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Plato on Death: The Structure of Argument in the Phaedo
Plato,the Phaedo,death,suicide,immortality of the soul,myth,
|Publication Year :||2020|
Among Plato’s dialogues the Phaedo is mainly concerned with the idea of death. At the end of the dialogue the description of Socrates’s drinking hemlock to end his life, or the inquiry of the idea of death at the start of the dialogue, or the argument on the immortality of the soul, or the journey and experiences of the disembodied soul in the afterlife, all of those issues are related to death. Among them, the most peculiar one is the way how Socrates takes his own death: waiting for death in hope and welcoming it with pleasure. But what is the reason for Socrates to accept his own death with such a serene attitude? This is the issue which I attempt to explore in this thesis. By virtue of reconstructing the structure of argument in the Phaedo and establishing the interrelationship of each issue, hopefully the question could be satisfactorily answered.
The thesis consists mainly of three parts: Firstly, in Chapter 2, the difference between the soul’s complete release from the body and its moving from one body to another will be considered in order to preliminarily respond to the question. In addition, this response will be strengthened by the discussion of the myth of the eschatological journey of the soul and the features of the world at the end of the dialogue. However this response needs a solid foundation, i.e. the disembodied soul will not perish. So the proof of the immortality of the soul is needed. Secondly, the argument in Chapter 3 will discuss two arguments about the immortality of the soul: the Cyclical Argument and the Recollection Argument. Not only will I put emphasis on the fact that they are all indispensable parts for understanding Socrates’s attitude towards death, but also show that their function is to provide the materials needed for bringing out the Final Argument. Finally, in Chapter 4 the Affinity Argument will be considered to pave the way for the entrance of the Final Argument. The argument of the immortality of the soul in this chapter will end with the core idea perspective “life doesn’t admit death”. The combination of the four arguments provides a complete proof for the immortality of the soul, which also makes Socrates’s response to his choice of accepting death more understandable.
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