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Plato

Phaedo

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.

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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

Plato

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

Phaedo

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

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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.

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‘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

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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

Phaedo

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

Plato

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.

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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

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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

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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 scie