Phaedo Arguments pt. II

Plato’s arguments for personal immortality divide at the objections from Simmias and Cebes – up until that point he is giving reasons for his claim, many of which are only probable, and which are recognized as such by all discussing them. But in response to Simmias and Cebes, Socrates gives more forceful and rigorous arguments that eliminate all the logical alternatives to his claims about the soul.

Socrates calls soul whatever the intrinsic cause of life is. Simmias raises the possibility that this is nothing other than a harmony, that is, nothing other than an effect of non-living things like chemicals. Cebes’s position is the contradictory of both Simmias and Socrates: Cebes holds that the soul is not merely an effect of non-living things (contra Simmias) but he sees no reason why such a soul would not simply cease to exist (contra Socrates). The soul, according to Cebes, might relate to the body the way an heirloom or monument relates to a generation: just as a monument might outlive a number of generations and yet ultimately pass away, so too the soul might outlive many bodies and yet still survive. What is fascinating about this series of opinions is that they exhaust all the live possibilities on the question of the soul and mortality. The soul is either a mere effect of an organized body (and so obviously does not survive disorganization) or it is not; and if it is, it is either mortal or immortal.

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