Chapter 6

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September 25, 2015
Phaedo

I was close to Socrates on his right hand, seated on a sort of stool. He was on a couch which was a good deal higher.

He stroked my head, and pressed the hair upon my neck—he had a way of playing with my hair.

Socrates

We should both shave our locks today.

If I were you, and the argument got away from me, and I could not hold my ground against Simmias and Cebes, I would myself take an oath, like the Argives, not to wear hair any more until I had renewed the conflict and defeated them.

Yes, but Heracles himself is said not to be a match for two.

Summon me then, he said, and I will be your Iolaus until the sun goes down.

I summon you rather, I rejoined, not as Heracles summoning Iolaus, but as Iolaus might summon Heracles.

That will do as well, he said. But first let us take care that we avoid a danger.

Of what nature? I said.

Socrates

Lest we become misologists no worse thing can happen to a man than this. Misanthropists are haters of people. Misologists are haters of ideas. Both spring from the same cause, which is ignorance of the world.

Misanthropy comes from the overconfidence of inexperience. You trust a man and think him true, sound, and faithful. Then, he turns out to be false and knavish. Then another and another.

When this happens several times, especially when done by one’s trusted and familiar friends, he will hate everyone in the end. He believes that no one has any good in them.

The feeling is discreditable. It happens to people who has no experience of human nature. Experience would teach him the truth that few are the good, few the evil. The great majority are in between them.

Likewise, there are very large and very small men. But most men are in between.

If there were a competition in evil, the worst would be found to be very few.

Likewise, when a simple man has no skill in dialectics, he believes an argument to be true. Afterwards, he imagines it to be false. Then another and another, until he has no longer any faith left. Great disputers then think at last that they have become the wisest of mankind*.

*Superphysics Note= This is exactly what Aristotle, and epistemology, are.

Socrates

They alone perceive the utter unsoundness and instability of all arguments of all things which are going up and down in never-ceasing ebb and flow, like the currents in the Euripus.

It would be sad if there were such a thing as truth, certainty, or possibility of knowledge. A man should have lighted upon some argument or other which at first seemed true and then turned out to be false, and instead of blaming himself and his own want of wit, because he is annoyed, should at last be too glad to transfer the blame from himself to arguments in general= and for ever afterwards should hate and revile them, and lose truth and the knowledge of realities.

Let us then be careful of allowing or of admitting into our souls the notion that there is no health or soundness in any arguments at all.

Rather say that we have not yet attained to soundness in ourselves, and that we must struggle manfully and do our best to gain health of mind—you and all other men having regard to the whole of your future life, and I myself in the prospect of death.

For at this moment I am sensible that I have not the temper of a philosopher; like the vulgar, I am only a partisan.

When the partisan is engaged in a dispute, he cares nothing about the rights of the question. Instead, he is anxious only to convince his hearers of his own assertions.

The difference between him and me now is that he seeks to convince his hearers that what he says is true. But I am rather seeking to convince myself. Convincing my hearers is a secondary matter with me.

See how much I gain by the argument. If what I say is true, then I am persuaded of the truth. But if there were nothing after death, I shall not distress my friends with lamentations. My ignorance will not last, but will die with me.

Therefore no harm will be done. This is the state of mind in which I approach the argument.

I would ask you to be thinking of the truth and not of Socrates= agree with me, if I seem to you to be speaking the truth; or if not, withstand me might and main, that I may not deceive you as well as myself in my enthusiasm, and like the bee, leave my sting in you before I die.

Simmias has misgivings whether the soul, although a fairer and diviner thing than the body, being as she is in the form of harmony, may not perish first.

On the other hand, Cebes appeared to grant that the soul was more lasting than the body, but he said that no one could know whether the soul, after having worn out many bodies, might not perish herself and leave her last body behind her; and that this is death, which is the destruction not of the body but of the soul, for in the body the work of destruction is ever going on.

They denied a part of the preceding argument.

And what did you think, he said, of that part of the argument in which we said that knowledge was recollection, and hence inferred that the soul must have previously existed somewhere else before she was enclosed in the body?

Cebes said that he had been wonderfully impressed by that part of the argument, and that his conviction remained absolutely unshaken. Simmias agreed, and added that he himself could hardly imagine the possibility of his ever thinking differently.

But, rejoined Socrates, you will have to think differently, my Theban friend, if you still maintain that harmony is a compound, and that the soul is a harmony which is made out of strings set in the frame of the body; for you will surely never allow yourself to say that a harmony is prior to the elements which compose it.

Never, Socrates.

But do you not see that this is what you imply when you say that the soul existed before she took the form and body of man, and was made up of elements which as yet had no existence? For harmony is not like the soul, as you suppose; but first the lyre, and the strings, and the sounds exist in a state of discord, and then harmony is made last of all, and perishes first. And how can such a notion of the soul as this agree with the other?

Not at all, replied Simmias.

And yet, he said, there surely ought to be harmony in a discourse of which harmony is the theme.

There ought, replied Simmias.

But there is no harmony, he said, in the two propositions that knowledge is recollection, and that the soul is a harmony. Which of them will you retain?

Thrasymachus

I think that I have a much stronger faith in the first of the two, which has been fully demonstrated to me, than in the latter, which has not been demonstrated at all. The latter rests only on probable and plausible grounds and so it is believed by many.

These arguments from probabilities are impostors. Unless great caution is observed in their use, they tend to be deceptive—in geometry, and in other things too.

But the doctrine of knowledge and memory has proof – the soul must have existed before she came into the body, because to it belongs the essence of which the very name implies existence.

Having, as I am convinced, rightly accepted this conclusion, and on sufficient grounds, I must, as I suppose, cease to argue or allow others to argue that the soul is a harmony.

Socrates

A harmony or any other composition cannot be in a state other than that of the elements, out of which it is compounded.

Then a harmony does not lead the parts or elements which make up the harmony, but only follows them. For harmony cannot possibly have any motion, or sound, or other quality which is opposed to its parts.

The nature of every harmony depend on how its elements are harmonized. A harmony admits of degrees. A harmony is more harmonious if it is more truly and fully harmonized. It is less of a harmony, and less completely a harmony, when less truly and fully harmonized.

The soul admits of degrees. A soul in the very least degree more or less, or more or less completely, a soul than another.

Yet of two souls, one has intelligence and virtue, the other has folly and vice.

Some say that the soul is a harmony of this virtue and vice. —will they say that here is another harmony, and another discord, and that the virtuous soul is harmonized, and herself being a harmony has another harmony within her, and that the vicious soul is inharmonical and has no harmony within her?

Thrasymachus I cannot tell, replied Simmias. But I suppose that something of the sort would be asserted by those who say that the soul is a harmony.
Socrates

No soul is more a soul than another. This would be equivalent to saying that harmony could be not-so-harmonious or more-harmonious-than-harmonious.

Then one soul which is not more or less absolutely a soul than another, is simply not more or less harmonized.

If the soul is a harmony, it will never have any vice. This is because a harmony is an absolute harmony. It has no part in the nonharmonical. Thus, a soul which is absolutely a soul has no vice.

Then, if all souls are equally by their nature souls, all souls of all living creatures will be equally good.

These are the consequences of the assumption that the soul is a harmony.

Thrasymachus It cannot be true.
Socrates

The soul, especially the wise soul, is the ruler of the elements of human nature. The soul is in variance with the affections of the body.

For example, when the body is hot and thirsty, the soul inclines us against drinking. When the body is hungry, against eating. This is only one instance out of ten thousand of the opposition of the soul to the things of the body.

But we said that the soul is a harmony. It can never utter a note at variance with the tensions and relaxations and vibrations and other affections of the strings out of which she is composed. She can only follow, she cannot lead them.

But now the soul is doing the exact opposite. It is leading the elements which it is believed to be composed. It is almost always opposing and coercing them throughout life, sometimes more violently with the pains of medicine and gymnastic.

Sometimes more gently, threatening, or admonishing the desires, passions, fears, as if talking to a thing which is not Itself, as Homer in the Odyssee represents Odysseus doing in the words:

‘He beat his breast, and thus reproached his heart= Endure, my heart; far worse hast thou endured!’

Homer wrote this thinking that the soul is a harmony capable of being led by the affections of the body, and not rather of a nature which should lead and master them—herself a far diviner thing than any harmony.

Then, we are wrong in saying that the soul is a harmony, as this would contradict the divine Homer, and ourselves.

Thus Harmonia, your Theban goddess, has graciously yielded to us. But what about her husband Cadmus, how shall I make peace with him?

Cebes

You will discover a way of propitiating him.

I am sure that you have put the argument with Harmonia in a manner that I could never have expected. For when Simmias was mentioning his difficulty, I quite imagined that no answer could be given to him, and therefore I was surprised at finding that his argument could not sustain the first onset of yours, and not impossibly the other, whom you call Cadmus, may share a similar fate.

Socrates

You want proof that the soul is imperishable and immortal. The philosopher who is confident in death appears to you to have but a vain and foolish confidence, if he believes that he will fare better in the world below than one who has led another sort of life, unless he can prove this;

You say that the demonstration of the strength and divinity of the soul, and of her existence prior to our becoming men, does not necessarily imply her immortality. Admitting the soul to be longlived, and to have known and done much in a former state, still she is not on that account immortal; and her entrance into the human form may be a sort of disease which is the beginning of dissolution, and may at last, after the toils of life are over, end in that which is called death.

Whether the soul enters into the body once only or many times, does not, as you say, make any difference in the fears of individuals. For any man, who is not devoid of sense, must fear, if he has no knowledge and can give no account of the soul’s immortality.

This, or something like this, I suspect to be your notion, Cebes; and I designedly recur to it in order that nothing may escape us, and that you may, if you wish, add or subtract anything.

Cebes But, said Cebes, as far as I see at present, I have nothing to add or subtract= I mean what you say that I mean.

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