BECK index

by Plato

Translated by Sanderson Beck

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

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

"However whether also when we die it still exists,
it does not seem proven to him nor to me, Socrates,
but still the concern of the many remains,
which Cebes just now mentioned,
how the soul of the dying person is dispersed
and this is the end of its existence.
For what prevents it
from being born and brought together from somewhere else
and existing before coming into a human body,
but when it has come and left this,
from at that time both ending itself and being destroyed?"

"You speak well, Simmias," said Cebes.
"For it appears as though half of what is needed is proven,
that before we are born our soul existed;
but it is necessary to prove besides
that also when we die it will exist
no less than before being born,
if the proof is to be complete."

"It has been proven, Simmias and Cebes," said Socrates,
"even now, if you are willing to combine this argument
with the one which we agreed upon before,
that everything living is born out of the dead.
For if the soul exists also previously,
and necessarily when it comes into life and is born
it is born from nothing else than the dead and the dying,
then is it not necessary also for the dying to exist,
since it must be born again?
Thus is proved even now what you mention.

"And yet you and Simmias seem to me glad
to examine this argument even more thoroughly,
and you are afraid like children
that truly when it steps out of the body
the wind may blow and disperse it,
especially if one chances to die
not in calm weather but in a great storm."

And Cebes laughing said, "As though afraid, Socrates,
try to persuade us;
but rather not as though we are afraid,
but perhaps there is a child within us who fears such things;
therefore let us try to persuade him
not to be afraid of death as if it were a hobgoblin."

"But," said Socrates, "you should chant to him every day,
until you charm it away."

"Then where, Socrates," he said, "shall we find
such a good chanter, since you are leaving us?"

"Greece is large, Cebes," he said,
"in which there are many good men,
and there are many also from foreign peoples,
all of whom you should search through seeking such a chanter,
sparing neither money nor labor,
since there is nothing more necessary
on which you could spend your money.
But you should also seek yourselves with each other;
for perhaps you would not easily find
any better able to do this than you."

"But that will be done," said Cebes;
"but let us return to where we left off,
if it is pleasing to you."

"Truly pleasing, of course it is."

"You speak beautifully," he said.

"Then must we ask ourselves," said Socrates,
"something such as what kind of thing then is liable
to suffer this experience, the dispersing,
and for what kind of thing is this experience to be feared,
and for what kind of thing is it not;
and after this next to consider which the soul is,
and out of these to be encouraged,
or to be afraid on behalf of our soul?"

"You say the truth," he said.

"So then is not that which is combined and compounded
naturally liable to suffer this,
being divided in the same way as it is compounded;
and if something chances which is uncompounded,
in this alone is it liable not to suffer these things,
if really it is different?"

"It seems to be so to me," said Cebes.

"Then what is always constant and the same way,
these things very probably are uncompounded,
and what is changing and never constant,
are these compounded?"

"It seems so to me."

"Let us turn," he said,
"to what was said in the earlier argument.
Is the essence itself to which we give the meaning being
both in questioning and answering,
the same way always constant or changing?
Equality itself, beauty itself, each entity which is, really,
do they ever show any change whatsoever?
Or is each one of these which is,
being uniform it of itself, constant the same way
and does it never show any change at all to anything else?"

"The same way it is necessary," said Cebes,
"for it to be constant, Socrates."

"But what of the many,
such as people or horses or clothes or any other such things,
or equality or beauty or all which are named in that way?
Then are they constant, or in complete opposition to those
neither the same as they nor ever like each other,
so to speak, in no way constant?"

"The latter," said Cebes, "they are never the same way."

"Then these you can touch and see
and perceive with other senses,
but those that are constant are never reached
by anything except by the reasoning of the intuition,
but are these invisible and not seen?"

"You say the absolute truth," he said.

"Then do you wish us to assume two forms of reality,
the visible and the invisible?"

"Let us assume so," he said.

"And is the invisible always constant,
and the visible never constant?"

"Let us assume this also," he said.

"Well, is there anything else of ours but body and soul?"
"Nothing else," he said.

"Then to which do we say
the body is more similar and related?"

"This is clear to everyone," he said,
"that it is to the visible."

"And what of the soul? Is it visible or invisible?"

"Not by humans, Socrates," he said.

"But we say things are visible
and invisible to human nature;
or are you thinking of some other?"

"To humans."

"Then what do we say about the soul?
Is it seen or unseen?"

"Not seen."

"Then is it invisible?"


"Then the soul is more similar to the invisible
than the body, but it to the seen."

"Necessarily, Socrates."

"And then what we have been saying for a long time,
that the soul, when it makes use of the body
to look at something either through sight
or through hearing or through any other sense---
for this is through the body,
to look at something through the senses---
at that time is it dragged by the body
into what never is constant,
and it wanders and is confused and dizzy like one drunk
when touching such things?"


"But when it looks by itself,
it departs there into the pure and eternal
which is also immortal and in the same way,
and as related to its essence it is always with that,
whenever it is by itself and is permitted itself,
and it has stopped its wandering
and concerning that is always constant in the same way,
since it is communing with such;
and has this experience of the soul been called wisdom?"

"Absolutely," he said,
"and you say the truth beautifully, Socrates."

"Then again to which does it seem to you,
in view of what was said both from before and now,
the soul is more similar and related?"

"It seems to me everyone would concede, Socrates,
from this method, even the dullest,
that the soul is wholly and completely more similar
to what is always the same way rather than to what is not."

"And the body?"

"To the other."

"Now see it also this way,
that, when soul and body are in the same thing,
nature directs one to serve and be ruled,
and the other to rule and be master;
and according to this again which seems to you
to be more similar to the divine and which to the mortal?
Or does it not seem to you it is natural
for the divine to rule and lead,
and for the mortal to be ruled and serve?"

"To me it does."

"Which then is the soul like?"

"It is clear, Socrates, that the soul is like the divine,
and the body like the mortal."

"Now consider, Cebes," he said,
"if from all that was said by us
it results that the soul is most similar to the divine
and immortal and intelligent and uniform and indissoluble
and always the same way being constant in itself,
and in turn the body is most like the human
and mortal and multiform and unintelligent and dissoluble
and never being constant in itself.
Do we have anything else to say on this, dear Cebes,
which has it not thus?"

"We have not."

"What then? Having it thus then
is it not fitting for the body to be quickly dissolved,
and for the soul to be entirely indissoluble or nearly so?"

"Of course."

"Then be aware," he said, "that when a person dies,
the seen part of him, the body, also lying in the seen,
which we call a corpse,
which is fit to be dissolved and fall away,
does not experience this immediately,
but remains for a considerably long time,
if someone has died both having the body in good condition
and especially also in a favorable season.
For the body shrunk and embalmed,
as the ones in Egypt are embalmed,
it remains almost whole for an incalculable time.
And some parts of the body, even if it decays,
bones and tendons and all such things still are,
so to speak, immortal; is it not so?"


"But the soul then, the invisible,
departing to another such place,
noble and pure and invisible,
into Hades in truth, to the good and wise god,
where, if God wills, soon also may my soul go,
but is this which for us has such a nature
being released from the body
immediately dispersed and destroyed, as many people say?
Far from it, dear Cebes and Simmias,
but it is much more like this:
if it departs pure, dragging nothing of the body with it,
since it did not join it in life willingly,
but avoided it and gathered itself into itself,
since it always practiced this---
but this is nothing else than correctly loving wisdom
and in reality practicing dying;
or would this not be practicing death?"


"Then being so does it go away
into what is similar to itself,
the invisible, divine and immortal and wise,
where arriving it is ready for itself to be happy,
released from wandering and folly and fear
and cruel passion and all other human evils,
and as it is said by the initiates,
in truth spends the rest of time with the gods?
Do we say this, Cebes, or not?"

"This by Zeus," said Cebes.

"But if, I think,
it departs polluted and impure from the body,
because it always associated with the body
and cared for this and loved it
and was fascinated by it and its desires and pleasures,
so that nothing else seemed to be true except bodily things,
which one can touch and see
and drink and eat and use for sexual love,
but what is dark and invisible to the sight
and intelligible and chosen by philosophy,
and being accustomed to hate this and tremble and avoid it,
do you think that a soul in this condition
will depart it of itself unmixed?"

"Not in the least," he said.

"But also is it interpenetrated,
I think, by bodily things,
which intercourse and association with its body
through always associating and much practice makes inborn?"


"And, my friend, one should think this is weighty
and heavy and earthy and visible;
and having this such a soul is weighed down
and dragged again into the visible realm,
by fear of the invisible and Hades, as it is said,
roaming about monuments and graveyards,
about which also shadowy forms of souls have been seen,
phantoms which cause such souls to be visible,
which are not released purely,
but take part in the visible, and therefore are seen."

"It is probable, Socrates."

"Yet, Cebes, it is probable also that
these are not the souls of the good, but of the inferior,
which are compelled to wander about such places
to pay justice for former evil ways of being;
and they wander even as far as this
until being followed closely by the bodily form
by desire they are bound into the body.

"And they are bound, as is probable, into such a character
as they happened to have been interested in during life."

"What characters do you mean, Socrates?"

"Those such as gluttons and the insolent
and those interested in drinking
and not being wary, they are likely to be bound
into a breed of asses and such beasts.
Don't you think?"

"What you say certainly is probable."

"And those who have chosen
injustice and tyranny and robbery
go into a breed of wolves and hawks and kites;
or where else would we say such go?"

"Doubtless," said Cebes, "into such."

"Then is it clear also about the others,
where each should go,
according to what is most similar to their practice?"

"It is clear," he said, "of course."

"Then are the happiest," he said,
"of these and those going to the best place
those who have pursued democratic and political virtue,
which they call prudence and justice,
out of habit and practice without philosophy and mind?"

"How are these the happiest?"

"Because these will probably arrive again
into such a political and gentle breed,
either bees or wasps or ants
or again into the same human race,
and from them will be born moderate men."


"And when departing it is not right for anyone
who is not loving wisdom and wholly pure
to reach the family of the gods,
but for the one who loves learning.
But on account of this, dear Simmias and Cebes,
those loving wisdom correctly
keep away from all bodily desires
and are patient and do not give themselves over to them,
not from fear of household ruin and poverty,
like the many who love money;
nor is it because of anxiety
about dishonor and the disgrace of hardship,
like the lovers of power and honor,
that they keep away from them."

"For that would not be fitting, Socrates," said Cebes.

"Of course not, by Zeus," he said.
"Accordingly, Cebes,
those who care at all for their own souls,
but do not live working for the body,
saying goodby to that are not driven down
by those who do not know where they are going,
and themselves believing they must not oppose
the practice of philosophy and her release and purification
they turn following her wherever she leads."

"How, Socrates?"

"I'll tell you," he said.
"For the lovers of learning know
that until philosophy actually receives their soul
it is fastened and glued in the body,
being compelled to look at realities
as though through this prison but not through her own self,
and wallowing in complete ignorance,
and she looks down at the terribleness of the imprisonment
that it is through desire,
which bound itself is the main accomplice of the binding,---
so as I say, the lovers of learning know
that in this way philosophy receives their soul
and tries to gently encourage and release her,
indicating that filled with deceit
is viewing through the body,
and deceitful the ears and the other senses,
and persuading her to withdraw from them,
except so far as it is necessary to use them,
and advising her to collect and gather into herself,
and trusting nothing else but herself by herself,
except her very own intelligence of reality itself;
and whatever else is viewed in other ways is something else,
not to be believed as true,
it being so sensory and visible,
but she sees the intelligible and intangible.

"So not thinking it is necessary to oppose her release
the soul of the true philosopher thus keeps away
from pleasures and desires and griefs and fears,
so far as possible,
reasoning that whenever one has excessive pleasure
or fear or grief or desire,
he suffers such evil from them as one might think,
such as either sickness or some expenses through the desires,
but the evil which is the greatest of all and most extreme,
this he experiences and does not consider it."

"What is this, Socrates?" said Cebes.

"That which the soul of every person
is compelled at the time of excessive pleasure or pain
also to believe,
that what is especially felt
is what is most distinct and most true;
it simply does not hold;
these are mostly the visible ones, are they not?"


"Thus in this which is most felt
is not the soul most bound by the body?"

"How so?"

"Because each pleasure and pain like a nail
nails and fastens itself to the body and makes it corporeal,
believing these things to be true
which the body also says are.
For from agreeing with the body
and delighting in the same things
she is compelled to adopt
the same habits and the same upbringing
and never arrives purely into Hades,
but always goes out infected by the body,
so that quickly again she falls into another body
and like scattered seed is sown,
and from this has no share in the divine and pure
and communion in the one form."

"What you say is most true, Socrates." said Cebes.

"Therefore on account of this, Cebes,
the true lovers of learning are well-ordered and courageous,
not on account of what the many say;
or do you think so?"

"Of course not."

"No, for the courageous soul of the philosopher
will reason another way,
and would not think it useful for philosophy to release her,
and released she would be bound herself fast again
in pleasures and pains
and would decline to do any of Penelope's work
by reversing the handling of the loom,
but she will prepare for calmness from these,
following reasoning and always being in this,
gazing at the truth and the divine and the undoubted
and supported by that,
she thinks it is necessary to live thus, while she lives,
and when she dies, to depart into what is akin and such,
rid of human evils.
And out of such nurturing
no one need be afraid, Simmias and Cebes,
that she will be torn apart in the departure from the body,
be dispersed by the winds
and scared of being gone and of no longer being anywhere."

Then a silence occurred for a long time,
after these things were said by Socrates,
and himself on the meaning spoken,
Socrates appeared to contemplate, as did most of us.
But Simmias and Cebes conversed with each other a little;
and Socrates seeing took it up.

"Why?" he asked.
"Does it seem to you
that what was said is insufficient argument?
For it still has many suspicions and loose ends,
if anyone cares to discuss it thoroughly.
So if you are considering something else, I say nothing;
but if anyone is in doubt about these things,
do not hesitate to say them and to go through them,
if it appears to you it somehow could have been better said,
and take me along also,
if you think you can find a better way with me."

And Simmias said, "And really, Socrates,
I'll tell you the truth.
For a while each of us in doubt
has been pushing and urging the other to ask
because of the desire to hear,
but hesitate to cause unpleasant annoyance for you
because of the unfortunate circumstance."

And having heard he laughed softly
and said, "Oh my, Simmias!
What difficulty I shall have persuading other people
that I do not regard my present circumstances unfortunate,
when I am not even able to persuade you,
but you are afraid
now I am apt to be more irritable than in my life before;
and probably I seem to you to be worse in prophecy
than the swans, who when they perceive that they must die,
also having sung in the previous time,
then they sing most and best,
rejoicing that they are about to go away
to the god whose ministers they are.
But people because of their own fear of death
misrepresent also the swans,
and say they sing out lamenting death under grief,
and do not reason that no bird sings when hungry
or cold or suffering any other grief,
not even the nightingale and swallow and the hoopoe,
which they say sings because of lamenting grief;
but these do not appear to me to sing grieving
nor do the swans,
but I think since they are Apollo's
and they are foreseeing the good things in Hades
they sing and celebrate on that day
more than at any previous time.
And I believe myself also to be a fellow slave of the swans
and sacred to the same god,
and to have prophecy no worse than theirs from the master,
and to be departing from life no more despondent than they.
However, one ought to speak on account of this
and ask whatever you wish,
as long as the eleven Athenians permit."

"Beautifully you speak," said Simmias;
"and I'll tell you what I doubt, and then he,
which of the things said are not accepted.
For it seems to me, Socrates, concerning these things,
perhaps as it also does to you,
that to know clearly now in life
is either impossible or most difficult;
yet not to discuss in every way the arguments about them
and to desist before exhausting every consideration
certainly would be remiss;
for about this it is necessary to accomplish
one of two things,
either to learn which has it or to discover it
or, if that is impossible,
at least taking the best of the human arguments
and hardest to refute,
and on this riding as on a boat
venturing to sail through life,
unless one can pass through safer and with less danger
on a more secure ship, by some divine word.
And so even now I am not ashamed to ask,
since you also say these things,
I will not blame myself at a later time,
that now I did not speak what it seems to me.
For to me, Socrates, when both by myself and with him
I consider the things said,
the inquiry certainly does not appear sufficient."

And Socrates said, "Perhaps, dear friend,
what appears to you is true;
but say then, how it is not sufficient."

"In this to me," he said,
"which also about a harmony and a lyre and its strings
one might say the same argument,
that the harmony is invisible and incorporeal
and most beautiful and divine in the tuned lyre,
but the lyre itself and the strings
are corporeal and physical and compounded and earthy
and it is related to the mortal.
Therefore when someone shatters the lyre
or cuts and breaks the strings,
if someone should maintain by the same argument as you,
that by necessity
that harmony still exists and does not perish;
for there would be no device by which
the lyre would still exist with broken strings
and the strings being mortal,
and the harmony perish
which is of the same nature
and related to the divine and immortal,
before the mortal perished;
but necessity says the harmony itself still exists somewhere,
and the wood and the strings must rot
before that could suffer anything,---
and therefore, Socrates,
I think this also must have occurred to you,
that we assume the soul is something quite like this,
as though our body were strung and held together
by heat and cold and moisture and dryness and so on,
and our soul is a combination and a harmony of these things,
when they are beautifully and properly
combined with each other.

"Thus if it happens the soul is a harmony,
it is clear that when our body is excessively
slack or stretched by sickness and other evils,
the soul at once starts to perish,
even though it is divine,
just like other harmonies in sounds
and in all works of the artists,
and the remains of each body endure a long time
until either burnt or decayed.
So see what we shall say to this argument,
if someone claims the soul
being a combination in the body
is the first to perish in what is called death."

Then Socrates looked straight,
as many times he used to do, and smiled.
"Yet what you say is right, Simmias," he said.
So if any of you is more ready than I, why not answer?
For it seems the argument touches not a trivial point.
Yet it seems to me to be useful before answering
first to hear Cebes, what he challenges in the argument
so that gaining time we shall be advised what we shall say,
and then having heard, either agree with them,
if they seem to ring true,
but if not, then plead the argument already presented.
But come on, Cebes," he said,
"tell us what it was that bothered you."

"I will tell you," said Cebes.
"For it appears to me the argument is still the same,
and as we argued before, it has the same fault.
For that our soul existed before coming into this form,
I do not deny it was no doubt neatly,
and, if I may say so, quite sufficiently demonstrated;
but also when we are dead that it still exists somewhere,
does not seem to me so.
That the soul is not stronger
and longer lasting than the body,
I do not agree with Simmias' objection;
for it seems to me in every way it surpasses it very much.

"'What then,' the argument might say,
'do you still disbelieve,
when you see a person dying that the weaker still exists?
And does it not seem necessary to you
the longer lasting still is preserved during the same time?'

"So consider this, whether I am saying anything;
for it seems I need some simile, just as Simmias did.
For to me it seems similar to be saying these things,
as though someone would say about an old weaver who died
this argument, that the person did not perish,
but exists somewhere safe,
and would offer as evidence the coat
which the same weaver had woven,
that it exists safe and did not perish,
and if anyone disbelieves this,
one would ask which is longer lasting
the life of the person or a coat in use and being worn,
and someone answering that the person is much longer,
one would think it accepted that
above all the person is safe,
since the shorter lasting did not perish.

"But I think, Simmias, it is not so;
for consider also what I tell you.
For everyone understands that
whoever says this is talking folly;
for this weaver who wore out many such coats
and having woven those perished after many of them,
but before the last, I think,
and no person on this account
is poorer nor weaker than a coat.

"I think the same simile would apply for soul to body,
and someone saying the same things about them
would appear to be speaking properly,
that the soul is longer lasting,
and the body is weaker and shorter lasting;
but one might say each of the souls wears out many bodies,
especially if one lives for many years;
for if the body should melt away and corrupt
while the person is still living,
and the soul is always weaving anew what is wearing down,
then it would be necessary, when the soul should perish,
for it by chance to have on this last one woven
and to perish before this one alone,
and the soul having perished
then directly the body would show its natural weakness
and quickly would be gone to waste.
So by this argument
it is not yet worthy of being confidently believed,
that, when we die, our soul still exists somewhere.

"For if one were to concede even more
to one arguing what you argue,
granting him not only
our soul's existence at a time before we were born
but there would be nothing to prevent also when we die
the possibility of it still existing
and being born and dying again many times;
for it is so strong by nature
that the soul holds out being born many times;
and granting this one might not concede that
it does not suffer in its being born and dying many times
and does not perish completely in one of its deaths;
and this death and this dissolution of the body,
which brings ruin to the soul,
one would say no one knows;
for it is impossible for any of us to perceive it;
and if this is so,
anyone who faces death confidently is thoughtlessly confident
unless one can show that
the soul is completely immortal and imperishable;
and if not, it is necessary always
for the one who is about to die
to be afraid for one's soul
that in now being separated from the body
one may completely perish."

So having heard what they said
all of us were unpleasantly disposed,
as we later said to each other,
because having been quite convinced by the previous argument
it seemed to disturb us again
and brought us down into disbelief,
not only for the past discussion
but also the latter for what was about to be said,
none of us being capable of judging
and being distrustful of these matters.

ECHECRATES. By the gods, Phaedo,
I have sympathy for you.
For now having heard what you had to say it occurred to me,
"Then what argument shall we still believe?
since being quite convincing,
the argument which Socrates said,
now has fallen into distrust."
For wonderfully this argument has taken hold of me
both now and always, that our soul is some kind of a harmony,
and you mentioning it has reminded me
that I myself held this before.
And now I need again as from the very beginning
some other argument, which will convince me
that at death the soul does not also die.

So say before God how Socrates went after the argument;
and whether he also, as you say you were,
was manifesting any annoyance or not,
or did he calmly assist the argument?
And did he assist adequately or deficiently?
Tell us everything as accurately as you can.

PHAEDO. Echecrates, often having marveled at Socrates
never have I admired him more than on that occasion.
So his having an argument was perhaps not unexpected;
but I was especially amazed
first at how pleasantly and gently and respectfully
he accepted the argument of the youths,
then how he perceived how sharply
we were convinced by the arguments,
then how well he healed us
and as though he called us up from flight and defeat
and turned us forward toward it
he persuaded us also to consider together the argument.

ECHECRATES. Really, how?

PHAEDO. I'll tell you.
For I happened to be sitting on his right
beside the bed on a low stool,
and he was much higher than I.
So stroking my head and grasping the hair on the neck---
for whenever it occurred,
he was in the habit of playing with my hair---
"So perhaps tomorrow, Phaedo," he said,
"this beautiful long hair will be cut off."

"It's likely, Socrates," I said.

"Not if you are convinced by me."

"But why?" I asked.

"Today," he said, "both you and I will do this,
if our argument dies and we are not able to revive it.
And if I were you, and the argument escaped me,
I would take an oath, like the Argives,
not to let it grow long
until I had conquered in a renewed fight
the argument of Simmias and Cebes."

"But," I said, "against two
it is said not even Heracles is able."

"But then," he said, "call me as Iolaus,
while it is still light."

"I'll call rather," I said,
"not as Heracles, but as Iolaus."

"It makes no difference," he said.

"But first let us be careful
we do not suffer a certain emotion."

"Of what kind?" I asked.

"Let us not become," he said, "logic haters,
like those who become misanthropes;
since there is not," he said,
"any evil worse than this emotion of hating logic.
And logic hating and misanthropy come out of the same manner.
For misanthropy is clothed
out of trusting someone excessively without skill,
and believing a person to be
completely true and sound and trustworthy,
then a little later finding him bad and untrustworthy
and again with another;
and when someone experiences this many times
and especially by those
who one believes are nearest and dearest,
so often taking offense he ends up hating everyone
and believes absolutely no one is sound at all.
Have you not observed this occurring?"

"Certainly," I said.

"Then," he said, "is it not shameful
and clear that such a person is without skill in human things
in attempting to deal with humans?
For if one dealt with skill, as though one has it,
then one would believe the good and bad are each very few,
and those in between most."

"What do you mean?" I said.

He said, "Just as concerning the very small and large;
do you think there is anything more rare
than to find a very large or a very small person
or dog or anything else?
or quick or slow or foul or beautiful or white or black?
Have you not observed that at the ultimate extent
all such things are rare and few,
and in between abundant and many?"

"Certainly," I said.

"Then do you think," he said,
"if a contest in evil were arranged,
certainly few also in this would appear first?"

"It is likely," I said.

"For it is likely," he said.
"But in this arguments are not similar to people,
but even now by your lead was I saying it,
rather in that,
when someone in believing the truth of an argument
being without skill in arguments,
and when a little later
is sometimes of the opinion it is false,
but sometimes it is not,
and again another and another;
and then the very ones spending time
arguing about disputations think
that finally they are the wisest and alone have discovered
that none of the matters argued are either sound or sure,
but all things being just like
the twisting in the Euripus up and down,
and nothing stays for any time at all."

"Certainly," I said, "you tell the truth."

"Then, Phaedo," he said,
"it would be a pitiful experience,
if there is some true and sure argument
and it can be understood,
when because of coming across such arguments
which at one time seem to be true and at another not,
one should not blame oneself for one's lack of skill,
but finally because of the hassling
gladly shift the blame from oneself to the arguments
and then for the rest of life go on hating and reviling them,
being deprived of the truth and knowledge of reality."

"Yes, by Zeus," I said, "very pitiful."

"First then," he said, "let us beware of this
and not admit into the soul that there is the danger
of arguments not being sound at all,
but rather that we are not yet sound,
and we must be courageous and willing to be sound,
thus for you and the others
and on account of all your future life,
and for me on account of this death;
since I am in danger in the present
of not being philosophical about this,
but just like the uncultured am contentious.
For when those disagree,
they do not consider which argument is so,
but how to present their own
so that they seem so to the listeners,
they are eager for this.

"And it seems to me I differ in the present only in this:
for I will not be so eager
that what I say to those present should seem to be true,
except as a by-product,
but that it should especially seem so to me.
For I reason, dear friend, see how selfishly:
if what I say happens to be true,
then believing it is beautiful;
but if dying is nothing,
then in this time before death
I shall not yield at present to unpleasant mourning.
And this ignorance of mine will not last,
for that would be evil,
but a little later it would be left behind.

"Prepared then, Simmias and Cebes," he said,
"thus I come to the argument;
yet you, if you are persuaded by me,
will consider Socrates little, and truth much more,
if to you I seem to say the truth, agree,
but if not, oppose with every argument,
that I may not from eagerness
deceive at the same time both myself and you
and like a bee leaving the sting behind depart.

"But let us go on," he said.
"First remind me what you said,
if I appear not to remember.
For Simmias, I think,
both disbelieves and fears that the soul
though both more divine and beautiful than the body
may perish first being in the form of a harmony;
and Cebes it seemed to me agreed with me on this,
that the soul is longer lasting than the body,
but it was unclear to all,
whether after wearing out many bodies repeatedly
the soul at the end leaving behind the body
did itself now perish,
and that this was death, the destruction of the soul,
since the body does not ever stop perishing.
But then is this, Simmias and Cebes,
what it is necessary for us to consider?"

They both agreed it was this.

"Then," he said, "do you not accept
all of the previous arguments, or just some of them?"

"Some," they said, "but not others."

"What then," he asked, "do you say about that argument
in which we said learning is remembering,
and from this our soul necessarily has to exist
somewhere else, before it was entangled in the body?"

"I," said Cebes, "was at that time
most marvelously convinced by it
and now I remain so more than by any argument."

"I too," said Simmias, "hold it thus,
and would be very surprised,
if this should ever seem otherwise to me."

And Socrates said, "But it is necessary for you,
Theban guest, to think otherwise if you keep the opinion,
the harmony is a compound of things,
and the soul is a harmony
composed out of what is strung in the body.
For how will you not accept your own statement
that a composite harmony existed before those things
out of which it is necessary for it to be composed,
or will you accept it?"

"Not at all, Socrates," he said.

"Then do you observe," he said,
"that this agrees with what you argue,
when you say the soul exists
before it enters into the human form and body,
and it is composed out of what does not yet exist?
For surely a harmony is not such as what you compare it to,
but first both the lyre and the strings and the sounds
come into being still untuned,
and last of all is the harmony composed,
and it is the first to perish.
So how does this argument agree with yours?"

"Not at all," said Simmias.

"And yet," he said, "surely it is fitting
for there to be accord
between the other argument and what concerns harmony."

"Yes, it is fitting," said Simmias.

"Now this," he said, "is not in accord with yours;
but look, which of the arguments do you prefer,
that learning is remembering
or that the soul is a harmony?"

"Much more the former, Socrates," he said.
"For the latter came to me without demonstration
with some probability and plausibility,
which also is why it seems so to many people;
but I am aware that arguments
making demonstrations based on probability may be false,
and if one does not guard against them,
one may well be deceived,
both in geometry and in everything else.
But the argument about remembering and learning
was found to be demonstrated by worthy propositions.
For it was said how our soul exists
before it entered into the body,
just as this which is named as having the reality which is.
And I myself am convinced of this,
and I have accepted it sufficiently and correctly.
So it is necessary for me, as it seems,
because of these things
to accept the arguing neither from myself nor another
that the soul is a harmony."

"But what of this way, Simmias?" he asked.
"Does it seem to you a harmony or any other compound
can be in any other state
than that out of which the elements were composed?"

"Not at all."

"Nor can anything do, as I know, or experience
anything else but what they do or experience?"

He agreed.

"Then a harmony cannot lead these
out of which it is composed, but follows."

He assented.

"Then a harmony is quite unable to be moved or sounded
or be opposed by anything else opposite to its parts."

"Of course," he said.

"But what? Is it not thus
that each harmony brings forth harmony, as it is harmonized?"

"I do not understand," he said.

"Would it not," he said,
"if it was harmonized better and more,
if this is to be accepted,
be better harmonized and more,
but if worse and lesser, then worse and less?"


"Is this so concerning the soul,
as even to the smallest degree
is one soul more and better
or lesser and worse a soul itself than another?"

"Not in the least," he said.

"Bear along now," he said, "toward God;
is a soul said to have intelligence and virtue
and to be good,
but another stupidity and vice and to be bad?
And are these things said true?"

"Yes, true."

"Then of those maintaining the soul is a harmony
what will one say these things in the soul are,
the virtue and evil?
that there is some other harmony and discord?
and to be harmonized, the good,
also has in its harmony reality another harmony,
but the discordant is itself and has no other in it?"

"I have nothing to say," said Simmias;
but it is clear that the one assuming that
would say some such thing."

"But we agreed before," he said,
that one is no better nor worse a soul than another;
and this is the equivalent to
one harmony is neither better nor more
nor worse nor less than another.
Is it not?"


"And that which is neither better nor worse of a harmony
is neither better nor worse harmonized; is it so?"

"It is."

"And is that which is neither better nor worse fitting
any more or less a share of harmony, or is it equal?"

"It is equal."

"Then a soul, since it is neither better nor worse
than another soul is itself,
is it neither better nor worse harmonized?"

"Just so."

"And this would have no more
a share of discord or harmony?"

"It would not."

"And this again would have no more a share
of evil or virtue than another,
if evil was discord, and virtue harmony?"

"No more."

"But rather, Simmias, according to correct logic
no soul would have a share of evil,
if it is a harmony;
for perhaps a harmony being completely a harmony itself
it would have no share of discord."

"Of course not."

"And perhaps the soul, being completely a soul, no evil."

"For how could it out of what we said before?"

"Out of this argument then
all souls of all life will be similarly good,
if it is by nature they are similarly souls."

"It seems so to me, Socrates," he said.

"And does it seem beautiful," he said,
"that the argument would mean this
and result in these things,
if the hypothesis were correct that the soul is a harmony?"

"Not in the least," he said.

"But what," he asked, "of all that is in a person
do you say anything rules except the soul, and in the wise?"

"I do not."

"Which yields according to the feelings of the body
and which opposes?
But I mean, when it is hot and thirsty,
does it draw it in opposition, to not drink,
and when it is hungry to not eat,
and do we see how in a thousand other things
according to the body the soul opposes, or not?"


"Then did we not agree previously that it could never,
if it be a harmony,
sound opposite to the tensions
and relaxations and vibrations and whatever other conditions
those might experience out of which it happens to be made,
but it would follow them and never lead?"

"We agreed," he said; "for how can it not?"

"Then what? Does it not now appear to us
to be working exactly the opposite,
leading all of those out of which one says it consists,
and opposing them in almost everything through all of life
and mastering in every way,
punishing them more harshly and with pain,
according to gymnastics and medicine,
and milder things, both threatening and admonishing them,
speaking to the desires and lusts and fears
as though it were something else other than those things?
And just as Homer composed in the Odyssey,
where he says of Odysseus:

'Beating his breast he reproached his heart saying,
"Endure it, heart;
even more horrible have you endured."'

Do you think when these thoughts were composed
he thought of this reality as a harmony
also to be led by the conditions of the body,
but not something to lead and master these things,
and being itself much more a divine thing than a harmony?"

"By Zeus, Socrates, it seems so to me."

"Then, best one, it would not be beautiful at all
for us to say that the soul is a harmony;
for as it is likely,
we would not be agreeing with the divine poet Homer
nor with ourselves."

"That is so," he said.

"Well then," said Socrates, "the Theban Harmony
probably has been moderately gracious to us;
but what of Cadmus," he said,

"Cebes, how shall we find grace and with what argument?"
"It seems to me," said Cebes, "you will find it out;
at least this argument against harmony
spoke to me wonderfully beyond expectation.
For when Simmias was describing the difficulty,
I certainly wondered
if anyone could do anything with his argument;
so it seemed to me very unusual that
it did not accept the first direct approach of your argument.
Now I would not be surprised
if the argument of Cadmus experienced the same thing."

"O happy one," said Socrates, "do not talk big,
lest some envy overturn our argument
which is about to be made.
But surely this is in the care of God,
and let us being near like Homer
examine if there is anything in what you say.

"Surely the crown of what you seek is:
to prove in a way worthy of us
that the soul is indestructible and immortal,
if the philosophical man about to die,
is confident and believes dying he will do well there
differently than if in living another life he died,
he is confident that courage is not stupid and foolish.

"And dying, that the soul is something strong and divine
and existed even before we were born as people,
you say all this does not prevent it
from not revealing immortality,
but that the soul is long-lasting
and existed somewhere an extraordinarily long time before
and knew and did many things;
yet it was not any more immortal,
but its very coming into the body
was the beginning of its destruction, like a disease;
and then it lives the distress of this life
and finally perishes in what is called death.

"But now you say it does not matter
whether it enters into a body once or many times,
in reference to what each of us fears;
for it is fitting to be afraid, unless one is a fool,
if one does not know nor have an argument to give,
how it is immortal.

"Some such thing is, I think, Cebes, what you mean;
and I repeat it on purpose often
so that nothing may escape us,
and if you wish, you may add or subtract anything."

And Cebes said, "But in the present
I have nothing either to subtract or add;
and this is what I mean."

45. Socrates Studied Nature

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