Plato, Phaedo (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Pl. Phd.].
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94din almost everything through all our life, and tyrannizing over them in every way, sometimes inflicting harsh and painful punishments (those of gymnastics and medicine), and sometimes milder ones, sometimes threatening and sometimes admonishing, in short, speaking to the desires and passions and fears as if it were distinct from them and they from it, as Homer has shown in the Odyssey when he says of Odysseus: He smote his breast, and thus he chid his heart:
“Endure it, heart, you have born worse than this.”
Hom. Od 20.17-18
94eDo you suppose that, when he wrote those words, he thought of the soul as a harmony which would be led by the conditions of the body, and not rather as something fitted to lead and rule them, and itself a far more divine thing than a harmony?”

“By Zeus, Socrates, the latter, I think.”

“Then, my good friend, it will never do for us to say that the soul is a harmony; for we should, it seems, 95aagree neither with Homer, the divine poet, nor with ourselves.”

“That is true,” said he.

“Very well,” said Socrates, “Harmonia, the Theban goddess, has, it seems, been moderately gracious to us; but how, Cebes, and by what argument can we find grace in the sight of Cadmus?”

“I think,” said Cebes, “you will find a way. At any rate, you conducted this argument against harmony wonderfully and better than I expected. For when Simmias was telling of his difficulty, I wondered if anyone could make head against 95bhis argument; so it seemed to me very remarkable that it could not withstand the first attack of your argument. Now I should not be surprised if the argument of Cadmus met with the same fate.”

“My friend,” said Socrates, “do not be boastful, lest some evil eye put to rout the argument that is to come. That, however, is in the hands of God. Let us, in Homeric fashion, charge the foe and test the worth of what you say. Now the sum total of what you seek is this: You demand a proof that our soul is indestructible 95cand immortal, if the philosopher, who is confident in the face of death and who thinks that after death he will fare better in the other world than if he had lived his life differently, is not to find his confidence senseless and foolish. And although we show that the soul is strong and godlike and existed before we men were born as men, all this, you say, may bear witness not to immortality, but only to the fact that the soul lasts a long while, and existed somewhere an immeasurably long time before our birth, and knew and did various things; yet it was none the more immortal for all that, 95dbut its very entrance into the human body was the beginning of its dissolution, a disease, as it were; and it lives in toil through this life and finally perishes in what we call death. Now it makes no difference, you say, whether a soul enters into a body once or many times, so far as the fear each of us feels is concerned; for anyone, unless he is a fool, must fear, if he does not know and cannot prove that the soul is immortal. That, 95eCebes, is, I think, about what you mean. And I restate it purposely that nothing may escape us and that you may, if you wish, add or take away anything.”

And Cebes said, “I do not at present wish to take anything away or to add anything. You have expressed my meaning.”

Socrates paused for some time and was absorbed in thought. Then he said: “It is no small thing that you seek; for the cause of generation and decay must be completely investigated. 96aNow I will tell you my own experience in the matter, if you wish; then if anything I say seems to you to be of any use, you can employ it for the solution of your difficulty.”

“Certainly,” said Cebes, “I wish to hear your experiences.”

“Listen then, and I will tell you. When I was young, Cebes, I was tremendously eager for the kind of wisdom which they call investigation of nature. I thought it was a glorious thing to know the causes of everything, why each thing comes into being and why it perishes and why it exists; 96band I was always unsettling myself with such questions as these: Do heat and cold, by a sort of fermentation, bring about the organization of animals, as some people say? Is it the blood, or air, or fire by which we think? Or is it none of these, and does the brain furnish the sensations of hearing and sight and smell, and do memory and opinion arise from these, and does knowledge come from memory and opinion in a state of rest? And again I tried to find out 96chow these things perish, and I investigated the phenomena of heaven and earth until finally I made up my mind that I was by nature totally unfitted for this kind of investigation. And I will give you a sufficient proof of this. I was so completely blinded by these studies that I lost the knowledge that I, and others also, thought I had before; I forgot what I had formerly believed I knew about many things and even about the cause of man's growth. For I had thought previously that it was plain to everyone that man grows through eating and 96ddrinking; for when, from the food he eats, flesh is added to his flesh and bones to his bones, and in the same way the appropriate thing is added to each of his other parts, then the small bulk becomes greater and the small man large. That is what I used to think. Doesn't that seem to you reasonable?”

“Yes,” said Cebes.

“Now listen to this, too. I thought I was sure enough, when I saw a tall man standing by a short one, that he was, say, taller by a head than the other,



Plato, Phaedo (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Pl. Phd.].
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