Phædo or Phaedo (//; Greek: Φαίδων, Phaidōn [pʰaídɔːn]), also known to ancient readers as On The Soul, is one of the best-known dialogues of Plato's middle period, along with the Republic and the Symposium. The philosophical subject of the dialogue is the immortality of the soul. It is set in the last hours prior to the death of Socrates, and is Plato's fourth and last dialogue to detail the philosopher's final days, following Euthyphro, Apology, and Crito.
One of the main themes in the Phaedo is the idea that the soul is immortal. In the dialogue, Socrates discusses the nature of the afterlife on his last day before being executed by drinking hemlock. Socrates has been imprisoned and sentenced to death by an Athenian jury for not believing in the gods of the state (though some scholars think it was more for his support of "philosopher kings" as opposed to democracy) and for corrupting the youth of the city.
By engaging in dialectic with a group of Socrates' friends, including the two Thebans, Cebes, and Simmias, Socrates explores various arguments for the soul's immortality in order to show that there is an afterlife in which the soul will dwell following death. Phaedo tells the story that following the discussion, he and the others were there to witness the death of Socrates.
The Phaedo was first translated into Latin from Greek by Henry Aristippus in 1160.
Persons of such a constitution will be dragged back into corporeal life, according to Socrates. These persons will even be punished while in Hades. Their punishment will be of their own doing, as they will be unable to enjoy the singular existence of the soul in death because of their constant craving for the body. These souls are finally "imprisoned in another body". Socrates concludes that the soul of the virtuous man is immortal, and the course of its passing into the underworld is determined by the way he lived his life. The philosopher, and indeed any man similarly virtuous, in neither fearing death, nor cherishing corporeal life as something idyllic, but by loving truth and wisdom, his soul will be eternally unperturbed after the death of the body, and the afterlife will be full of goodness.
Simmias confesses that he does not wish to disturb Socrates during his final hours by unsettling his belief in the immortality of the soul, and those present are reluctant to voice their skepticism. Socrates grows aware of their doubt and assures his interlocutors that he does indeed believe in the soul's immortality, regardless of whether or not he has succeeded in showing it as yet. For this reason, he is not upset facing death and assures them that they ought to express their concerns regarding the arguments. Simmias then presents his case that the soul resembles the harmony of the lyre. It may be, then, that as the soul resembles the harmony in its being invisible and divine, once the lyre has been destroyed, the harmony too vanishes, therefore when the body dies, the soul too vanishes. Once the harmony is dissipated, we may infer that so too will the soul dissipate once the body has been broken, through death.
Socrates pauses, and asks Cebes to voice his objection as well. He says, "I am ready to admit that the existence of the soul before entering into the bodily form has been ... proven; but the existence of the soul after death is in my judgment unproven." While admitting that the soul is the better part of a man, and the body the weaker, Cebes is not ready to infer that because the body may be perceived as existing after death, the soul must therefore continue to exist as well. Cebes gives the example of a weaver. When the weaver's cloak wears out, he makes a new one. However, when he dies, his more freshly woven cloaks continue to exist. Cebes continues that though the soul may outlast certain bodies, and so continue to exist after certain deaths, it may eventually grow so weak as to dissolve entirely at some point. He then concludes that the soul's immortality has yet to be shown and that we may still doubt the soul's existence after death. For, it may be that the next death is the one under which the soul ultimately collapses and exists no more. Cebes would then, "... rather not rely on the argument from superior strength to prove the continued existence of the soul after death."
Seeing that the Affinity Argument has possibly failed to show the immortality of the soul, Phaedo pauses his narration. Phaedo remarks to Echecrates that, because of this objection, those present had their "faith shaken," and that there was introduced "a confusion and uncertainty". Socrates too pauses following this objection and then warns against misology, the hatred of argument.
Socrates then proceeds to give his final proof of the immortality of the soul by showing that the soul is immortal as it is the cause of life. He begins by showing that "if there is anything beautiful other than absolute beauty it is beautiful only insofar as it partakes of absolute beauty".
Consequently, as absolute beauty is a Form, and so is Life, then anything which has the property of being animated with Life, participates in the Form of Life. As an example he says, "will not the number three endure annihilation or anything sooner than be converted into an even number, while remaining three?". Forms, then, will never become their opp
Consequently, as absolute beauty is a Form, and so is Life, then anything which has the property of being animated with Life, participates in the Form of Life. As an example he says, "will not the number three endure annihilation or anything sooner than be converted into an even number, while remaining three?". Forms, then, will never become their opposite. As the soul is that which renders the body living, and that the opposite of life is death, it so follows that, "... the soul will never admit the opposite of what she always brings." That which does not admit death is said to be immortal.
Socrates thus concludes, "Then, Cebes, beyond question, the soul is immortal and imperishable, and our souls will truly exist in another world. "Once dead, man's soul will go to Hades and be in the company of," as Socrates says, "... men departed, better than those whom I leave behind." For he will dwell amongst those who were true philosophers, like himself.
Plato's Phaedo had a significant readership throughout antiquity, and was commented on by a number of ancient philosophers, such as Harpocration of Argos, Porphyry, Iamblichus, Paterius, Plutarch of Athens, Syrianus and Proclus. The two most important commentaries on the dialogue that have come down to us from the ancient world are those by Olympiodorus of Alexandria and Damascius of Athens.
The Phaedo has come to be considered a seminal formulation, from which "a whole range of dualities, which have become deeply ingrained in Western philosophy, theology, and psychology over two millennia, received their classic formulation: soul and body, mind and matter, intellect
The Phaedo has come to be considered a seminal formulation, from which "a whole range of dualities, which have become deeply ingrained in Western philosophy, theology, and psychology over two millennia, received their classic formulation: soul and body, mind and matter, intellect and sense, reason and emotion, reality and appearance, unity and plurality, perfection and imperfection, immortal and mortal, permanence and change, eternal and temporal, divine and human, heaven and earth."