jueves, 9 de noviembre de 2017

Plato - Phaedo (English version)

We reach the end of the road for Socrates where we will see in depth the immortality of the soul and we will also witness the end of our philosopher. This dialogue, as in the Crito, it takes place in the prison where Socrates was, the two begin to talk about the immortality of the soul, reminiscence and other concepts that prove how important the soul is to the human being.


(1) This prediction was already made by Socrates in Crito (or the duty of the citizen).
(2) Follow him to die.
(3) Perhaps, this is why Socrates does not fear death as he expressed it in the Apology.
(4) For more information, see the Meno.
(5) Tartarus: According to Greek mythology, it is a place deeper than Hades itself.
(6) The Acheron is a river located in the north of Greece. It means river of pain.
(7) A lake where all souls go.


(1) Misanthropy: Rejection and aversion with others.
(2) Misology: Contempt for knowledge.



- Socrates
- Equécrates
- Phaedo
- Apolodoro
- Cebes
- Simmias
- Crito
- The server of the eleven: who gives the order to drink the poison.

Phaedo and Equécrates

The two meet and Echcrates asks him to please tell him about the day Socrates died. Phaedon was one of the few who could witness the death of Socrates and his friend implores him to tell him everything.

Socrates had died some time after his condemnation because a pilgrimage was being made in the city. The pilgrimage was associated with the arrival of Theseus and the sailors he had rescued in Crete. Because of this, the executions would be suspended (1).

Equécrates asks him to tell him how many friends of Socrates were present to see his execution. This was the list:

Natives of Athens:




Pleasure and pain

Phaedon begins to relate when he was with Socrates. A day before his execution, Phaedo with some friends went to visit Sócrates, who was with his wife Jantipa who exclaimed: "Oh, Sócrates, it is the last time that your friends address you and you to them". Jantipa starts crying and the guards take him away.

Once Socrates is released from his shackles, he feels a certain pleasure, but at the same time pain, meaning that these two things seem to be one thing at that moment.

Cebes, who was also present, once told that one Eveno asked Cebes why Socrates wrote some poems now these days, since they had never written before. Socrates responds that it was for his research on dreams and that at no time to be his competitor.

Death and the soul

Socrates tells Cebes to tell Eveno to "follow" Socrates (2), since he is also a philosopher, but he adds that he would not kill himself because it is not allowed.

Cebes is a bit surprised and tells him why he says all these things. It is simple to understand this. Socrates tells us that the soul is imprisoned in the body and that it is the god who decides whether man should die or not. Man belongs to God and he can not die until God indicates it. But on the other hand, whoever dies will meet the gods and the best men that exist.

In addition, who practices philosophy is practicing death. Simias laughs saying that the appearance of the philosophers can be dying, but literally does not believe that they are dying.

The separation of the soul and the body

Once man dies, body and soul separate leaving only themselves. The philosopher deals only with the cares of the soul and not of the body; unlike ordinary men who take care of the body. Therefore, whoever does not take care of the pleasures of the body will be closer to death than anyone else.

Moreover, the soul is always deceived by the body. The senses often deceive us and the soul is the only one that can see reality as it is. Through reflection, the soul can reach true reality. In addition, the soul is always hindered by the body through its diseases, its loves and its desires. The man who is irritated when he knows that the moment of his death is coming, is irritated because he was always dominated by the pleasures of the body.

This is the work of the philosopher, to separate the soul from the body and to be absorbed with it, that is why it is said that the philosopher is closer to death; because it is closer to the soul (3).

The opposites

Simmias and Cebes are convinced, but Cebes has some doubts about what happens to the soul once it is separated from the body. Will it be extinguished with the body? Where will it go once liberated? Socrates is ready to answer.

Socrates tells us that we come from the dead. The soul travels to the other world and then returns to it to imprison itself in a body. Therefore, the soul once detached from the body would be located in the other world, but Socrates wants to ground it even more.

The life and the dead

If we understand what Socrates tells us, we will understand that the living come from the dead. Existence always comes from opposites:

The big thing comes from the small
The weakest of the strongest
The fastest of the slowest
The worst of the best
The just of the unfair

All these things have a beginning of diminution and increase, since they all go back to being what they are. Thus, we could say that life comes from death, that the dead come from the living and so on; It is a vicious circle.

Life without opposites

What would happen if there were no opposites? Obviously, nothing could exist. For example, if the opposite of sleeping (awakening) did not exist, we would be enveloped in an eternal dream. If death did not exist, nothing could revive. Everything would be in a dead state.

Theory of reminiscence

Now the dialogues move on to another topic. Cebes wants to link this soul with another concept that had previously been seen in the Meno: Learning is remembering.

If learning is remembering, it would not be possible for the soul to do so if there is no memory in it. If a man who does not know anything about mathematics or geometry responds well to questions about those subjects, then we have proof that the man had to remember something that he already knew before (4).


It happens many times that by remembering one thing we remember another. For example, if we see a portrait we can remember a man (perhaps the man who drew it) or when we try to remember Simmias, in the case of the dialogues, and Cebes is remembered. You can remember the portrait of a person and the person in himself and vice versa.

However, when things are remembered in themselves, there is never a difference. In this way, there are things that are equal and those that are equal in themselves, but those that are the same perfectly are the latter. Where does this knowledge of equality itself come from? Surely it comes from the memories that the soul had before. In the same way, it is demonstrated that the soul exists even before it is born.

The soul after death

It is sufficiently demonstrated that the soul exists before being born, now it is necessary to investigate if the soul dies with the body or if it continues to exist after the destruction of the latter.

To explain this, Socrates establishes the difference between two concepts: the compound (that which is subject to corruption) and the simple (that which remains). Making an analogy, the simple would be the good and the beautiful itself, while the compound would be a man or a horse. Thus, man (compound) can be beautiful (simple). As for the subject of the soul, this would be simple and the body composed.

The soul as divine and the body as mortal

In addition, the simple would also be the invisible, since it is not subject to change and the composite would be visible, since the visible always changes.

Another thing that must be understood is that it is the soul that directs the body and the body who obey the soul. What is more like the divine? The body or the soul? Naturally the soul. Therefore, the soul has an immortal characteristic and the body a mortal.

Where does the soul and body go?

The body that is in good condition once dead can continue to remain as it is; especially if there is a good climate. If the person who dies has been good, that is, has left out everything that joined him to the body, will be taken to Hades by a good and wise god.

On the other hand, if the person has been bad in his life, that is, he has dedicated himself to caring and worrying about the pleasures of the body and not to the wisdom of the soul, it will not go where the good god and on the contrary, will stay still roaming the earth next to the statues and monuments of the city like a ghost.

Reviews of Simmias and Cebes

The criticism of Simmias: the simile of the lyre

This criticism has to do with the similarity of body and soul, with the lyre and its harmony. The lyre in this case would represent the corporeal, the composite and the visible, while the harmony would represent the soul, the simple and the invisible. What would happen if the lira is destroyed? Is not harmony also destroyed, since it will not be heard again? We could think so. Also, let us think that the soul is the one that gives "harmony" to the body. If the body dies, then there would be no harmony either.

Before being able to discuss the previous thing described by Simmias, Sócrates cedes the word to Cebes so that also it expresses its critic.

The criticism of Cebes: the simile of the weaver

Cebes tells us that it is in accordance with the pre-existence of the soul, that is, its existence before birth, but it is against Simmias's argument that the soul is more durable than the body.

With the need to go to a simile, Cebes begins his argument with the example of a weaver. Imagine a weaver and its tissues and think that one is the soul (the weaver) and the other the body (tissue). The work of the weaver is always to recompose the fabric, but as well as recomposing it many times, the fabric wears away and at the same time, the soul wears away with it. Thus, the soul could also perish due to the fact that with the wear and tear that the body produces when it is revived so many times, it would also die.

Refutation to criticism

Misology and misanthropy

Before continuing with the criticisms raised by Simmias and Cebes, Sócrates stresses the importance of not falling into misanthropy (1) and misology (2). Many hate the human being because they have been disappointed by him and then end up hating everything that is related to it.

Naturally, these people fall into a generalization and this is why they have bad judgment. In any case, misanthropy or misology occurs only because one has erred in judgment with respect to human beings. The solution is to see the theory behind men and find out what the error is, instead of hating them hastily.

Refutation to Simmias

Socrates asks them if the reasoning of learning is a memory convinces them, and the two agree that it does.

Simmias recognizes this theory, but at the same time recognizes that the soul is a harmony, that is, it is made up of elements. How can we be consistent in accepting that the soul already existed before the elements that supposedly make it up? Also, you have to think that the lyre is something completely different from the soul. Harmony is composed, since it needs elements to exist. Instead, the soul has no parts because it is not composed.

 Simmias will have to choose between two things:

  • The soul existed before the elements
  • The soul is formed based on the elements

Simmias chooses the first, saying that the example he had given of the lyre, had really only occurred to him without any demonstration.

The causes

Once confirming the criticism of Cebes, Socrates proposes to refute it.

Socrates tells him that since he was young he has been impressed by nature and its opposites. The heat and the cold; the sky and the earth, etc. He was impressed with the cause of the unit, that is, what makes a unit really a unit, since it can be composed of other units. For example, that a man is greater than another by a head, or that a horse is larger by a part of his body.

Faced with the approach of this doubt, Socrates fits better with the explanation of Anaxagoras, in which it is said that the cause of all things is the mind. However, Socrates also thought that there were other causes alien to the mind; For example, Socrates was not there by his own will, but by the judgment of the Athenians. He was not sitting by his will, but because his bones and muscles make him sit up.

On the other hand, Socrates recognizes the existence of things in themselves; the beautiful itself, the great itself, etc. To admit things in themselves, would be to admit that things are not great by the parts they have, but by their greatness; the same with smallness, things are small because of their smallness and not because of their parts. It also happens with the unit, a number is greater than another by the addition and not by adding a part to another part.

The opposites in themselves

So, Socrates tells Cebes that Simmias is bigger than Socrates, but not by names, but by the concepts of smallness and greatness that there is between them.

Suddenly, according to Phaedo, an objection arises from among the multitude without knowing who it is, saying that what has just been said could not be well, since we admit that the opposites arose from themselves, the small from the great; the big of the small. If we use the previous reasoning, this could not be possible. Socrates responds to this statement saying that what was compared at that time were things and not what is in itself. That is, here we would be talking about opposites in themselves.

To illustrate this, Socrates resorts to fire and snow.

  • Hot is something other than fire, as cold is something other than snow.
  • If the hot gets close to the snow, it will disappear or it will give way to hot. It can never be snow and heat at the same time.
  • If the cold gets close to the fire, it will disappear or give way to the cold. It can never be cold and fire at the same time.

In this way, we see that opposites will never admit other opposites.

Refutation to Cebes

If we make it clear that opposites do not admit each other, then Cebes' argument is refuted, because the soul is immortal and will never admit its opposite, which is death. Therefore, the soul would not wear out since its characteristic is to give life and be immortal.

The last myth

When the two dialogues were refuted, Simmias still expresses some doubts about what is being proposed and Socrates begins to relate the last of his myths mentioned.

Socrates tells us how important it is to have proper care in the soul, since it goes to Hades with all its education and learning that it acquired on earth.

Journey of the soul

The souls that have a very strong attachment to the body, are guided by a "genius" to the place where they all meet. On the other hand, the souls that have no attachment to the body but to the soul itself, will not need any guidance to reach Hades.

On the other hand, the soul that has committed mischief in life, once it reaches Hades, all the souls will go away and even the guides will do so. The souls that have been prudent and wise will have as guides the gods and will go to their corresponding place.

The places on earth

Now, Socrates proposes to describe some places on earth.

Socrates recognizes that the part where they live in them is only a part of the earth and that there must also be many similar men in other places. He also says that the earth has many cavities and that in them one lives believing, in addition, that the earth is the surface of the earth when it is the sky. We are like who can be at the bottom of the sea and say that the surface of the sea is the sky.

The earth seen from outside

The earth is described as a sphere of multiple colors. The most wonderful part is purple, another golden, another white as snow and other colors. Water and air make colors mix and form more colors. The mountains and other precious stones are also described; Of course, Socrates admits that there are other places that are more wonderful. He also adds that there are other places where the seasons of the year allow people to live longer than in Greece itself. On the other hand, there are also gods and temples to which they worship.


Under the rivers and the earth there is a place where all the rivers and all the air flow and flow, the Tartarus(5). From here not only empty, but also is your starting point.

In Tartarus there are 4 main currents:

  • The ocean which is the most external current.
  • The Acheron(6) that turns in the opposite direction and also reaches the Aquerusíade (7).
  • The Piriflegetonte which is a river of fire that flows through Hades.
  • The stigio called the river of hatred.

Those who have committed serious and serious crimes where there is no solution, are sent to Tartarus. Those who have done things that can be forgiven, go up to the Acheron.

The execution of Socrates

Socrates already announces the time to leave by saying that it is better to bathe before taking the poison, and not to bother the women so that afterwards they do not wash their corpse. Crito appears and asks if there is any favor that can be granted, to which Socrates replies that he only asks them to take care of themselves.

It is also that, Crito tells him what they are going to do with his body after death and Socrates tells him not to worry so much about the body, since the most important thing is the soul.

Then finally comes the server of the Eleven saying how venerable and worthy is Socrates. He also thanks him for always being with him and talking whenever he could. Having said that, the server of the Eleven wept and retired. Socrates sends someone to bring the crushed poison.

A slave tells Socrates that he only has to drink it, after drinking it, he has to walk until his legs fall down. Socrates takes the poison and everyone starts to cry, to which Socrates says:

''What do you do, strange men? If I sent women out, it was especially for this, so that they would not bother in this way, because I have known that one should die in words of good omen. Let's stay calm and be strong.''

According to the story of Phaedo, all contained the crying, and Socrates is asked to lie on his back. The body would gradually cool down starting from the legs. When it reached his heart, Socrates would die. His last words were:

''Oh, Crito. We owe a rooster to Asclepius. Pay the debt and do not overlook it.''

As we know, Asclepius was a doctor from Ancient Greece who had the doctrine that if there could not be an immediate remedy for a body, it should die. More of this is seen in Book III of The Republic.

After Socrates said his last words, Crito told him not to worry, that the debt would pay. Crito asked him if he wanted to say anything else, but to this Socrates no longer responded and died.


Here we witness the death of the philosopher. The teacher of Plato that not even until the last days of his life, I leave the way he argued everything, irony. In this book we can see how important is the care of the soul in all aspects, not only for reasons of logic, but also for mythical reasons as described in the final myth. Finally, it is pleasing to see how his friends stay with him until the day of his death, surrounding him. Without a doubt, an essential book.

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