about to Simmias he expresses in a figure. He is willing to admit that die, is sensible of his own weakness; he desires to be impar-the soul is more lasting than the body. But the more lasting tial, but he cannot help feeling that he has too great an in-nature of the soul does not prove her immortality; for after terest in the truth of the argument. And therefore he would having worn out many bodies in a single life, and many more have his friends examine and refute him, if they think that in successive births and deaths, she may at last perish, or, as he is in error.
Socrates afterwards restates the objection, the very act of birth At his request Simmias and Cebes repeat their objections.
may be the beginning of her death, and her last body may They do not go to the length of denying the pre-existence of survive her, just as the coat of an old weaver is left behind ideas. Simmias is of opinion that the soul is a harmony of him after he is dead, although a man is more lasting than his the body. But the admission of the pre-existence of ideas, coat. And he who would prove the immortality of the soul, and therefore of the soul, is at variance with this. (Compare must prove not only that the soul outlives one or many bod-a parallel difficulty in Theaet.) For a harmony is an effect, ies, but that she outlives them all.
whereas the soul is not an effect, but a cause; a harmony 8
follows, but the soul leads; a harmony admits of degrees, and and drinking; and so he arrived at the conclusion that he the soul has no degrees. Again, upon the supposition that the was not meant for such enquiries. Nor was he less perplexed soul is a harmony, why is one soul better than another? Are with notions of comparison and number. At first he had they more or less harmonized, or is there one harmony within imagined himself to understand differences of greater and another? But the soul does not admit of degrees, and cannot less, and to know that ten is two more than eight, and the therefore be more or less harmonized. Further, the soul is of-like. But now those very notions appeared to him to contain ten engaged in resisting the affections of the body, as Homer a contradiction. For how can one be divided into two? Or describes Odysseus ‘rebuking his heart.’ Could he have writ-two be compounded into one? These are difficulties which ten this under the idea that the soul is a harmony of the body?
Socrates cannot answer. Of generation and destruction he Nay rather, are we not contradicting Homer and ourselves in knows nothing. But he has a confused notion of another affirming anything of the sort?
method in which matters of this sort are to be investigated.
The goddess Harmonia, as Socrates playfully terms the (Compare Republic; Charm.) argument of Simmias, has been happily disposed of; and Then he heard some one reading out of a book of now an answer has to be given to the Theban Cadmus.
Anaxagoras, that mind is the cause of all things. And he said Socrates recapitulates the argument of Cebes, which, as he to himself: If mind is the cause of all things, surely mind remarks, involves the whole question of natural growth or must dispose them all for the best. The new teacher will causation; about this he proposes to narrate his own mental show me this ‘order of the best’ in man and nature. How experience. When he was young he had puzzled himself with great had been his hopes and how great his disappointment!
physics: he had enquired into the growth and decay of ani-For he found that his new friend was anything but consis-mals, and the origin of thought, until at last he began to tent in his use of mind as a cause, and that he soon intro-doubt the self-evident fact that growth is the result of eating duced winds, waters, and other eccentric notions. (Com-9
pare Arist. Metaph.) It was as if a person had said that Socrates that he who contemplates existence through the medium of is sitting here because he is made up of bones and muscles, ideas sees only through a glass darkly, any more than he who instead of telling the true reason—that he is here because contemplates actual effects.’
the Athenians have thought good to sentence him to death, If the existence of ideas is granted to him, Socrates is of and he has thought good to await his sentence. Had his bones opinion that he will then have no difficulty in proving the and muscles been left by him to their own ideas of right, immortality of the soul. He will only ask for a further ad-they would long ago have taken themselves off. But surely mission:—that beauty is the cause of the beautiful, great-there is a great confusion of the cause and condition in all ness the cause of the great, smallness of the small, and so on this. And this confusion also leads people into all sorts of of other things. This is a safe and simple answer, which es-erroneous theories about the position and motions of the capes the contradictions of greater and less (greater by rea-earth. None of them know how much stronger than any son of that which is smaller!), of addition and subtraction, Atlas is the power of the best. But this ‘best’ is still undiscov-and the other difficulties of relation. These subtleties he is ered; and in enquiring after the cause, we can only hope to for leaving to wiser heads than his own; he prefers to test attain the second best.
ideas by the consistency of their consequences, and, if asked Now there is a danger in the contemplation of the nature to give an account of them, goes back to some higher idea or of things, as there is a danger in looking at the sun during an hypothesis which appears to him to be the best, until at last eclipse, unless the precaution is taken of looking only at the he arrives at a resting-place. ( Republic; Phil.) image reflected in the water, or in a glass. (Compare Laws; The doctrine of ideas, which has long ago received the as-Republic.) ‘I was afraid,’ says Socrates, ‘that I might injure sent of the Socratic circle, is now affirmed by the Phliasian the eye of the soul. I thought that I had better return to the auditor to command the assent of any man of sense. The nar-old and safe method of ideas. Though I do not mean to say rative is continued; Socrates is desirous of explaining how 10
opposite ideas may appear to co-exist but do not really co-the number three excludes the number four, because three is exist in the same thing or person. For example, Simmias may an odd number and four is an even number, and the odd is be said to have greatness and also smallness, because he is greater opposed to the even. Thus we are able to proceed a step be-than Socrates and less than Phaedo. And yet Simmias is not yond ‘the safe and simple answer.’ We may say, not only that really great and also small, but only when compared to Phaedo the odd excludes the even, but that the number three, which and Socrates. I use the illustration, says Socrates, because I participates in oddness, excludes the even. And in like man-want to show you not only that ideal opposites exclude one ner, not only does life exclude death, but the soul, of which another, but also the opposites in us. I, for example, having life is the inseparable attribute, also excludes death. And that the attribute of smallness remain small, and cannot become of which life is the inseparable attribute is by the force of the great: the smallness which is in me drives out greatness.
terms imperishable. If the odd principle were imperishable, One of the company here remarked that this was inconsis-then the number three would not perish but remove, on the tent with the old assertion that opposites generated opposites.
approach of the even principle. But the immortal is imperish-But that, replies Socrates, was affirmed, not of opposite ideas able; and therefore the soul on the approach of death does not either in us or in nature, but of opposition in the concrete—
perish but removes.
not of life and death, but of individuals living and dying. When Thus all objections appear to be finally silenced. And now this objection has been removed, Socrates proceeds: This the application has to be made: If the soul is immortal, ‘what doctrine of the mutual exclusion of opposites is not only true manner of persons ought we to be?’ having regard not only of the opposites themselves, but of things which are insepa-to time but to eternity. For death is not the end of all, and rable from them. For example, cold and heat are opposed; the wicked is not released from his evil by death; but every and fire, which is inseparable from heat, cannot co-exist with one carries with him into the world below that which he is cold, or snow, which is inseparable from cold, with heat. Again, or has become, and that only.
For after death the soul is carried away to judgment, and world. But the heavenly earth is of divers colours, sparkling when she has received her punishment returns to earth in the with jewels brighter than gold and whiter than any snow, course of ages. The wise soul is conscious of her situation, and having flowers and fruits innumerable. And the inhabitants follows the attendant angel who guides her through the wind-dwell some on the shore of the sea of air, others in ‘islets of ings of the world below; but the impure soul wanders hither the blest,’ and they hold converse with the gods, and behold and thither without companion or guide, and is carried at last the sun, moon and stars as they truly are, and their other to her own place, as the pure soul is also carried away to hers.
blessedness is of a piece with this.
‘In order that you may understand this, I must first describe The hollows on the surface of the globe vary in size and to you the nature and conformation of the earth.’
shape from that which we inhabit: but all are connected by Now the whole earth is a globe placed in the centre of the passages and perforations in the interior of the earth. And heavens, and is maintained there by the perfection of bal-there is one huge chasm or opening called Tartarus, into ance. That which we call the earth is only one of many small which streams of fire and water and liquid mud are ever hollows, wherein collect the mists and waters and the thick flowing; of these small portions find their way to the surface lower air; but the true earth is above, and is in a finer and and form seas and rivers and volcanoes. There is a perpetual subtler element. And if, like birds, we could fly to the sur-inhalation and exhalation of the air rising and falling as the face of the air, in the same manner that fishes come to the waters pass into the depths of the earth and return again, in top of the sea, then we should behold the true earth and the their course forming lakes and rivers, but never descending true heaven and the true stars. Our earth is everywhere cor-below the centre of the earth; for on either side the rivers rupted and corroded; and even the land which is fairer than flowing either way are stopped by a precipice. These rivers the sea, for that is a mere chaos or waste of water and mud are many and mighty, and there are four principal ones, and sand, has nothing to show in comparison of the other Oceanus, Acheron, Pyriphlegethon, and Cocytus. Oceanus 12
is the river which encircles the earth; Acheron takes an op-not, they are borne unceasingly into Tartarus and back again, posite direction, and after flowing under the earth through until they at last obtain mercy. The pure souls also receive desert places, at last reaches the Acherusian lake,—this is the their reward, and have their abode in the upper earth, and a river at which the souls of the dead await their return to select few in still fairer ‘mansions.’
earth. Pyriphlegethon is a stream of fire, which coils round Socrates is not prepared to insist on the literal accuracy of the earth and flows into the depths of Tartarus. The fourth this description, but he is confident that something of the river, Cocytus, is that which is called by the poets the Stygian kind is true. He who has sought after the pleasures of knowl-river, and passes into and forms the lake Styx, from the wa-edge and rejected the pleasures of the body, has reason to be ters of which it gains new and strange powers. This river, of good hope at the approach of death; whose voice is al-too, falls into Tartarus.
ready speaking to him, and who will one day be heard call-The dead are first of all judged according to their deeds, ing all men.
and those who are incurable are thrust into Tartarus, from The hour has come at which he must drink the poison, which they never come out. Those who have only commit-and not much remains to be done. How shall they bury ted venial sins are first purified of them, and then rewarded him? That is a question which he refuses to entertain, for for the good which they have done. Those who have com-they are burying, not him, but his dead body. His friends mitted crimes, great indeed, but not unpardonable, are thrust had once been sureties that he would remain, and they shall into Tartarus, but are cast forth at the end of a year by way of now be sureties that he has run away. Yet he would not die Pyriphlegethon or Cocytus, and these carry them as far as without the customary ceremonies of washing and burial.
the Acherusian lake, where they call upon their victims to Shall he make a libation of the poison? In the spirit he will, let them come out of the rivers into the lake. And if they but not in the letter. One request he utters in the very act of prevail, then they are let out and their sufferings cease: if death, which has been a puzzle to after ages. With a sort of 13
irony he remembers that a trifling religious duty is still un-Socrates, ‘What argument can we ever trust again?’ But there fulfilled, just as above he desires before he departs to comis a better and higher spirit to be gathered from the Phaedo, pose a few verses in order to satisfy a scruple about a dream—
as well as from the other writings of Plato, which says that unless, indeed, we suppose him to mean, that he was now first principles should be most constantly reviewed (Phaedo restored to health, and made the customary offering to and Crat.), and that the highest subjects demand of us the Asclepius in token of his recovery.
greatest accuracy (Republic); also that we must not become misologists because arguments are apt to be deceivers.
1. The doctrine of the immortality of the soul has sunk deep into the heart of the human race; and men are apt to rebel 2. In former ages there was a customary rather than a rea-against any examination of the nature or grounds of their soned belief in the immortality of the soul. It was based on belief. They do not like to acknowledge that this, as well as the authority of the Church, on the necessity of such a be-the other ‘eternal ideas; of man, has a history in time, which lief to morality and the order of society, on the evidence of may be traced in Greek poetry or philosophy, and also in an historical fact, and also on analogies and figures of speech the Hebrew Scriptures. They convert feeling into reasoning, which filled up the void or gave an expression in words to a and throw a network of dialectics over that which is really a cherished instinct. The mass of mankind went on their way deeply-rooted instinct. In the same temper which Socrates busy with the affairs of this life, hardly stopping to think reproves in himself they are disposed to think that even fal-about another. But in our own day the question has been lacies will do no harm, for they will die with them, and while reopened, and it is doubtful whether the belief which in the they live they will gain by the delusion. And when they con-first ages of Christianity was the strongest motive of action sider the numberless bad arguments which have been pressed can survive the conflict with a scientific age in which the into the service of theology, they say, like the companions of rules of evidence are stricter and the mind has become more 14
sensitive to criticism. It has faded into the distance by a natu-mankind, and even the interest in these few is comparatively ral process as it was removed further and further from the short-lived. To have been a benefactor to the world, whether historical fact on which it has been supposed to rest. Argu-in a higher or a lower sphere of life and thought, is a great ments derived from material things such as the seed and the thing: to have the reputation of being one, when men have ear of corn or transitions in the life of animals from one passed out of the sphere of earthly praise or blame, is hardly state of being to another (the chrysalis and the butterfly) are worthy of consideration. The memory of a great man, so far not ‘in pari materia’ with arguments from the visible to the from being immortal, is really limited to his own generation:—
invisible, and are therefore felt to be no longer applicable.
so long as his friends or his disciples are alive, so long as his The evidence to the historical fact seems to be weaker than books continue to be read, so long as his political or military was once supposed: it is not consistent with itself, and is successes fill a page in the history of his country. The praises based upon documents which are of unknown origin. The which are bestowed upon him at his death hardly last longer immortality of man must be proved by other arguments than than the flowers which are strewed upon his coffin or the these if it is again to become a living belief. We must ask
‘immortelles’ which are laid upon his tomb. Literature makes ourselves afresh why we still maintain it, and seek to dis-the most of its heroes, but the true man is well aware that far cover a foundation for it in the nature of God and in the from enjoying an immortality of fame, in a generation or two, first principles of morality.
or even in a much shorter time, he will be forgotten and the world will get on without him.
3. At the outset of the discussion we may clear away a confusion. We certainly do not mean by the immortality of the soul 4. Modern philosophy is perplexed at this whole question, the immortality of fame, which whether worth having or not which is sometimes fairly given up and handed over to the can only be ascribed to a very select class of the whole race of realm of faith. The perplexity should not be forgotten by us 15
when we attempt to submit the Phaedo of Plato to the re-falling away into nothingness of the lower? Or are we vainly quirements of logic. For what idea can we form of the soul attempting to pass the boundaries of human thought? The when separated from the body? Or how can the soul be united body and the soul seem to be inseparable, not only in fact, with the body and still be independent? Is the soul related to but in our conceptions of them; and any philosophy which the body as the ideal to the real, or as the whole to the parts, too closely unites them, or too widely separates them, either or as the subject to the object, or as the cause to the effect, or in this life or in another, disturbs the balance of human na-as the end to the means? Shall we say with Aristotle, that the ture. No thinker has perfectly adjusted them, or been en-soul is the entelechy or form of an organized living body? or tirely consistent with himself in describing their relation to with Plato, that she has a life of her own? Is the Pythagorean one another. Nor can we wonder that Plato in the infancy of image of the harmony, or that of the monad, the truer ex-human thought should have confused mythology and phi-pression? Is the soul related to the body as sight to the eye, losophy, or have mistaken verbal arguments for real ones.
or as the boatman to his boat? (Arist. de Anim.) And in another state of being is the soul to be conceived of as van-5. Again, believing in the immortality of the soul, we must ishing into infinity, hardly possessing an existence which she still ask the question of Socrates, ‘What is that which we can call her own, as in the pantheistic system of Spinoza: or suppose to be immortal?’ Is it the personal and individual as an individual informing another body and entering into element in us, or the spiritual and universal? Is it the prin-new relations, but retaining her own character? (Compare ciple of knowledge or of goodness, or the union of the two?
Gorgias.) Or is the opposition of soul and body a mere illu-Is it the mere force of life which is determined to be, or the sion, and the true self neither soul nor body, but the union consciousness of self which cannot be got rid of, or the fire of the two in the ‘I’ which is above them? And is death the of genius which refuses to be extinguished? Or is there a assertion of this individuality in the higher nature, and the hidden being which is allied to the Author of all existence, 16
who is because he is perfect, and to whom our ideas of perfec-philanthropist; must they not be equally such to divine be-tion give us a title to belong? Whatever answer is given by us nevolence? Even more than the good they have need of an-to these questions, there still remains the necessity of allowing other life; not that they may be punished, but that they may the permanence of evil, if not for ever, at any rate for a time, be educated. These are a few of the reflections which arise in in order that the wicked ‘may not have too good a bargain.’
our minds when we attempt to assign any form to our conFor the annihilation of evil at death, or the eternal duration of ceptions of a future state.
it, seem to involve equal difficulties in the moral government There are some other questions which are disturbing to us of the universe. Sometimes we are led by our feelings, rather because we have no answer to them. What is to become of than by our reason, to think of the good and wise only as the animals in a future state? Have we not seen dogs more existing in another life. Why should the mean, the weak, the faithful and intelligent than men, and men who are more idiot, the infant, the herd of men who have never in any proper stupid and brutal than any animals? Does their life cease at sense the use of reason, reappear with blinking eyes in the death, or is there some ‘better thing reserved’ also for them?
light of another world? But our second thought is that the They may be said to have a shadow or imitation of morality, hope of humanity is a common one, and that all or none will and imperfect moral claims upon the benevolence of man be partakers of immortality. Reason does not allow us to sup-and upon the justice of God. We cannot think of the least or pose that we have any greater claims than others, and experi-lowest of them, the insect, the bird, the inhabitants of the ence may often reveal to us unexpected flashes of the higher sea or the desert, as having any place in a future world, and nature in those whom we had despised. Why should the wicked if not all, why should those who are specially attached to suffer any more than ourselves? had we been placed in their man be deemed worthy of any exceptional privilege? When circumstances should we have been any better than they? The we reason about such a subject, almost at once we degener-worst of men are objects of pity rather than of anger to the ate into nonsense. It is a passing thought which has no real 17
hold on the mind. We may argue for the existence of ani-6. Again, ideas must be given through something; and we mals in a future state from the attributes of God, or from are always prone to argue about the soul from analogies of texts of Scripture (‘Are not two sparrows sold for one far-outward things which may serve to embody our thoughts, thing?’ etc.), but the truth is that we are only filling up the but are also partly delusive. For we cannot reason from the void of another world with our own fancies. Again, we often natural to the spiritual, or from the outward to the inward.
talk about the origin of evil, that great bugbear of theolo-The progress of physiological science, without bringing us gians, by which they frighten us into believing any supersti-nearer to the great secret, has tended to remove some erro-tion. What answer can be made to the old commonplace, ‘Is neous notions respecting the relations of body and mind, not God the author of evil, if he knowingly permitted, but and in this we have the advantage of the ancients. But no could have prevented it?’ Even if we assume that the inequali-one imagines that any seed of immortality is to be discerned ties of this life are rectified by some transposition of human in our mortal frames. Most people have been content to rest beings in another, still the existence of the very least evil if it their belief in another life on the agreement of the more could have been avoided, seems to be at variance with the enlightened part of mankind, and on the inseparable con-love and justice of God. And so we arrive at the conclusion nection of such a doctrine with the existence of a God—
that we are carrying logic too far, and that the attempt to also in a less degree on the impossibility of doubting about frame the world according to a rule of divine perfection is the continued existence of those whom we love and rever-opposed to experience and had better be given up. The case ence in this world. And after all has been said, the figure, the of the animals is our own. We must admit that the Divine analogy, the argument, are felt to be only approximations in Being, although perfect himself, has placed us in a state of different forms to an expression of the common sentiment life in which we may work together with him for good, but of the human heart. That we shall live again is far more cer-we are very far from having attained to it.
tain than that we shall take any particular form of life.
7. When we speak of the immortality of the soul, we must cal or mental? And does the worship of God consist only of ask further what we mean by the word immortality. For of praise, or of many forms of service? Who are the wicked, the duration of a living being in countless ages we can form and who are the good, whom we venture to divide by a hard no conception; far less than a three years’ old child of the and fast line; and in which of the two classes should we place whole of life. The naked eye might as well try to see the ourselves and our friends? May we not suspect that we are furthest star in the infinity of heaven. Whether time and making differences of kind, because we are unable to imag-space really exist when we take away the limits of them may ine differences of degree?—putting the whole human race be doubted; at any rate the thought of them when unlim-into heaven or hell for the greater convenience of logical ited us so overwhelming to us as to lose all distinctness. Phi-division? Are we not at the same time describing them both losophers have spoken of them as forms of the human mind, in superlatives, only that we may satisfy the demands of rheto-but what is the mind without them? As then infinite time, ric? What is that pain which does not become deadened af-or an existence out of time, which are the only possible exter a thousand years? or what is the nature of that pleasure or planations of eternal duration, are equally inconceivable to happiness which never wearies by monotony? Earthly plea-us, let us substitute for them a hundred or a thousand years sures and pains are short in proportion as they are keen; of after death, and ask not what will be our employment in any others which are both intense and lasting we have no eternity, but what will happen to us in that definite portion experience, and can form no idea. The words or figures of of time; or what is now happening to those who passed out speech which we use are not consistent with themselves. For of life a hundred or a thousand years ago. Do we imagine are we not imagining Heaven under the similitude of a that the wicked are suffering torments, or that the good are church, and Hell as a prison, or perhaps a madhouse or cham-singing the praises of God, during a period longer than that ber of horrors? And yet to beings constituted as we are, the of a whole life, or of ten lives of men? Is the suffering physi-monotony of singing psalms would be as great an infliction 19
as the pains of hell, and might be even pleasantly interrupted God. They are not thinking of Dante’s Inferno or Paradiso, by them. Where are the actions worthy of rewards greater or of the Pilgrim’s Progress. Heaven and hell are not realities than those which are conferred on the greatest benefactors to them, but words or ideas; the outward symbols of some of mankind? And where are the crimes which according to great mystery, they hardly know what. Many noble poems Plato’s merciful reckoning,—more merciful, at any rate, than and pictures have been suggested by the traditional repre-the eternal damnation of so-called Christian teachers,—for sentations of them, which have been fixed in forms of art every ten years in this life deserve a hundred of punishment and can no longer be altered. Many sermons have been filled in the life to come? We should be ready to die of pity if we with descriptions of celestial or infernal mansions. But hardly could see the least of the sufferings which the writers of In-even in childhood did the thought of heaven and hell sup-fernos and Purgatorios have attributed to the damned. Yet ply the motives of our actions, or at any time seriously affect these joys and terrors seem hardly to exercise an appreciable the substance of our belief.
influence over the lives of men. The wicked man when old, is not, as Plato supposes (Republic), more agitated by the 8. Another life must be described, if at all, in forms of thought terrors of another world when he is nearer to them, nor the and not of sense. To draw pictures of heaven and hell, whether good in an ecstasy at the joys of which he is soon to be the in the language of Scripture or any other, adds nothing to partaker. Age numbs the sense of both worlds; and the habit our real knowledge, but may perhaps disguise our ignorance.
of life is strongest in death. Even the dying mother is dream-The truest conception which we can form of a future life is ing of her lost children as they were forty or fifty years be-a state of progress or education—a progress from evil to good, fore, ‘pattering over the boards,’ not of reunion with them from ignorance to knowledge. To this we are led by the anal-in another state of being. Most persons when the last hour ogy of the present life, in which we see different races and comes are resigned to the order of nature and the will of nations of men, and different men and women of the same 20
nation, in various states or stages of cultivation; some more produced by a few minds appearing in three or four favoured and some less developed, and all of them capable of im-nations, in a comparatively short period of time. May we be provement under favourable circumstances. There are pun-allowed to imagine the minds of men everywhere working ishments too of children when they are growing up inflicted together during many ages for the completion of our knowl-by their parents, of elder offenders which are imposed by edge? May not the science of physiology transform the world?
the law of the land, of all men at all times of life, which are Again, the majority of mankind have really experienced some attached by the laws of nature to the performance of certain moral improvement; almost every one feels that he has ten-actions. All these punishments are really educational; that is dencies to good, and is capable of becoming better. And to say, they are not intended to retaliate on the offender, but these germs of good are often found to be developed by new to teach him a lesson. Also there is an element of chance in circumstances, like stunted trees when transplanted to a better them, which is another name for our ignorance of the laws soil. The differences between the savage and the civilized of nature. There is evil too inseparable from good (compare man, or between the civilized man in old and new coun-Lysis); not always punished here, as good is not always retries, may be indefinitely increased. The first difference is warded. It is capable of being indefinitely diminished; and the effect of a few thousand, the second of a few hundred as knowledge increases, the element of chance may more years. We congratulate ourselves that slavery has become and more disappear.
industry; that law and constitutional government have su-For we do not argue merely from the analogy of the present perseded despotism and violence; that an ethical religion has state of this world to another, but from the analogy of a taken the place of Fetichism. There may yet come a time probable future to which we are tending. The greatest changes when the many may be as well off as the few; when no one of which we have had experience as yet are due to our in-will be weighed down by excessive toil; when the necessity creasing knowledge of history and of nature. They have been of providing for the body will not interfere with mental 21
improvement; when the physical frame may be strength-9. But some one will say: That we cannot reason from the ened and developed; and the religion of all men may be-seen to the unseen, and that we are creating another world come a reasonable service.
after the image of this, just as men in former ages have cre-Nothing therefore, either in the present state of man or in ated gods in their own likeness. And we, like the compan-the tendencies of the future, as far as we can entertain conjec-ions of Socrates, may feel discouraged at hearing our favourite ture of them, would lead us to suppose that God governs us
‘argument from analogy’ thus summarily disposed of. Like vindictively in this world, and therefore we have no reason to himself, too, we may adduce other arguments in which he infer that he will govern us vindictively in another. The true seems to have anticipated us, though he expresses them in argument from analogy is not, ‘This life is a mixed state of different language. For we feel that the soul partakes of the justice and injustice, of great waste, of sudden casualties, of ideal and invisible; and can never fall into the error of con-disproportionate punishments, and therefore the like inconfusing the external circumstances of man with his higher sistencies, irregularities, injustices are to be expected in an-self; or his origin with his nature. It is as repugnant to us as other;’ but ‘This life is subject to law, and is in a state of it was to him to imagine that our moral ideas are to be at-progress, and therefore law and progress may be believed to tributed only to cerebral forces. The value of a human soul, be the governing principles of another.’ All the analogies of like the value of a man’s life to himself, is inestimable, and this world would be against unmeaning punishments inflicted cannot be reckoned in earthly or material things. The hu-a hundred or a thousand years after an offence had been comman being alone has the consciousness of truth and justice mitted. Suffering there might be as a part of education, but and love, which is the consciousness of God. And the soul not hopeless or protracted; as there might be a retrogression becoming more conscious of these, becomes more conscious of individuals or of bodies of men, yet not such as to interfere of her own immortality.
with a plan for the improvement of the whole (compare Laws.) 22
10. The last ground of our belief in immortality, and the origin or existence of evil are mere dialectical puzzles, stand-strongest, is the perfection of the divine nature. The mere ing in the same relation to Christian philosophy as the puzzles fact of the existence of God does not tend to show the con-of the Cynics and Megarians to the philosophy of Plato.
tinued existence of man. An evil God or an indifferent God They arise out of the tendency of the human mind to regard might have had the power, but not the will, to preserve us.
good and evil both as relative and absolute; just as the riddles He might have regarded us as fitted to minister to his service about motion are to be explained by the double conception by a succession of existences,—like the animals, without at-of space or matter, which the human mind has the power of tributing to each soul an incomparable value. But if he is regarding either as continuous or discrete.
perfect, he must will that all rational beings should partake In speaking of divine perfection, we mean to say that God of that perfection which he himself is. In the words of the is just and true and loving, the author of order and not of Timaeus, he is good, and therefore he desires that all other disorder, of good and not of evil. Or rather, that he is jus-things should be as like himself as possible. And the manner tice, that he is truth, that he is love, that he is order, that he in which he accomplishes this is by permitting evil, or rather is the very progress of which we were speaking; and that degrees of good, which are otherwise called evil. For all wherever these qualities are present, whether in the human progress is good relatively to the past, and yet may be com-soul or in the order of nature, there is God. We might still paratively evil when regarded in the light of the future. Good see him everywhere, if we had not been mistakenly seeking and evil are relative terms, and degrees of evil are merely the for him apart from us, instead of in us; away from the laws negative aspect of degrees of good. Of the absolute good-of nature, instead of in them. And we become united to him ness of any finite nature we can form no conception; we are not by mystical absorption, but by partaking, whether con-all of us in process of transition from one degree of good or sciously or unconsciously, of that truth and justice and love evil to another. The difficulties which are urged about the which he himself is.
Thus the belief in the immortality of the soul rests at last part of true religion not to pretend to know more than we do.
on the belief in God. If there is a good and wise God, then Others when they quit this world are comforted with the hope there is a progress of mankind towards perfection; and if
‘That they will see and know their friends in heaven.’ But it is there is no progress of men towards perfection, then there is better to leave them in the hands of God and to be assured no good and wise God. We cannot suppose that the moral that ‘no evil shall touch them.’ There are others again to whom government of God of which we see the beginnings in the the belief in a divine personality has ceased to have any longer world and in ourselves will cease when we pass out of life.
a meaning; yet they are satisfied that the end of all is not here, but that something still remains to us, ‘and some better thing 11. Considering the ‘feebleness of the human faculties and for the good than for the evil.’ They are persuaded, in spite of the uncertainty of the subject,’ we are inclined to believe that their theological nihilism, that the ideas of justice and truth the fewer our words the better. At the approach of death there and holiness and love are realities. They cherish an enthusias-is not much said; good men are too honest to go out of the tic devotion to the first principles of morality. Through these world professing more than they know. There is perhaps no they see, or seem to see, darkly, and in a figure, that the soul is important subject about which, at any time, even religious immortal.
people speak so little to one another. In the fulness of life the But besides differences of theological opinion which must thought of death is mostly awakened by the sight or recollec-ever prevail about things unseen, the hope of immortality is tion of the death of others rather than by the prospect of our weaker or stronger in men at one time of life than at an-own. We must also acknowledge that there are degrees of the other; it even varies from day to day. It comes and goes; the belief in immortality, and many forms in which it presents mind, like the sky, is apt to be overclouded. Other genera-itself to the mind. Some persons will say no more than that tions of men may have sometimes lived under an ‘eclipse of they trust in God, and that they leave all to Him. It is a great faith,’ to us the total disappearance of it might be compared 24
to the ‘sun falling from heaven.’ And we may sometimes progress which is observable in the history of the world and have to begin again and acquire the belief for ourselves; or of the human mind; of the depth and power of our moral to win it back again when it is lost. It is really weakest in the ideas which seem to partake of the very nature of God Him-hour of death. For Nature, like a kind mother or nurse, lays self; when we consider the contrast between the physical us to sleep without frightening us; physicians, who are the laws to which we are subject and the higher law which raises witnesses of such scenes, say that under ordinary circum-us above them and is yet a part of them; when we reflect on stances there is no fear of the future. Often, as Plato tells us, our capacity of becoming the ‘spectators of all time and all death is accompanied ‘with pleasure.’ ( Tim.) When the end existence,’ and of framing in our own minds the ideal of a is still uncertain, the cry of many a one has been, ‘Pray, that perfect Being; when we see how the human mind in all the I may be taken.’ The last thoughts even of the best men higher religions of the world, including Buddhism, notwith-depend chiefly on the accidents of their bodily state. Pain standing some aberrations, has tended towards such a be-soon overpowers the desire of life; old age, like the child, is lief—we have reason to think that our destiny is different laid to sleep almost in a moment. The long experience of from that of animals; and though we cannot altogether shut life will often destroy the interest which mankind have in it.
out the childish fear that the soul upon leaving the body So various are the feelings with which different persons draw may ‘vanish into thin air,’ we have still, so far as the nature near to death; and still more various the forms in which of the subject admits, a hope of immortality with which we imagination clothes it. For this alternation of feeling com-comfort ourselves on sufficient grounds. The denial of the pare the Old Testament,—Psalm vi.; Isaiah; Eccles.
belief takes the heart out of human life; it lowers men to the level of the material. As Goethe also says, ‘He is dead even in 12. When we think of God and of man in his relation to this world who has no belief in another.’
God; of the imperfection of our present state and yet of the 25
13. It is well also that we should sometimes think of the forms was clear and saw into the purposes of God. Thirdly, we of thought under which the idea of immortality is most natu-may think of them as possessed by a great love of God and rally presented to us. It is clear that to our minds the risen soul man, working out His will at a further stage in the heavenly can no longer be described, as in a picture, by the symbol of a pilgrimage. And yet we acknowledge that these are the things creature half-bird, half-human, nor in any other form of sense.
which eye hath not seen nor ear heard and therefore it hath The multitude of angels, as in Milton, singing the Almighty ‘s not entered into the heart of man in any sensible manner to praises, are a noble image, and may furnish a theme for the conceive them. Fourthly, there may have been some mo-poet or the painter, but they are no longer an adequate ex-ments in our own lives when we have risen above ourselves, pression of the kingdom of God which is within us. Neither or been conscious of our truer selves, in which the will of is there any mansion, in this world or another, in which the God has superseded our wills, and we have entered into com-departed can be imagined to dwell and carry on their occupa-munion with Him, and been partakers for a brief season of tions. When this earthly tabernacle is dissolved, no other habi-the Divine truth and love, in which like Christ we have been tation or building can take them in: it is in the language of inspired to utter the prayer, ‘I in them, and thou in me, that ideas only that we speak of them.
we may be all made perfect in one.’ These precious moments, First of all there is the thought of rest and freedom from if we have ever known them, are the nearest approach which pain; they have gone home, as the common saying is, and we can make to the idea of immortality.
the cares of this world touch them no more. Secondly, we may imagine them as they were at their best and brightest, 14. Returning now to the earlier stage of human thought humbly fulfilling their daily round of duties—selfless, child-which is represented by the writings of Plato, we find that like, unaffected by the world; when the eye was single and many of the same questions have already arisen: there is the the whole body seemed to be full of light; when the mind same tendency to materialism; the same inconsistency in the 26
application of the idea of mind; the same doubt whether the range of human thought, and yet are always seeking to repre-soul is to be regarded as a cause or as an effect; the same falling sent the mansions of heaven or hell in the colours of the painter, back on moral convictions. In the Phaedo the soul is or in the descriptions of the poet or rhetorician.
conscious of her divine nature, and the separation from the body which has been commenced in this life is perfected in 15. The doctrine of the immortality of the soul was not new another. Beginning in mystery, Socrates, in the intermediate to the Greeks in the age of Socrates, but, like the unity of part of the Dialogue, attempts to bring the doctrine of a fu-God, had a foundation in the popular belief. The old ture life into connection with his theory of knowledge. In Homeric notion of a gibbering ghost flitting away to Hades; proportion as he succeeds in this, the individual seems to disor of a few illustrious heroes enjoying the isles of the blest; appear in a more general notion of the soul; the contempla-or of an existence divided between the two; or the Hesiodic, tion of ideas ‘under the form of eternity’ takes the place of of righteous spirits, who become guardian angels,—had given past and future states of existence. His language may be com-place in the mysteries and the Orphic poets to representa-pared to that of some modern philosophers, who speak of tions, partly fanciful, of a future state of rewards and pun-eternity, not in the sense of perpetual duration of time, but as ishments. ( Laws.) The reticence of the Greeks on public oc-an ever-present quality of the soul. Yet at the conclusion of casions and in some part of their literature respecting this the Dialogue, having ‘arrived at the end of the intellectual
‘underground’ religion, is not to be taken as a measure of world’ ( Republic), he replaces the veil of mythology, and de-the diffusion of such beliefs. If Pericles in the funeral ora-scribes the soul and her attendant genius in the language of tion is silent on the consolations of immortality, the poet the mysteries or of a disciple of Zoroaster. Nor can we fairly Pindar and the tragedians on the other hand constantly as-demand of Plato a consistency which is wanting among our-sume the continued existence of the dead in an upper or selves, who acknowledge that another world is beyond the under world. Darius and Laius are still alive; Antigone will 27
be dear to her brethren after death; the way to the palace of conceived them was eternal too. As the unity of God was Cronos is found by those who ‘have thrice departed from more distinctly acknowledged, the conception of the hu-evil.’ The tragedy of the Greeks is not ‘rounded’ by this life, man soul became more developed. The succession, or alter-but is deeply set in decrees of fate and mysterious workings nation of life and death, had occurred to Heracleitus. The of powers beneath the earth. In the caricature of Aristophanes Eleatic Parmenides had stumbled upon the modern thesis, there is also a witness to the common sentiment. The Ionian that ‘thought and being are the same.’ The Eastern belief in and Pythagorean philosophies arose, and some new elements transmigration defined the sense of individuality; and some, were added to the popular belief. The individual must find like Empedocles, fancied that the blood which they had shed an expression as well as the world. Either the soul was sup-in another state of being was crying against them, and that posed to exist in the form of a magnet, or of a particle of for thirty thousand years they were to be ‘fugitives and vaga-fire, or of light, or air, or water; or of a number or of a har-bonds upon the earth.’ The desire of recognizing a lost mony of number; or to be or have, like the stars, a principle mother or love or friend in the world below (Phaedo) was a of motion (Arist. de Anim.). At length Anaxagoras, hardly natural feeling which, in that age as well as in every other, distinguishing between life and mind, or between mind has given distinctness to the hope of immortality. Nor were human and divine, attained the pure abstraction; and this, ethical considerations wanting, partly derived from the ne-like the other abstractions of Greek philosophy, sank deep cessity of punishing the greater sort of criminals, whom no into the human intelligence. The opposition of the intelli-avenging power of this world could reach. The voice of con-gible and the sensible, and of God to the world, supplied an science, too, was heard reminding the good man that he was analogy which assisted in the separation of soul and body. If not altogether innocent. ( Republic.) To these indistinct ideas were separable from phenomena, mind was also sepa-longings and fears an expression was given in the mysteries rable from matter; if the ideas were eternal, the mind that and Orphic poets: a ‘heap of books’ (Republic), passing un-28
der the names of Musaeus and Orpheus in Plato’s time, were 17. Living in an age when logic was beginning to mould filled with notions of an under-world.
human thought, Plato naturally cast his belief in immortality into a logical form. And when we consider how much 16. Yet after all the belief in the individuality of the soul after the doctrine of ideas was also one of words, it is not surpris-death had but a feeble hold on the Greek mind. Like the per-ing that he should have fallen into verbal fallacies: early logic sonality of God, the personality of man in a future state was is always mistaking the truth of the form for the truth of the not inseparably bound up with the reality of his existence. For matter. It is easy to see that the alternation of opposites is the distinction between the personal and impersonal, and also not the same as the generation of them out of each other; between the divine and human, was far less marked to the and that the generation of them out of each other, which is Greek than to ourselves. And as Plato readily passes from the the first argument in the Phaedo, is at variance with their notion of the good to that of God, he also passes almost im-mutual exclusion of each other, whether in themselves or in perceptibly to himself and his reader from the future life of us, which is the last. For even if we admit the distinction the individual soul to the eternal being of the absolute soul.
which he draws between the opposites and the things which There has been a clearer statement and a clearer denial of the have the opposites, still individuals fall under the latter class; belief in modern times than is found in early Greek philoso-and we have to pass out of the region of human hopes and phy, and hence the comparative silence on the whole subject fears to a conception of an abstract soul which is the imper-which is often remarked in ancient writers, and particularly in sonation of the ideas. Such a conception, which in Plato Aristotle. For Plato and Aristotle are not further removed in himself is but half expressed, is unmeaning to us, and rela-their teaching about the immortality of the soul than they are tive only to a particular stage in the history of thought. The in their theory of knowledge.
doctrine of reminiscence is also a fragment of a former world, which has no place in the philosophy of modern times. But 29
Plato had the wonders of psychology just opening to him, 18. To deal fairly with such arguments, they should be trans-and he had not the explanation of them which is supplied lated as far as possible into their modern equivalents. ‘If the by the analysis of language and the history of the human ideas of men are eternal, their souls are eternal, and if not mind. The question, ‘Whence come our abstract ideas?’ he the ideas, then not the souls.’ Such an argument stands nearly could only answer by an imaginary hypothesis. Nor is it dif-in the same relation to Plato and his age, as the argument ficult to see that his crowning argument is purely verbal, from the existence of God to immortality among ourselves.
and is but the expression of an instinctive confidence put
‘If God exists, then the soul exists after death; and if there is into a logical form:—’The soul is immortal because it con-no God, there is no existence of the soul after death.’ For the tains a principle of imperishableness.’ Nor does he himself ideas are to his mind the reality, the truth, the principle of seem at all to be aware that nothing is added to human knowl-permanence, as well as of intelligence and order in the world.
edge by his ‘safe and simple answer,’ that beauty is the cause When Simmias and Cebes say that they are more strongly of the beautiful; and that he is merely reasserting the Eleatic persuaded of the existence of ideas than they are of the im-being ‘divided by the Pythagorean numbers,’ against the mortality of the soul, they represent fairly enough the order Heracleitean doctrine of perpetual generation. The answer of thought in Greek philosophy. And we might say in the to the ‘very serious question’ of generation and destruction same way that we are more certain of the existence of God is really the denial of them. For this he would substitute, as than we are of the immortality of the soul, and are led by the in the Republic, a system of ideas, tested, not by experience, belief in the one to a belief in the other. The parallel, as but by their consequences, and not explained by actual causes, Socrates would say, is not perfect, but agrees in as far as the but by a higher, that is, a more general notion. Consistency mind in either case is regarded as dependent on something with themselves is the only test which is to be applied to above and beyond herself. The analogy may even be pressed them. ( Republic, and Phaedo.) a step further: ‘We are more certain of our ideas of truth and 30
right than we are of the existence of God, and are led on in reconciled with one another; and he is as much in earnest the order of thought from one to the other.’ Or more cor-about his doctrine of retribution, which is repeated in all his rectly: ‘The existence of right and truth is the existence of more ethical writings, as about his theory of knowledge. And God, and can never for a moment be separated from Him.’
while we may fairly translate the dialectical into the language of Hegel, and the religious and mythological into the lan-19. The main argument of the Phaedo is derived from the guage of Dante or Bunyan, the ethical speaks to us still in existence of eternal ideas of which the soul is a partaker; the the same voice, and appeals to a common feeling.
other argument of the alternation of opposites is replaced by this. And there have not been wanting philosophers of 20. Two arguments of this ethical character occur in the the idealist school who have imagined that the doctrine of Phaedo. The first may be described as the aspiration of the the immortality of the soul is a theory of knowledge, and soul after another state of being. Like the Oriental or Chris-that in what has preceded Plato is accommodating himself tian mystic, the philosopher is seeking to withdraw from to the popular belief. Such a view can only be elicited from impurities of sense, to leave the world and the things of the the Phaedo by what may be termed the transcendental world, and to find his higher self. Plato recognizes in these method of interpretation, and is obviously inconsistent with aspirations the foretaste of immortality; as Butler and the Gorgias and the Republic. Those who maintain it are Addison in modern times have argued, the one from the immediately compelled to renounce the shadow which they moral tendencies of mankind, the other from the progress have grasped, as a play of words only. But the truth is, that of the soul towards perfection. In using this argument Plato Plato in his argument for the immortality of the soul has has certainly confused the soul which has left the body, with collected many elements of proof or persuasion, ethical and the soul of the good and wise. (Compare Republic.) Such a mythological as well as dialectical, which are not easily to be confusion was natural, and arose partly out of the antithesis 31
of soul and body. The soul in her own essence, and the soul such matters; but he will be confident that something of the
‘clothed upon’ with virtues and graces, were easily inter-kind is true.’ As in other passages (Gorg., Tim., compare changed with one another, because on a subject which passes Crito), he wins belief for his fictions by the moderation of expression the distinctions of language can hardly be main-his statements; he does not, like Dante or Swedenborg, al-tained.
low himself to be deceived by his own creations.
The Dialogue must be read in the light of the situation.
21. The ethical proof of the immortality of the soul is de-And first of all we are struck by the calmness of the scene.
rived from the necessity of retribution. The wicked would Like the spectators at the time, we cannot pity Socrates; his be too well off if their evil deeds came to an end. It is not to mien and his language are so noble and fearless. He is the be supposed that an Ardiaeus, an Archelaus, an Ismenias same that he ever was, but milder and gentler, and he has in could ever have suffered the penalty of their crimes in this no degree lost his interest in dialectics; he will not forego world. The manner in which this retribution is accomplished the delight of an argument in compliance with the jailer’s Plato represents under the figures of mythology. Doubtless intimation that he should not heat himself with talking. At he felt that it was easier to improve than to invent, and that such a time he naturally expresses the hope of his life, that in religion especially the traditional form was required in he has been a true mystic and not a mere retainer or wand-order to give verisimilitude to the myth. The myth too is far bearer: and he refers to passages of his personal history. To more probable to that age than to ours, and may fairly be his old enemies the Comic poets, and to the proceedings on regarded as ‘one guess among many’ about the nature of the the trial, he alludes playfully; but he vividly remembers the earth, which he cleverly supports by the indications of geol-disappointment which he felt in reading the books of ogy. Not that he insists on the absolute truth of his own Anaxagoras. The return of Xanthippe and his children indi-particular notions: ‘no man of sense will be confident in cates that the philosopher is not ‘made of oak or rock.’ Some 32
other traits of his character may be noted; for example, the The other persons of the Dialogue may be considered under courteous manner in which he inclines his head to the last two heads: (1) private friends; (2) the respondents in the objector, or the ironical touch, ‘Me already, as the tragic poet argument.
would say, the voice of fate calls;’ or the depreciation of the First there is Crito, who has been already introduced to us arguments with which ‘he comforted himself and them;’ or in the Euthydemus and the Crito; he is the equal in years of his fear of ‘misology;’ or his references to Homer; or the play-Socrates, and stands in quite a different relation to him from ful smile with which he ‘talks like a book’ about greater and his younger disciples. He is a man of the world who is rich less; or the allusion to the possibility of finding another teacher and prosperous (compare the jest in the Euthydemus), the among barbarous races (compare Polit.); or the mysterious best friend of Socrates, who wants to know his commands, reference to another science (mathematics?) of generation and in whose presence he talks to his family, and who performs destruction for which he is vainly feeling. There is no change the last duty of closing his eyes. It is observable too that, as in him; only now he is invested with a sort of in the Euthydemus, Crito shows no aptitude for philosophi-sacred character, as the prophet or priest of Apollo the God of cal discussions. Nor among the friends of Socrates must the the festival, in whose honour he first of all composes a hymn, jailer be forgotten, who seems to have been introduced by and then like the swan pours forth his dying lay. Perhaps the Plato in order to show the impression made by the extraor-extreme elevation of Socrates above his own situation, and dinary man on the common. The gentle nature of the man the ordinary interests of life (compare his jeu d’esprit about is indicated by his weeping at the announcement of his er-his burial, in which for a moment he puts on the ‘Silenus rand and then turning away, and also by the words of Socrates mask’), create in the mind of the reader an impression stron-to his disciples: ‘How charming the man is! since I have been ger than could be derived from arguments that such a one has in prison he has been always coming to me, and is as good as in him ‘a principle which does not admit of death.’
could be to me.’ We are reminded too that he has retained 33
this gentle nature amid scenes of death and violence by the intense interest of the company is communicated not only contrasts which he draws between the behaviour of Socrates to the first auditors, but to us who in a distant country read and of others when about to die.
the narrative of their emotions after more than two thou-Another person who takes no part in the philosophical sand years have passed away.
discussion is the excitable Apollodorus, the same who, in The two principal interlocutors are Simmias and Cebes, the Symposium, of which he is the narrator, is called ‘the the disciples of Philolaus the Pythagorean philosopher of madman,’ and who testifies his grief by the most violent Thebes. Simmias is described in the Phaedrus as fonder of emotions. Phaedo is also present, the ‘beloved disciple’ as he an argument than any man living; and Cebes, although fi-may be termed, who is described, if not ‘leaning on his bo-nally persuaded by Socrates, is said to be the most incredu-som,’ as seated next to Socrates, who is playing with his hair.
lous of human beings. It is Cebes who at the commence-He too, like Apollodorus, takes no part in the discussion, ment of the Dialogue asks why ‘suicide is held to be unlaw-but he loves above all things to hear and speak of Socrates ful,’ and who first supplies the doctrine of recollection in after his death. The calmness of his behaviour, veiling his confirmation of the pre-existence of the soul. It is Cebes face when he can no longer restrain his tears, contrasts with who urges that the pre-existence does not necessarily involve the passionate outcries of the other. At a particular point the the future existence of the soul, as is shown by the illustra-argument is described as falling before the attack of Simmias.
tion of the weaver and his coat. Simmias, on the other hand, A sort of despair is introduced in the minds of the company.
raises the question about harmony and the lyre, which is The effect of this is heightened by the description of Phaedo, naturally put into the mouth of a Pythagorean disciple. It is who has been the eye-witness of the scene, and by the sym-Simmias, too, who first remarks on the uncertainty of hu-pathy of his Phliasian auditors who are beginning to think man knowledge, and only at last concedes to the argument
‘that they too can never trust an argument again.’ And the such a qualified approval as is consistent with the feebleness 34
of the human faculties. Cebes is the deeper and more con-of Plato, is an argument to the contrary. Yet in the Cyropaedia secutive thinker, Simmias more superficial and rhetorical; Xenophon has put language into the mouth of the dying they are distinguished in much the same manner as Cyrus which recalls the Phaedo, and may have been derived Adeimantus and Glaucon in the Republic.
from the teaching of Socrates. It may be fairly urged that the Other persons, Menexenus, Ctesippus, Lysis, are old greatest religious interest of mankind could not have been friends; Evenus has been already satirized in the Apology; wholly ignored by one who passed his life in fulfilling the Aeschines and Epigenes were present at the trial; Euclid and commands of an oracle, and who recognized a Divine plan Terpsion will reappear in the Introduction to the Theaetetus, in man and nature. (Xen. Mem.) And the language of the Hermogenes has already appeared in the Cratylus. No infer-Apology and of the Crito confirms this view.
ence can fairly be drawn from the absence of Aristippus, nor The Phaedo is not one of the Socratic Dialogues of Plato; from the omission of Xenophon, who at the time of Socrates’
nor, on the other hand, can it be assigned to that later stage death was in Asia. The mention of Plato’s own absence seems of the Platonic writings at which the doctrine of ideas ap-like an expression of sorrow, and may, perhaps, be an indica-pears to be forgotten. It belongs rather to the intermediate tion that the report of the conversation is not to be taken period of the Platonic philosophy, which roughly corresponds literally.
to the Phaedrus, Gorgias, Republic, Theaetetus. Without The place of the Dialogue in the series is doubtful. The pretending to determine the real time of their composition, doctrine of ideas is certainly carried beyond the Socratic point the Symposium, Meno, Euthyphro, Apology, Phaedo may of view; in no other of the writings of Plato is the theory of be conveniently read by us in this order as illustrative of the them so completely developed. Whether the belief in im-life of Socrates. Another chain may be formed of the Meno, mortality can be attributed to Socrates or not is uncertain; Phaedrus, Phaedo, in which the immortality of the soul is the silence of the Memorabilia, and of the earlier Dialogues connected with the doctrine of ideas. In the Meno the theory 35
of ideas is based on the ancient belief in transmigration, which rooted in Plato’s mind is the belief in immortality; so vari-reappears again in the Phaedrus as well as in the Republic ous are the forms of expression which he employs.
and Timaeus, and in all of them is connected with a doc-As in several other Dialogues, there is more of system in trine of retribution. In the Phaedrus the immortality of the the Phaedo than appears at first sight. The succession of ar-soul is supposed to rest on the conception of the soul as a guments is based on previous philosophies; beginning with principle of motion, whereas in the Republic the argument the mysteries and the Heracleitean alternation of opposites, turns on the natural continuance of the soul, which, if not and proceeding to the Pythagorean harmony and transmi-destroyed by her own proper evil, can hardly be destroyed gration; making a step by the aid of Platonic reminiscence, by any other. The soul of man in the Timaeus is derived and a further step by the help of the nous of Anaxagoras; from the Supreme Creator, and either returns after death to until at last we rest in the conviction that the soul is insepa-her kindred star, or descends into the lower life of an ani-rable from the ideas, and belongs to the world of the invis-mal. The Apology expresses the same view as the Phaedo, ible and unknown. Then, as in the Gorgias or Republic, the but with less confidence; there the probability of death be-curtain falls, and the veil of mythology descends upon the ing a long sleep is not excluded. The Theaetetus also de-argument. After the confession of Socrates that he is an in-scribes, in a digression, the desire of the soul to fly away and terested party, and the acknowledgment that no man of sense be with God—’and to fly to him is to be like him.’ The will think the details of his narrative true, but that some-Symposium may be observed to resemble as well as to differ thing of the kind is true, we return from speculation to prac-from the Phaedo. While the first notion of immortality is tice. He is himself more confident of immortality than he is only in the way of natural procreation or of posthumous of his own arguments; and the confidence which he expresses fame and glory, the higher revelation of beauty, like the good is less strong than that which his cheerfulness and compo-in the Republic, is the vision of the eternal idea. So deeply sure in death inspire in us.
Difficulties of two kinds occur in the Phaedo—one kind ideas. He wants to have proved to him by facts that all things to be explained out of contemporary philosophy, the other are for the best, and that there is one mind or design which not admitting of an entire solution. (1) The difficulty which pervades them all. But this ‘power of the best’ he is unable Socrates says that he experienced in explaining generation to explain; and therefore takes refuge in universal ideas. And and corruption; the assumption of hypotheses which pro-are not we at this day seeking to discover that which Socrates ceed from the less general to the more general, and are tested in a glass darkly foresaw?
by their consequences; the puzzle about greater and less; the Some resemblances to the Greek drama may be noted in resort to the method of ideas, which to us appear only ab-all the Dialogues of Plato. The Phaedo is the tragedy of which stract terms,—these are to be explained out of the position Socrates is the protagonist and Simmias and Cebes the sec-of Socrates and Plato in the history of philosophy. They were ondary performers, standing to them in the same relation as living in a twilight between the sensible and the intellectual to Glaucon and Adeimantus in the Republic. No Dialogue world, and saw no way of connecting them. They could nei-has a greater unity of subject and feeling. Plato has certainly ther explain the relation of ideas to phenomena, nor their fulfilled the condition of Greek, or rather of all art, which correlation to one another. The very idea of relation or com-requires that scenes of death and suffering should be clothed parison was embarrassing to them. Yet in this intellectual in beauty. The gathering of the friends at the commence-uncertainty they had a conception of a proof from results, ment of the Dialogue, the dismissal of Xanthippe, whose and of a moral truth, which remained unshaken amid the presence would have been out of place at a philosophical questionings of philosophy. (2) The other is a difficulty which discussion, but who returns again with her children to take is touched upon in the Republic as well as in the Phaedo, a final farewell, the dejection of the audience at the tempo-and is common to modern and ancient philosophy. Plato is rary overthrow of the argument, the picture of Socrates play-not altogether satisfied with his safe and simple method of ing with the hair of Phaedo, the final scene in which Socrates 37
alone retains his composure—are masterpieces of art. And actually uttered by him we forbear to ask; for no answer can the chorus at the end might have interpreted the feeling of be given to this question. And it is better to resign ourselves the play: ‘There can no evil happen to a good man in life or to the feeling of a great work, than to linger among critical death.’
‘The art of concealing art’ is nowhere more perfect than in those writings of Plato which describe the trial and death of Socrates. Their charm is their simplicity, which gives them verisimilitude; and yet they touch, as if incidentally, and because they were suitable to the occasion, on some of the deepest truths of philosophy. There is nothing in any tragedy, ancient or modern, nothing in poetry or history (with one exception), like the last hours of Socrates in Plato. The master could not be more fitly occupied at such a time than in discoursing of immortality; nor the disciples more divinely consoled. The arguments, taken in the spirit and not in the letter, are our arguments; and Socrates by anticipation may be even thought to refute some ‘eccentric notions; current in our own age. For there are philosophers among ourselves who do not seem to understand how much stronger is the power of intelligence, or of the best, than of Atlas, or me-chanical force. How far the words attributed to Socrates were 38
ECHECRATES: Were you yourself, Phaedo, in the prison with Socrates on the day when he drank the poison?
PHAEDO: Yes, Echecrates, I was.