Socrates On Death Essay, Research Paper
Why are we mistaken death to be an evil?
-according to Socrates
Is death an evil, and what really happens after we die? These are questions that people have asked themselves for thousands of years. And I really don t think anyone has found the correct answer to this, at least not as I know of. Socrates, one of our ancient Greek philosophers had his arguments that death is not an evil, and he also believed in immortality of the soul. Himself was sentenced to death, and many critics believe that he went on a suicide trip the day he went in to the court to get his sentence, either death, or a fine. Some people mean that what he said to his defence only got him-self deeper into trouble. However that is not the importance of this essay. It is what he said, and why he said it. I am going to look into the parts I believe is of importance to the question of this essay, why, according to Socrates are we mistaken death to be an evil? Why can one of the major philosophers of our history believe that death is not an evil, and that the soul is immortal? He has many arguments for this, and I will take a deeper view into the ones that I think is essential to mention in this essay.
First of all I am going to look at what Socrates addresses to the jury that has just condemned him to death and had previously voted to acquit him. (38c-42a) In this conversement Socrates is actually presenting an argument for a startling idea, namely, that what just happened to him is good, and that quite in general it is not an evil thing to die. An obvious response to this argument is that how in the world can he say that it was a good thing that he was condemned to death? What most people believed at that time was that death itself is a great evil and only crazy people want to die. However, Socrates continues his argument.
Death is either (1) the annihilation of a person together with his or her consciousness or else (2) a journey of sorts in which the soul goes from this place here to another place. It is the first of these two things, then it is like a profound, dreamless sleep, and if so, then eternity would seem no more than a single night. But if this is what death would seem, then death would be a blessing. On the other hand if it s the second of these two things, then the dead will get to converse with others in the realm of the dead; they will get to live out the rest of the eternity under ruler-ship of just judges; and best of all, among their options will be the life of a Socrates, cross-questioning the dead as Socrates cross-questioned the living, and they won t have to fear that the dead will put them to death for that. To be able to live in their way with the death would be a wonderful thing indeed. So, either way, death must be good, and so it cannot be an evil thing to die. (40c-41a)
This argument is definitely Socrates major argument to claim that death is not an evil. The question if death is evil or not, is extremely hard. Maybe death is that the dead person is utterly unconscious, but still exists. Or couldn t death be such that the dead person still exists and is still conscious but goes nowhere an is therefore forced to put up with being vividly conscious, after death, of all the disgusting things that happened to his or her body until finally all of his or her sense organs and nerves cease to function as a result of those bodily changes? Couldn t death be still other things than these? Socrates says that death must be either one or the other of the two things that he described. Let me suppose that he is right about what he thinks. Then there is still something else we need to know: Is it really true that if death is the first one of the two things described by Socrates, then it would be like a profound and dreamless sleep? Could it be very much like such a sleep? According to Socrates first scenario as to what death might be, it involves the annihilation of the person ( the dead man is no more ). Does a profound and dreamless sleep involve anything like this? And what about the idea that if death were like a profound, dreamless sleep, then eternity would seem no more than a single night? First, if death involved annihilation of ones consciousness, how could eternity seem anything at all? And second, could eternity seem no longer than a single night? A single night has and end. Eternity doesn t. This last consideration is relevant to the question of the third premise as well. When people say such things as: Wow, what a night! I slept so well, so soundly, that I didn t even dream. That was just great! And they are raving about the experience of total unconsciousness they have just had, or they are raving, now that they are awake, about how good they feel as a result of having such a great sleep and of having awakened feeling so refreshed? As for the fourth premise, the truth of this premise depends on the arrangements to which one has to accommodate oneself in the House of Hades (assuming, of course that death really is a trip to such a place). And finally, concerning the fifth premise, even assuming that Socrates really is right about what the dead would get to do in the House of Hades, is the prospect of a life of conversation in realm ruled by just judges in which one would get to live the life of Socrates really such a wonderful prospect? What one think about this, will of course be a function of what one thinks about the nature of good life. Socrates saw this as a wonderful way to live with the dead, and therefore he believed that there was no way that it could be an evil thing to die. I looked at this with some criticism, because it is not how I believe it will be after death. Socrates thought this would be the greatest of all things, and at his time and with his philosophy of life it does not seem so unrealistic. It is now natural to follow up Socrates arguments in his trial, cause this is really a start of his believes on immortality, and that this is not an evil. I will now leave The Apology and go on to Phaedo and look at his argument for immortality.
Socrates view on personal immortality can be portioned into the following four discrete elements:
1. There exists a world distinct from our reality
2. The soul enters this world after death while maintaining its personal identity
3. The soul does not wear itself out during its future faith
4. The soul may find conditions superior to the ones we experience in our world.
In Plato’s dialogue it is indicated that the fate if the soul depends on the character and life of a person and that Socrates and other true philosophers will likely remain forever in the part of the other world that provides extremely desirable conditions. (64e, 114c, 115d) By sub staining these four elements it is possible for Plato to release Socrates from the initial charge (63b) of imprudence and injustice and let him die as the wisest and the most upright . (118a)Socrates here states that coming to this world as a wise man would be the most wonderful thing, it seems that he prefers do be dead than to live.
Socrates believes in an existence of a world of Forms when he argues that the soul enters a world distinct from our reality after death while maintaining its personal identity. (72e-77b)With this he says that he remains the same person or can I say keep the same personality as before, he doesn t change into something worse, and he doesn t become better in any way. Our apparent ability for recollection indicates that we existed before birth and at that time had knowledge of Forms. After Socrates has convinced the audience of the existence of a dwelling place for souls , it is illustrated that the soul likely makes the transition into this world without being damaged.( 78b-84b). To this end, he argues in the first part that during the lifetime of a person the body is like the divisible , it is not likely to be scattered and dissipated during death, especially if it was nurtured by practising philosophy. (84b)
In the fourth argument Socrates needs to make an assumption, namely that Forms exist. (100b) Socrates argues by using metaphors that opposite Forms do not allow each other to approach: they either perish or withdraw. (104c) He extends the argument to attributes of Forms and concludes that the soul does not admit death because death is opposite to that which the soul brings along, namely life. Because the soul does not admit death it will not give up its life principle, i.e., it will always withdraw rather than gradually wear itself out, and it is concluded that the soul, besides being deathless, is indestructible (106d)
Socrates claims that states who are opposites in extremes, must come into being from their opposites. A thing who becomes larger for instance, does so necessarily from a state which is smaller. It seems then that largeness comes into being from smallness. Likewise heat comes into being from cold, and life comes into being from death. It is then apparent that change is circular. Things must pass from one state and then bask again, otherwise all things would be large, or hot, or dead, and the opposite would be meaningless. Here is where Socrates proposes the idea of reincarnation. All men having once been dead, return to life and die again. Socrates also compares the soul to immortal things. Things like Justice, Nature, Truth, and the Gods are insubstantial and immortal. The source of immortality is the insubstantiality. Because immortal things are not composed of physical parts, they cannot break apart and die. Socrates claims that the soul is more like these things than it is like corporeal things.
The reason why I have included Socrates view on immortality of the soul, is because he believes that if we die our soul is immortal, and the question if the soul is immortal or not, is a part of why he doesn t think that death is an evil.
I have never actually thought about the concept that death is an evil thing. I have seen family and friend die, I have felt an incredibly pain in myself, incredibly grief, and I miss these people so much. But I believe that all of them are in a good place. While I have read Socrates understanding of death and immortality, it has brought me a little closer in the believe that they are fine. For a while I thought that he meant that death was a reflection of how you have lived your life. Maybe it is. But he has two theories on it. It is either an endless sleep, a wonderful dream, or that we get to a place that we can do everything that we thought as fun while we lived. I don t think people get punished over what they have done in life, as long as they have peace and understanding of their life. They say that when you die your life passes by with glimts on what you have done. I think that this is the moment of truth; this is the moment when you understand yourself. If people are immortal or not, is a hard question, maybe, maybe not. But I don t believe in reincarnation as Socrates did, that is going to far. I believe that to live a satisfying life, you must live you life as you self please, and live it yourself. You can t get anyone else to run it for you, then you won t have a good life after my believes. Live every day, as it was your last. That is my life motto. Ii will conclude with some wise words of Socrates from The Apology. (42a)
WELL, NOW IS TIME TO BE OFF, I TO DIE AND YOU TO LIVE; BUT WHICH OF US HAS THE HAPPIER PROSPECT IS UNKNOWN TO ANYONE BUT GOD.