12.03.2010

Philosophy For Death

Early in the Phaedo, Socrates briefly elaborates his assertion that philosophy is “to practice for dying and death” (Phaedo 64a). The body, he says, impedes a man’s true acquisition of knowledge. Sight, hearing, and sensation in general are not sources of truth because they are deceptive and cannot accurately yield any truth. Examination through sensation, then, will never yield true knowledge. Socrates then explains that this is because the Forms are not material and cannot be perceived through the senses. Knowledge of the Forms can only be reached trough thought, pure thought that is both unmixed with and uninfluenced by material sensation. The body and its senses can only hinder the soul’s approach of the Forms, so man must only utilize his reason, which for Socrates is an activity of the soul. It is after death that the soul is finally and utterly without any material obstruction because at death the soul is separated from the body and thus free from the senses (Phaedo 64c). Death, then, is not something to be spurned by the true philosopher, rather, it should be accepted and even invited when it comes because the philosopher will be able to do more perfectly what he has been doing during his earthly life.

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