BECK index

Though Plato himself was apparently ill and not present at the prison on the day of Socrates' death, the discussion was surely recounted to him, perhaps much in the same way as this dialog is recounted by Phaedo for Echecrates.

Phaedo was from a noble family in Elis, but when that city was defeated in 401 BC he was captured and forced into a house of prostitution. However, Phaedo managed to slip out to listen to Socrates, who eventually persuaded either Cebes or Alcibiades or Crito and their friends to ransom him so that he could be free and study philosophy. Echecrates was a Pythagorean.

This has been published in the WISDOM BIBLE as a book. For ordering information, please click here.

by Plato

Translated by Sanderson Beck

Click below to see and hear the dialog PHAEDO by Plato.

1. Interval Between Trial and Execution
2. Witnesses of the Death of Socrates
3. Last Visit to Socrates
4. Socrates Composing Poems
5. Evenus to Follow Socrates
6. Suicide Not Divine Will
7. Why Flee Good Rulers on Earth?
8. Dying Go to Good Gods
9. Philosopher Seeks Release of Soul
10. Body a Hindrance to Wisdom
11. Problems of the Body
12. Philosophers Practice Dying
13. Philosophers Not Afraid of Death
14. Fears of Soul Vanishing
15. Generation of Opposites
16. Living Born from the Dead
17. Souls of Dead Come Back to Life
18. Learning Is Recalling
19. Equality Known Before Birth
20. Abstract Knowledge Recalled
21. Souls Know Before Birth
22. Thus Souls Exist Before Birth

23. Do Souls Exist After Death?
24. The Childlike Fear of Death
25. The Uncompounded Are Unchanging
26. Soul Like the Invisible
27. Soul Like the Unchanging
28. Soul Masters the Body
29. Soul Departs Body at Death
30. Impure Souls Wander the Earth
31. Reincarnate by Nature
32. Wise Care for Souls
33. Philosopher Avoids Pleasures
34. Philosopher Sees Truth
35. Socrates Not Worried by Doubts
36. Soul, Like Harmony, May Perish
37. Soul May Perish After Many Lives
38. Listeners Disheartened
39. Warning about Logic Hating
40. Truth in Argument
41. Harmony Comes After
42. Soul Has Harmony and Discord
43. Soul May Oppose Body
44. Argument of Cebes Reviewed

45. Socrates Studied Nature
46. Mind the Cause of Everything
47. Physical Things Not Cause
48. Decided to Use Reasoning
49. Ideas as Causes
50. Greatness and Smallness
51. Opposite Cannot Be Its Opposite
52. Things That Cannot Stand Their Opposite
53. Three Can Never Be Even
54. Soul Makes the Body Alive
55. The Soul Is Immortal
56. The Soul Is Indestructible
57. Souls at Death Follow Guides
58. Socrates Describes the Earth
59. The Other World
60. The Chasm of Tartarus
61. The Four Streams of Tartarus
62. The Dead Are Judged
63. Care for the Soul Important
64. Corpse of Socrates Not Him
65. Socrates Gets Ready for Execution
66. Socrates Drinks the Drug
67. The End of the Best

ECHECRATES. Were you, Phaedo, present with Socrates
on that day in which he drank the drug in prison,
or did you hear about it from someone else?

PHAEDO. Myself, Echecrates.

ECHECRATES. So what did he say before his death?
and how did he die?
For I would like to hear.
And none of the Phliasian citizens visit Athens at all now,
nor has any stranger come from there for a long time,
who could report anything definite to us about what occurred,
except that drinking the drug he died;
and nothing else has been told.

PHAEDO. Did you not even learn about the trial
and the way it went?

ECHECRATES. Yes, this someone reported to us,
and we were surprised because it occurring long before
it appeared he died much later.
So why was that, Phaedo?

PHAEDO. It was by a coincidence, Echecrates;
for it chanced on the day before the trial
the stern of the ship was crowned
which the Athenians send to Delos.

ECHECRATES. And what is this?

PHAEDO. This is the ship, as the Athenians say,
in which Theseus once sailed to Crete with those two sevens
and struggling he saved them and saved himself.
Thus they had vowed to Apollo, as it is said, at that time,
if they were saved, each year to send a mission to Delos;
so always even now out of that vow to the god
they still send it annually.
Thus when the mission begins,
it is a law for them during this time to purify the state
and no one may be publicly executed,
until the ship has gone to Delos and come back;
and sometimes it takes a long time,
when winds happen to delay them.
The beginning of the mission is
when the priest of Apollo crowns the stern of the ship;
but this chanced, as I say, on the day before the trial.
And because of this a long time passed
with Socrates in prison between the trial and his death.

ECHECRATES. What was his death like, Phaedo?
What was said and done,
and which of the man's companions were present?
Or did the authorities not allow them to be present,
and did he die without his friends?

PHAEDO. Not at all, but some were present, even many.

ECHECRATES. I am eager for you to relate all these things
to us as precisely as possible,
if you don't happen to be busy.

PHAEDO. But I am at leisure
and will attempt to narrate for you;
for truly to be reminded of Socrates
both speaking myself and hearing another
to me is always the greatest pleasure of all.

ECHECRATES. But Phaedo, you also
will have other such listeners;
but try to recount everything as accurately as possible.

PHAEDO. I really felt strange being with him.
For while being present at the death of my companion
I did not feel pity;
for the man appeared happy to me, Echecrates,
both in manner and words,
since he was dying fearlessly and nobly,
so that it came over me that he was not going to Hades
without there being divine providence,
and that arriving there he would do well,
if ever anyone would.

Because of this I felt no pity at all,
as might seem normal being present in mourning;
nor was the enjoyment because we were involved in philosophy,
as we usually are; and there were such arguments;
but an extremely strange and unusual feeling came over me
mixed from the combining together of pleasure and grief,
in pondering that he was about to die.

And all those present were nearly so affected,
sometimes laughing and sometimes weeping,
and one of us particularly, Apollodorus;
for you know the man and his manner.

ECHECRATES. Of course.

PHAEDO. Now he was completely upset,
as I was myself and the others.

ECHECRATES. But who happened to be present, Phaedo?

PHAEDO. From the area was present this Apollodorus
and Critobulus and his father,
and Hermogenes and Epigenes and Aeschines and Antisthenes;
and there was also Ctesippus the Paeanian
and Menexenus and some others from the area;
but Plato, I think, was ill.

ECHECRATES. But were any foreigners present?

PHAEDO. Yes, Simmias the Theban and Cebes and Phaedondes,
and from Megara Eucleides and Terpsion.

Were Aristippus and Cleombrotus there?

PHAEDO. No; for they were said to be in Aegina.

ECHECRATES. And was there anyone else?

PHAEDO. I think these were about all there were.

ECHECRATES. So what now?
What would you say were the arguments?

PHAEDO. I'll try to narrate everything to you
from the beginning.
For always on the previous days I and the others
were quite accustomed to being with Socrates,
meeting at dawn in the courtroom,
in which the trial also took place;
for it was near the prison.
So we waited around each time until the prison was opened,
conversing with each other; for it was not opened early;
and when it did open, we went in to Socrates
and spent most of the day with him.

And further on that day we met together earlier.
For the day before,
when we went out of the prison in the evening
we learned that the ship from Delos had arrived.
So we passed the word along
to come as early as possible in the morning.

And we came,
and the jailer who was accustomed to answering the door,
coming out told us to wait around
and not go in until he ordered it;
"For the eleven," he said, "are releasing Socrates
and passing the word how he is to die today."
And so after not much delay he came and ordered us to go in.

Then coming in we found Socrates just released
and Xanthippe---for you know her---
holding her son and sitting alongside.
Then as Xanthippe saw us,
she cried out and said such things, which women usually do,
"Oh Socrates, now is the last time
your companions will speak to you and you to them."

And Socrates looked at Crito, "Crito," he said,
"let someone take her home."
And some of Crito's people took her away crying and mourning;
but Socrates sitting up on the bed
bent his leg and rubbed it with his hand,
and while rubbing he said, "How odd, men,
seems to be this thing, which people call pleasure;
how wonderfully is it related
to what seems to be the opposite, pain,
in that they will not come to a person at the same time,
but if someone pursues the one and gets it,
he usually is forced to get the other also,
as though out of one head the two are joined.

"And it seems to me," he said,
"if Aesop had thought of it,
he would have composed a fable,
how God wishing to reconcile their warring,
when he could not, fastened their heads together,
and because of this when the one comes
later the other follows also.
Thus it seems just the same to me,
since the pain was in my leg from the chain,
pleasure appears to have come following it."

Then Cebes interrupted, "By Zeus, Socrates," he said,
"it's good you reminded me.
For concerning the poems which you composed,
putting the words of Aesop into verse and the hymn to Apollo,
and some others already asked me,
also Evenus the day before yesterday,
why ever did you think when you came here
to make poems when you never had before.
So if you care that I have an answer for Evenus,
when he asks me again, for I know well that he will ask,
tell me what I should say."

"Now tell him, Cebes," he said, "the truth,
that I do not wish to compete with him
nor his poetry in composing them;
for I knew that would not be easy;
but I was checking out what the meaning is of some dreams,
and making sure lest their frequent commands
were for me to make music.
For they were something like this:
often the same dream came to me throughout my life,
appearing in one form or another, but saying the same things,
'Socrates,' it said, 'make music and work at it.'

"And I on previous occasions interpreted it
as urging and encouraging me with what I was doing,
just as those cheering for runners,
and so the dream was encouraging me
with what I was doing, making music,
since philosophy is the greatest of the muses,
and I was practicing this;
but now since the trial occurred
and while the festival of the god delayed my execution,
it seemed to warn,
if often the dream commands me to make this popular music,
then I should not disobey it, but do it.
For it is safer not to depart before making sure
I was composing poetry, obeying the dream.

"So first I composed to the god,
whose festival was being celebrated;
and after the god, I thought that a poet should,
if he intends to be a poet, compose myths, but not arguments,
and since I was not a storyteller,
because of this I took stories which were handy,
and knowing Aesop's, I composed them,
which I chanced on first.

"So, Cebes, tell Evenus this, and to take care and,
if he is wise, to pursue me as quickly as possible.
But I depart, as it seems, today;
for the Athenians order it."

And Simmias said, "What a thing to urge Evenus, Socrates!
For I have met the man many times;
so from what I have seen of him
he will not hardly at all be willing to obey you."

"But why?" he said; "is not Evenus a philosopher?"

"He seems so to me," said Simmias.

"Then he will be willing, both Evenus
and all who are worthy of having a part in this business.
Yet perhaps he will not commit suicide;
for they say it is not divine will."
And as he was saying these things
he put his feet on the ground,
and sat thus during the rest of the conversation.

Then Cebes asked him, "Why do you say this, Socrates,
that it is not divine will to commit suicide,
but the philosopher is willing to follow the dying?"

"But what, Cebes? have you and Simmias
not heard about this associating with Philolaus?"

"Nothing distinctly, Socrates."

"But even I speak about this from hearsay;
so what I happen to have heard,
I have no objection to saying.
And indeed perhaps it is especially fitting
being about to depart to there
to examine and tell stories about the departure to there,
and what kind of place we think it is;
for what else could one do
in the time until the setting of the sun?"

"So why ever do they say
it is not divine will to kill oneself, Socrates?
For I already heard Philolaus also say what you now said,
when he was staying with us, and also from some others,
how one must not do this;
but I have never heard anything definite about this."

"But you must be ready," said he;
"for possibly you might also hear.
Perhaps however it will appear strange to you,
if this alone of all the others is absolute
and it never happens to mankind, as in other things,
when it is better to die than to live;
and to whom it is better to die,
perhaps it appears strange to you,
if for these people it is not holy for them
to do what is good for themselves,
but they must wait around for the good work of another."

And Cebes smiling gently said, "Zeus knows,"
talking in his own dialect.

"And indeed it seems," said Socrates,
"thus to be unreasonable;
nevertheless perhaps it has some meaning.
So what is said in secret about this matter,
that as humans we are in a kind of prison
and should not release ourselves out of this nor run away,
appears to me something great and not easy to understand;
nevertheless it seems to me, Cebes, to be well argued,
the gods are taking care of us
and we humans are possessions of the gods;
or does it not seem so to you?"

"Yes, to me," said Cebes.

"Then," said he, "and you
if one of your possessions should kill itself,
your not having indicated that you wished it to die,
would you be angry with it,
and if you could have it punished, would you punish it?"

"Certainly," said he.

"Then perhaps this is not unreasonable,
that one must not kill oneself,
until the god sends upon one some necessity,
just as even now it has come upon me."

"But this," said Cebes, "appears probable.
Yet what you just now said,
that philosophers easily are willing to die,
this seems, Socrates, absurd
if what you just now said is reasonable,
that God is taking care of us and we are its possessions.
For the wisest, not to be troubled departing from this care,
in which the gods who are the best of the overseers
watch over them, is not reasonable.
For this one does not think
one will be better taken care of having become free;
but an unaware person possibly might think this,
that it is better to flee from the master,
and one would not consider
that it is not necessary to flee from the good,
but rather to remain,
because one would flee unreasonably,
but the one with awareness would want always
to be with one better than oneself.
And yet, Socrates, this is probably contrary
to what was just now said;
for then it is fitting
for the wise to be troubled by dying, and the unwise glad."

So having heard,
Socrates seemed to me to be pleased at Cebes' efforts,
and looking at us he said,
"Always Cebes is searching for some arguments,
and he is not immediately willing to be persuaded
by whatever anyone says."

And Simmias said, "But Socrates, now it seems to me
there is something in what Cebes is saying;
for why should men wishing to be truly wise
flee better masters and easily release themselves from them?
and it seems to me Cebes is directing the argument at you,
because you are so easily ready to leave
both us and the gods, who are good rulers,
as you yourself agree."

"You have a right to say it," he said.
"For I think you mean that I should defend this,
as though in court."

"Certainly," said Simmias.

"Then," he said, "I shall try to defend myself
more persuasively to you than I did to the judges.
For if I, Simmias and Cebes," he said, "did not think
I will go first to other wise and good gods,
and secondly to people who have died, better than those here,
I should be wrong in not being troubled by death;
but now know well that I hope to come to good men;
and this I certainly would not insist upon;
yet the coming to the gods who are certainly good masters,
know well that, more than any other of these things,
I would affirm this.
So because of this similarly I am not troubled,
but I am in good hope
that something exists for those who have died and,
as has been said long ago,
it is much better for the good than for the evil."

"What then, Socrates?" said Simmias.

"Having yourself this understanding in mind
do you have to depart, or would you share it with us?
For it seems to me this good belongs in common to us also,
and it is a defense for you at the same time,
if you persuade us by what you say."

"But I shall try," he said.
"And first we shall consider Crito,
what it is he has been wishing to say,
it seems to me, for a long time."

"Only, Socrates," said Crito, "that for a long time
the one who is to give you the drug has been saying to me
that I should tell you to converse as little as possible,
for he says conversing especially heats one up,
and one must not interfere in this way with the drug
or else it is sometimes necessary for those who do this
to drink it a second or third time."

And Socrates said, "Forget it;
just let him be prepared to give it twice
or if it is necessary three times."

"But I knew almost what you would say," said Crito;
"but he has been giving me the business for some time."

"Forget it," he said.
"But now I wish to explain to you judges
the reason why it appears to me
a man who has in reality spent his life in philosophy
will naturally be confident when about to die
and has good hopes of obtaining great good there,
when one has died;
thus how this would be so, Simmias and Cebes,
is what I shall try to indicate.

"For those who happen to grasp philosophy correctly
risk being unrecognized by others,
because it is nothing else
but practicing how to die and be dead.
So if this is true,
it surely would be absurd
to want during all of life nothing but this,
and when it comes, to be troubled by it,
which for a long time they were wanting and practicing."

And Simmias laughed; "By Zeus, Socrates," he said,
"now I am certainly not in a laughing mood,
but you made me laugh.
For I think if the many heard this
it would seem well said about philosophers
and it would appear so to our people also,
that in reality philosophers are for death
and they are not unrecognized,
because they deserve to suffer this."

"And they would be saying the truth, Simmias,
except that they are unrecognized.
For they do not recognize in what way the truest philosophers
are for death and deserve death and what kind of death.
For let us talk," he said, "among ourselves,
forgetting about them.
Do we think death is something?"

"Certainly," replied Simmias.

"Then is it not the release of the soul from the body?
And this is death,
the body being released apart from the soul by itself,
and the soul apart is released from the body by itself?
Then is death anything else but this?"

"No, but it is this," he said.
"Now see, good sir, then if it seems to you as it does to me.
For out of this especially I think
we move into what we are considering.
Does it appear to you the philosophical man
is concerned about the so-called pleasures,
such as eating and drinking?"

"Least of all, Socrates," said Simmias.

"But what? the pleasures of love?"

"By no means."

"But what? Does it seem to you such a person
thinks highly of other cares of the body?
such possessions as special clothes
and sandals and other adornments of the body,
does it seem to you one overrates them or underrates them,
according to how necessary it is to partake of them?"

"One seems to me to underrate them," he said,
"the one who is truly a philosopher."

"Then altogether it seems to you," he said,
"such a person is not concerned
with the business of the body,
but as far as possible would withdraw from the body
and turn toward the soul?"

"Yes, to me."

"So then first in such things it is clear
the philosopher especially releases the soul
from the communion of the body,
differing from other people?"

"It appears so."

"And surely it seems, Simmias, to many people,
that such a one who takes no pleasure in these
does not deserve to live,
but one is tending near to dying
who is not thinking of the pleasures of the body."

"What you say is very true."

"And what about the acquiring of wisdom itself?
Is the body a hindrance or not,
if it would go along itself in the common search?
What I mean is this:
then do sight and hearing have any truth,
or are such things as the poets are always repeating to us,
that we neither hear nor see anything accurately?
And yet if these senses of the body
are not accurate nor precise,
the others are idle; for all of these are inferior;
does it not seem so to you?"

"Certainly," he said.

"Then when does the soul attain the truth?
For when it attempts to look at something with the body,
it is clear that at that time it is deceived by it."

"You say the truth."

"So then in reasoning, if in no other way,
something of the realities becomes evident?"


"But it reasons best at that time
when none of these things trouble it,
neither hearing nor sight nor pain nor any pleasure,
but especially when it of itself says goodby to the body
and as far as it can does not commune nor connect with it
to reach out to reality."

"That is so."

"Thus in this also the soul of the philosopher
especially underrates the body and flees from it,
and seeks to become it of itself?"

"It appears so."

"And now what about such things, Simmias?
Do we say there is such a thing as justice or not?"

"Yet we say so, by Zeus."

"And beauty and goodness?"

"Of course."

"Then have you ever seen
any of these things with your eyes?"

"By no means."

"But did you reach them with any of the bodily senses?
And I am talking about all of them,
such as greatness, health, strength,
and in a word all of the other realities,
what each one happens to be;
so is their truest essence contemplated by the body,
or does one have the way who especially prepares oneself
to understand most accurately
each thing which one considers,
thus coming nearest to knowing each?"


"So then would he do this most purely,
who comes especially with the intuition itself to each,
not comparing sight in the intuition
nor dragging in any of the other senses with the reasoning,
but it of itself using unmixed the intuition attempting
to contemplate each unmixed it of itself of the realities,
being removed especially from the eyes and ears
and so to speak all of the body,
as confusing and not allowing the soul
to attain truth and wisdom, when joined;
then is this one not, Simmias, if anyone is,
the one ready for reality?"

"Extraordinary," said Simmias,
"is the truth you say, Socrates."

"Then," he said, "out of all this
it seems that the noble philosophers must come to such terms
so that even to talk to each other about such things,
that just as likely there is some path to carry us out,
with the argument which is being considered,
that, as long as we have a body
and our soul is caught up with such evil,
we shall never attain sufficiently what we want;
and we say this is the truth.

"For the body constantly keeps us busy
by the need for food;
and if diseases fall upon it,
they hinder our search of reality.
And it fills us with many of the passions and desires
and fears and fantasies of all kinds and nonsense
so that it is said in truthful reality
because of it being inborn in us one can never think at all.

"For wars and factions and battles
are caused by nothing other than the body and its desires.
For all wars occur because of the gaining of money,
and we need to gain money because of the body,
slaving in its service;
and out of this we bring no leisure to philosophy
because of all these things.

"And worst of all is that
even if some leisure away from it comes to us
and we turn to considering something,
in this seeking it causes trouble to get in the way
and disturbance and distraction,
so that because of it one is unable to observe the truth,
but in reality it has been shown to us
that if we are ever to know anything clearly,
one must be released from it
and observe these same actualities with the soul itself;
and at that time for us there will likely be
what we want and say we are lovers of, wisdom,
when we are dead, as the argument indicates, but not in life.

"For if with the body one cannot have clear knowledge,
there are two alternatives,
either knowledge is not to be attained at all or having died;
for at that time the soul will be it of itself
apart from the body, but not before.

"And if we live in it thus
then it is likely we shall be nearest to knowledge,
especially if we are not in company nor joined with the body,
which is not necessarily all the time,
and are not filled by its nature,
but keep ourselves clear of it,
until God itself releases us;
and thus the clear ones released from the folly of the body,
in all probability, we shall be with these
and shall know by ourselves all that is unmixed;
and this perhaps is the truth.

"For the one not pure is not promised purity,
it not being divine will.
I think such things, Simmias,
are necessary to say to each other
and it seems to all who correctly love learning.
Or does it not seem so to you?"

"Most certainly, Socrates."

"Then," said Socrates, "if this is true, my friend,
there is much hope in arriving where I am going,
that there, if anywhere, this will be fully attained
for the sake of which much of the business
in the passing of our life has occurred,
so that the journey now is imposed on me with good hope
and for other men,
who think the intuition is prepared as purified."

"Certainly," said Simmias.

"And is this purification then not corresponding,
as was said long ago in the argument,
to the separating especially of the soul from the body
and the habit of bringing together and collecting
it of itself everywhere out of the body,
and to dwell as far as possible in the now present
and in it alone by itself,
released out of the body as though out of chains?"

"Certainly," he said.

"Then is this not named death,
the soul released and apart from the body?"


"But to release it, as we say,
the correct philosophers alone are also always most eager,
and is the exercise of the philosopher this same thing,
release and separation of the soul from the body, or not?"

"It appears so."

"Then, as I said in the beginning,
it would be ridiculous if a man prepared himself in a life
which is living as near as possible to dying,
and when it came to him to be troubled by this.
Is it not ridiculous?"

"Of course."

"In reality then, Simmias," he said,
the correct philosophers practice how to die,
and death is less feared by them of all people.

"And consider it this way.
For if they were in every way suspicious of the body,
and want to have the soul by itself,
and if they were afraid and troubled by this occurring,
would it not be quite unreasonable,
if they should not be glad to go there,
where those arriving are hopeful
of what they were wanting to happen throughout life;
and they were wanting wisdom;
and of being released
from their associating with this which they suspected?

"When human favorites and wives and sons have died
many have come willingly to Hades,
led by this hope of seeing there
those with whom they want to be associated;
so then someone who in reality wants wisdom
and taking seriously this same hope,
that nowhere else will one meet the same thing
that is worthy of the word than in Hades,
will one be troubled dying and not be glad one is there?
One should not think so,
if in reality one is, my friend, a philosopher;
for this will seem serious to this one,
that nowhere else will one meet pure wisdom than there.
And if this is so, as I just said,
would it not be quite unreasonable,
if such a one should fear death?"

"Very much so, by Zeus."

"Then is this not a sufficient indication," he said,
"if you see a man who is troubled when about to die,
that he was not a lover of wisdom but a lover of the body?
And the same thus is likely to be
both a lover of money and a lover of honor,
one or the other of these or both."

"Certainly," he said, "it is so, as you say."

"So then, Simmias," he said,
"and is not what is named courage
especially fitting to those so disposed?"

"Certainly," he said.

"And then the prudent, which also many name prudence,
concerned with not being excited by desires,
but caring little and being orderly,
then is it not for those alone especially fitting that
they care little about the body and live in philosophy?"

"Necessarily," he said.

"For if you intend to consider the courage
and prudence of others,
it will seem to you to be absurd."

"How come, Socrates?"

"Do you know that all others
think death is a great evil?"

"Quite so," he said.

"Then do not the courageous face death
in fear of greater evils, when they do face it?"

"This is so."

"Then by fearing and need are all courageous
except the philosophers.
Yet it is unreasonable for someone to be courageous
through need and fear."


"And what about the orderly ones?
Do these not suffer the same thing?
Are they not prudent by a kind of indulgence?
Yet we say it is impossible,
but similarly their experience occurs
like this simplistic prudence;
for afraid of being deprived of other pleasures
and wanting them,
they abstain from some, being controlled by others.
And yet they call indulgence being ruled by pleasures.
But similarly they control some pleasures
while being controlled by other pleasures.
And this is like what I just said,
in this kind of way they are prudent because of indulgence."

"So it seems."

"Blessed Simmias, for this would not be correct
to purchase virtue, exchanging pleasure for pleasure
and pain for pain and fear for fear
and greater for less, as though by coinage,
but that alone is the right coin,
by which all those must be exchanged against, wisdom,
and by it and with it all may be coined and bought in reality
and courage and prudence and justice
and in short true virtue with wisdom,
both adding and taking away both pleasures and fears
and all other such things;
but separating wisdom and exchanging against each other
such a virtue would be some kind of sketch
and in reality servile
and there is nothing healthy nor true in it,
but truth in reality
would be a purification of all such things,
and prudence and justice and courage and wisdom itself
are some kind of cleansing.

"And probably those who established
the initiations for us were not trivial,
but in reality long ago hinted that
whoever arrives in Hades uninitiated and unaccomplished,
will lie in the mud,
but the cleansed and perfected arriving there
will dwell with the gods.
For there are, as they say in the mysteries,
many thyrsus-bearers but few mystics.
And these are according to my opinion
no other than those who have been correct philosophers.

"And as far as I could I left nothing undone in my life,
but in every way I sought to become one;
and if I sought correctly and achieved something,
going there I shall know clearly, if God wills it,
a little later, as it seems to me.

"So this, Simmias and Cebes," he said, "is my defense,
how naturally I do not bear it hard nor am I troubled
leaving you and the masters here,
and believing that there no less than here
I shall meet good masters and friends;
so if I am more convincing to you in the defense
than I was to the Athenian judges, it would be well."

Socrates having said these things,
Cebes replying said, "Socrates, it seems to me
the other things were well said,
but the things about the soul cause much unbelief in people,
since when it is released from the body,
it may no longer be anywhere,
but on that day the person dies it is destroyed and lost;
immediately running away from the body and going out
it is scattered like breath or smoke to depart vanishing
and it would no longer be anywhere.
Since, if it were gathered together anywhere by itself
and released from these evils which you now described,
there would be much hope and beauty, Socrates,
that it is true what you say;
but perhaps this requires not a little reassurance and faith,
how the soul of a dead person has any ability and wisdom."

"You say the truth, Cebes," said Socrates;
"but what shall we do?
Do you wish to communicate with words about these things
whether this is probably so or not?"

"I do," said Cebes; "I would like to hear
what opinions you have about these things."

"Then I don't think," said Socrates,
"if anyone heard us now,
not even if one were a comic poet,
would one say that I am chattering
and making arguments about things not relevant.
So if you like, it should be examined thoroughly.

"And let us consider it in this way,
whether the souls of people who died are in Hades or not.
Thus there is an ancient argument, which we remember,
that those arriving there are from here,
and again they come back and are born from the dead;
and if this is so,
the living being born again from the dying,
certainly our souls would be there;
for they would not be born again if they did not exist,
and this would be a sufficient indication of this,
if in reality it should become clear
that the living are born nowhere else than from the dead;
but if this is not so, another argument would be needed."

"Certainly," said Cebes.

"Now if you wish to learn easily
consider this not only in regard to people
but also in regard to all animals and plants,
and in short to whatever has birth,
let us see about all, just as all things are generated,
whether opposites are generated out of their opposites,
when there happens to be such,
beauty opposite to the ugly and justice to injustice,
and countless others having them.
Then let us consider whether it is necessary
for whatever has an opposite
to be generated from anything else but itself
or out of its opposite.
As when anything becomes greater,
by necessity was it out of the smaller
that it became greater?"


"So then if it becomes smaller,
was it out of the greater that later it became smaller?"

"It is so," he said.

"And out of the stronger the weaker
and out of the slower the faster?"


"But what?
Does not something worse come out of the better,
and the just out of the unjust?"

"Of course."

"Then," he said, "have we taken this far enough
that everything is generated so,
the opposite circumstances out of the opposites?"


"But what then? Is there also such in themselves
between all these pairs of opposites two kinds of generation,
from one over to the other,
and from the other back over to the first?
Between a larger thing and a smaller
is augmentation and decline,
and do we call one increase and the other decrease?"

"Yes," he said.

"Then also dividing and combining
and cooling and heating, and all similarly,
even if now and then we do not use names,
but in action any way everywhere is it necessarily so
that the same things born are generated
both out of each other and out of each into the other?"


"What then?" he said. "Is there an opposite to life,
just as sleeping is to waking?"

"Certainly," he said.


"Death," he said.

"Then are these generated out of each other,
if really opposites exist,
and are not their two origins between the two of them?"

"Of course."

"Now I shall tell you about one of the pairs
of which I just now told you," said Socrates,
"both it and the origins;
and you tell me about the other.
And I mean sleeping and waking,
and out of sleeping is generated waking
and out of waking is generated sleeping,
and their origins are falling asleep and waking up.
Is it far enough for you," he said, "or not?"


"Now you also tell me," he said,
"this about life and death.
Do you not say that living is opposite to being dead?"

"I do."

"And are they generated out of each other?"


"Then what is generated out of the living?"

"The dead," he said.

"And what out of the dead?"

"It is necessary," he said,
"to agree that it is the living."

"Out of the dead then, Cebes,
living things and living beings are born?"

"It appears so," he said.

"Then our souls," he said, "exist in Hades."

"It seems likely."

"Then also concerning these origins
does one happen to be definite?
for surely dying is definite, is it not?"

"Certainly," he said.

"So what shall we do?
Shall we deny the opposite of birth,
and in this will nature be lame?
Or is it necessary to restore to dying an opposite origin?"

"Certainly," he said.

"What is it?"

"Coming back to life."

"Then if it really is coming back to life,
would birth into the living out of the dead
be coming back to life?"


"Then for us to agree also in this
that the living are born out of the dead
no less than the dead out of the living;
and this being the case it seems to me to be proof
that it is necessary for the souls to be somewhere,
from where they are born again."

"It seems to me, Socrates," he said,
"this is necessarily so from the agreements."

"And so now, Cebes," he said,
"we were not wrong in agreeing, as it seems to me.
For if generating did not always give back some to the others
going around like in a circle,
but the origin out of one alone
would go straight into the direct opposite
and not bending back again to the other nor making a circle,
then do you think all things would end up the same form
and would have also the same experience
if the experiences also would stop generating?"

"What do you mean?" he said.

"It is not hard to understand what I mean;
for example if falling asleep existed,
and waking up did not give back
being generated out of falling asleep,
you know that all things would end up
showing Endymion silly and nowhere
it would appear because everything also
would be experiencing the same state, sleeping.
Or if all things were combined, and not divided,
quickly it would become Anaxagoras' 'all things together.'
And the same way, dear Cebes,
if everything would die, which should receive life,
when they should die,
the dead remaining in this form and not coming back to life,
then is it not very necessary to end up
with everything dying and nothing living?
For if out of the others the living should be born,
and the living should die,
is there any device by which
all would not be used up in dying?"

"None it seems to me, Socrates," said Cebes,
"but you seem to me to speak the absolute truth."

"For it is, Cebes," he said, "as it seems to me,
absolutely so, and we are not deceived in these agreements,
but it is in reality that the living
both come back to life and are born out of the dead
and that the souls of the dead exist."

"And besides," said Cebes replying,
"according to that argument, Socrates, if it is true,
which you often like to say,
that for us learning is nothing else than
being happening to recall,
and according to this it is necessary for us
in some previous time to have learned what now we remember.
But this is impossible, if our soul did not exist somewhere
before being born in the human form;
so also in this the soul is likely to be immortal."

"But Cebes," said Simmias replying,
"what were the demonstrations of this?
Remind me; for I'm not sure I recall at present."

"In a word," said Cebes, "a most beautiful one
is that people being questioned, if one asks well,
they say everything themselves which is needed;
and yet if knowledge and correct reason
did not happen within them,
they could not do this.
Secondly if one leads them to a diagram
or any other such thing,
from there it is proved most clearly, that this is so."

"And if you are not persuaded by this, Simmias,"
said Socrates, "see if it seems so to you
looking at it in this way.
For do you not disbelieve
that what is called learning is recalling?"

"Disbelieve you I do not," said Simmias,
"but this same thing I need to learn
is what the argument is about, recalling.
And almost from what Cebes endeavored to say
already I am recalling and being persuaded;
nevertheless I should like to hear now,
what you were endeavoring to say."

"I would say this.
For surely we agree, if anyone recalls anything,
he must know it at some previous time."

"Certainly," he said.

"Then also do we agree on this,
that when knowledge comes in such a way, is it recalling?
But I mean some way like this:
if someone having seen or heard
or in some other way perceived something received
knows not that alone, but also another awareness,
the knowledge of which is not the same, but something else,
then are we not correct in saying
that he recalls that which the awareness received?"

"What do you mean?"

"For example, different is knowledge
of a person and of a lyre."

"Of course."

"Then do you know that lovers
when they see a lyre or garment or something else
which their favorites like to use,
they experience this:
aware of the lyre
and in the intuition receiving the form of the favorite,
whose lyre it was?
And this is recalling;
just as someone seeing Simmias may often recall Cebes,
and there would be countless other such examples."

"Yes, countless by Zeus," said Simmias.

"Then is this kind of thing recalling?
especially when this is experienced about those things,
which through time are not examined and already forgotten?"

"Certainly," he said.

"But what? Does one seeing a drawing of a horse
and a drawing of a lyre recall a person,
and seeing a drawing of Simmias recall Cebes?"


"Then also seeing a drawing of Simmias
does he recall Simmias himself?"

"Of course," he said.

"Then according to all these things
does it not result that recalling is from similar things,
and it is from dissimilar things?"

"It does result."

"But when one remembers something from similar things,
then is it not necessarily a special feeling,
to understand whether this left a perfect similarity
of what is recalled or not that?"

"Necessarily," he said.

"Now consider if this is so.
We say there is such a thing as equality.
I do not mean a stick to a stick
nor a stone to a stone nor any other such things,
but beyond these something completely different,
equality itself;
Shall we say it exists or not?"

"Yet we shall say so by Zeus,"
said Simmias, "emphatically."

"And do we know what it is?"


"From where did we receive knowledge of it?
Was it not from what we just said?
Was it not from seeing equal sticks
or stones or other things,
from these we understood that which is different from these?
Or does it not appear different to you?
And consider this.
Then do not the same stones and sticks
sometimes appear equal in one way but not in another?"


"But what?
Did the equals themselves ever appear to you unequal,
or equality inequality?"

"Never, Socrates."

"Then these equals and equality itself are not the same."

"It does not appear so to me at all, Socrates."

"But from these equals," he said,
"which are different from that equality,
did you nevertheless understand and receive knowledge of it?"

"Most true," he said.

"Then it is either similar to them or dissimilar?"


"But it makes no difference;
whenever seeing one thing
from this vision you understand another,
whether similar or dissimilar,
it would necessarily be," he said, "recalling it."


"But what? Do we experience this concerning the sticks
and things which we just now said were equal?
Then does it appear to us they are equal
as that which is equality itself,
do they lack something from being like equality or not?"

"And they are lacking much," he said.

"Then do we agree,
that when anyone seeing anything thinks,
'This which I now see, wishes to be like something else,
and it is unable to be like that, but is inferior,'
must one necessarily think
that comes from previous knowledge
which one says it resembles but has a deficiency?"


"Then what? And did we experience this or not,
in regard to the equals and equality itself?"


"Then it is necessary for us to foreknow equality
before that time when first seeing equal things
we thought that all these things are reaching
to be like equality but have a deficiency."

"That is so."

"But we agree also that not from another is it understood
nor is it possible to be understood,
but either from seeing or touching or from some other sense;
and I mean they are all the same."

"For that is so, Socrates,
to whoever wishes to clarify the argument."

"But from the senses one must understand
that all sense objects reach for that which is equality
and are deficient of it.
Is this what we say?"


"Then before we began to see and hear
and use the other senses
we must somewhere have received knowledge
of that which is equality itself,
if we compared it with the equals
we understood from the senses,
that all things want to be like that,
but are inferior to it."

"It is necessary from what was said before, Socrates."

"Then being born immediately did we see
and hear and have the other senses?"


"But do we say before having these
it was necessary to receive knowledge of equality?"


"Then before being born, since it seems likely,
it was necessary for us to receive this."

"It seems likely."

"Then if having received it before being born
we were born having it,
did we know both before being born and upon being born
not only equality and the greater and lesser
but also all such abstractions?
For our current argument is no more about equality
than about beauty itself and goodness itself
and justice and holiness, and, as I say,
about everything which we recognize as that which is,
both in the questioning inquiry and in choosing answers.
So it is necessary for us
to have received knowledge before being born."

"That is so."

"And if having received it we did not forget it each time,
one always is born knowing and knows throughout life;
for knowing is this,
having received knowledge and not losing it;
do we not say this forgetting, Simmias,
is throwing away knowledge?"

"Certainly, Socrates," he said.

"But I think, if having received it before being born
we should lose it when born,
but later by using the senses concerning those things
we regain that knowledge, which we also had before then,
then would not what we call learning
not be regaining the relative knowledge?"


"For this appears possible, perceiving something
either seeing or hearing or receiving it by some other sense
to understand from this something different,
which had been forgotten,
with which this was associated whether dissimilar or similar;
so that, as I say, there are two alternatives,
either we are born knowing these things
and know them through all of life,
or later, what we say is learning,
is nothing but remembering these things,
and learning would be recalling."

"And that is quite so, Socrates."

"Then which do you choose, Simmias, were we born knowing,
or do we remember later the knowledge we received before?"

"I have no choice at present, Socrates."

"But what about this?
You can choose, and in any way it seems to you about it:
could a knowing man give an account
about what he knows or not?"

"It is quite necessary, Socrates," he said.

"And does it seem to you everyone can give an account
about these things which we were just now discussing?"

"I would wish it," said Simmias;
but I am rather afraid that tomorrow at this time
there will no longer be any person who could do so properly."

"Then does it not seem to you, Simmias,
that everyone knows these things?"

"By no means."

"Then they remember whatever they learned?"


"When did our souls receive knowledge of them?
For it was not after being born as humans."

"Definitely not."

"Then previously."


"Then, Simmias, souls existed previously,
before they were born in human form,
without bodies, and they had wisdom."

"Unless we receive this knowledge when born, Socrates;
for this time still remains."

"Well, my friend;
but at what other time do we lose them?
For we are not born having them, as we just agreed;
do we lose them at this time in which we also receive them?
Or do you have some other time to suggest?"

"Not at all, Socrates,
but I fooled myself saying nothing."

"Then is this how it is for us, Simmias?
If there exists what we are always repeating,
beauty and goodness and every such essence,
and we refer all things from the senses to this,
our being already existing before discovering them,
and we compare these with that,
necessarily, this just as these also exists,
and thus our soul also exists before we were born;
and if these do not exist,
would the argument thus be saying otherwise?
Then is it so, and is it equally necessary these things exist
and our souls also did before we were born,
and if these do not, neither do they?"

"Marvelously, Socrates," said Simmias,
"it seems to me to be the same necessity,
and beautifully the argument has recourse
to our soul existing before we were born
just as the essence does also, which you mention.
For nothing is so plain to me as this,
that all such things most definitely exist,
beauty and goodness and all the others
which you just now mentioned;
and it seems to me it is sufficiently proven."

"But what about Cebes?" said Socrates;
"for Cebes must also be persuaded."

"He is sufficiently," said Simmias, "as I think;
and yet he is the staunchest human in disbelieving arguments;
but I think this has not failed to persuade him,
that before we were born our soul existed.

23. Do Souls Exist After Death?

This has been published in the WISDOM BIBLE as a book. For ordering information, please click here.

Introduction to Socrates and Plato
CRITO by Plato


"Know Yourself"
The Sophists
Prudence and Courage
The Lover
The Banquet
The Good
The Trial
Prison and Death

BECK index