Apology And Phaedo Apology and Phaedo Knowledge of Death versus Belief in a Soul In Platos Apology, Socrates says that he knows nothing of death while in Phaedo he discusses many of his beliefs on death and its philosophical ramifications. From this simple perspective it may seem as though he is contradicting himself although he, after further investigation, is not. Philosophically, the idea of death and an afterlife can be looked at from multiple non-contradictory viewpoints. Socrates talks of his lack of knowledge of death in order to define, more so, his philosophy on life. While in Phaedo, he talks explicitly about his philosophy on death. The two discussions of death are equally important in determining Socrates overall philosophical outlook on life and death although the have different emphasis.
They both do help to define philosophys proper relationship to death. In Platos Apology Socrates announces that he is not afraid of death because he knows nothing of it. His lack of knowledge of death is relative to his knowledge of living and, in that manner, helps to define his knowledge of life. Socrates, at his trial, is faced with the death penalty unless he pleads with the judges for a different sentence. The sentences that he may be able to obtain instead of death are a fine, banishment from the city, or imprisonment. Socrates refuses and accepts death.
His reasoning for this decision is that the other options are most certainly evils; owing money that he does not have to people he does not want to pay, being sent away from his friends, his family, his city and his home to go to a foreign land, or imprisonment. His beliefs, though, and his teachings seem most valuable to him and any interference with these by his accusers would be the worst evil, as this is what he believes God has willed him to do. On the other hand, death does not constitute a certain evil and death may not interfere with the will of God, his teaching and discussing and thinking. So, as simple logic can explain, living would require that evil does exist whether its incarceration or any other punishment, while death may be, in fact the greatest good, rather than the preconceived notion of many that it is the greatest evil. Socrates, thus, chose the possibility of good rather than the inevitability of evil. By discussing death in such a manner Socrates is also able to offer his opinion on the decisions made during life. If we are not able to know whether death is an evil at all, when compared to other options in life, it may be the better.
We do know, for example, that disgrace is an evil so, when faced with the option, Socrates would choose death. Socrates discussed this in terms of following the orders of a righteous leader in a military situation, but made his reasoning more personal when he used it in describing his desire to follow the orders, or will, of God. It is therefore, if we want to live righteously, that we should not fear death as the many earthly evils should be feared instead. In Phaedo Socrates, during his last ours of life answers many questions on his belief of the ramifications of death. He discusses not whether death is an evil, nor does he say that he knows death, but instead whether death exists for the soul at all and in what form.
Socrates argues that death does not destroy the soul, which is within every human. The soul exists in an incomprehensible form before we are born and remains after we die. Thus, the soul never experiences the death that the body experiences. In describing the soul in such a manner Socrates is not contradicting his lack of knowledge of death. Rather, he is discussing his belief that death is only of the body and it is death which simply rids the soul of the body and places it in its next situation, whatever that situation might be for the remaining soul.
He still may know nothing of death. In this way, knowing nothing of death is not contradictory to having a belief that something is to come of the soul other than nonexistence. Socrates, in Phaedo, puts every emphasis on the soul as being the most important part of a human. The importance seems to be derived from the notion that the soul is to continue after our body has ceased living. The importance of the soul is, in turn, what makes living important.
The soul, Socrates argues, must have existed before our bodies, as there are things that we know yet we did not learn. For instance, goodness, beauty and justice cannot be realized by the senses yet we are very aware of each of them. Also, we do not need to learn them as proven, for example, by justice. True justice does not prevail in society yet we are quite aware of what it is. It is, thus, something with which we are born an understanding.
In other words, these are notions that our obviously preexisting soul brought to us. In this way Socrates attempts to prove that the soul is continuing in our bodies and can now attempt to prove that, necessarily, it will continue after death. Socrates suggests that each opposite leads to its opposite and thus the soul out of the body before birth and then in the body during life must lead to, in a cycle, the soul remaining after death. He uses the example of day into night back into day to discuss the way in which one opposite cannot exist without the other. In the same way, sleep is the opposite of being awake and neither can occur without falling asleep or waking, which are comparable, in relation to the soul, to the birth and death of the human they reside within. It is thus that, argued logically, it was suggested by Socrates that our ability to perceive beauty goodness and justice prove, due to the cycle with which opposites continue, that our souls do not die.
Socrates ideas in Phaedo and Apology greatly help to explain philosophies proper relationship to death. As a human, a philosopher can never realize an after life, at least not in this life. Thus, death is more important, to some extent, in defining life than in being defined itself. Death can be known only as an end to life and the step before the unknown, therefore any attempt at understanding it should be done in relation to what we do know, life. Socrates, in both arguments regarding death, uses death in such a manner. In the Apology death is referred to as an unknown that may be in fact the greatest good rather than the evil it is often considered.
In this sense Socrates is able to discuss our priorities during life. We must indeed choose the greater good whenever possible and considering that death is an unknown it is certainly more likely good than any definite evil. In terms of morality we must establish our own beliefs, yet sticking with our moral decisions is clearly supported by Socrates over life itself. Death, in being an unknown closure to this life, serves as a tool by which to set our moral priorities and an option in lifes trials. In Phaedo, Socrates deals with the question of what is after death rather than death itself. The soul, he says, continues after the body dies, so in what situation it continues becomes an important question in life. If our souls are to continue after we die, we must be quite concerned with them during life.
Life may be, in fact, what distinguishes the situation our souls are put into after death and we may be able to alter the outlook for our souls if we act more wisely. As this possibility exists, it seems only reasonable to do for our souls as much as possible during life. If, in fact, there is no after life for our souls then we have lost nothing in being prepared. Philosophies relationship to death is, as such, in revealing the questions and possibilities of death so as to allow for decisions to be made accordingly during life. Bibliography na Philosophy Essays.