Plato, Phaedo and the ‘death’ of Socrates

Rufus F.

Rufus is an American curmudgeon in Canada. He has a PhD in History, sings in a garage rock band, and does many things. He is the author of the forthcoming book "The Paris Bureau" from Dio Press (early 2021).

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12 Responses

  1. sam says:

    “It’s also fascinating that Socrates seems to have an animus against the body throughout the dialogues, finally embracing death as akin to release from prison…[I]f Western philosophy really is a footnote to Plato, as the old line goes, one wonders how deep this antagonism between the mind and body runs in western thought.”

    Well, consider the influence of Neoplatonism on Christianity for starters. Plato had a deep, deep concern with carnality. And his problem with the body is at base his problem with Eros. Eros and Wisdom are constantly at war. Crudely, philosophy is in large part the struggle to overcome of the all-to common tendency to let the little head do the thinking for the big head. (See Alcibiades on Socrates’s Eros in The Symposium). It might be too much to say that it’s all about sex, but boy a whole lot of it is about sex.Report

    • Rufus F. in reply to sam says:

      @sam, You’ve got a point here. It’s interesting to me that there’s this tension in Plato over physical beauty- on one hand, it can lead you to awareness of higher beauty and upward to the form of the Beautiful- so it’s not entirely bad; but it can also lead you to carnality, which can direct your attention away from the forms. It also still amuses me how many of Socrates’s pupils wanted to have sex with him and were thwarted.

      With the early Christians, it seems to me that they took it to greater extremes. Most of the texts I’ve read about the desert fathers suggests that they assumed wet dreams about once a month, but nothing else was acceptable. Of course, this doesn’t work for everyone- hence Paul’s note that it’s better to marry than burn!Report

    • Paul B in reply to sam says:


      But on the other hand, Diogenes of Sinope solved the problem of the “little head thinking for the big head” by following Socrates’ teachings to another extreme — he was notorious for masturbating in the Agora, supposedly saying something like “If only I could satisfy my hunger by rubbing my belly!”Report

  2. Bob Cheeks says:

    Sam, old buddy, is it ‘sex’ or is it ‘good and evil,’ that drives the searching, questing, yearning…or better yet is it the search for the ground, as in the Cave thingy. Our pee-pees are just little things, the tip of the problem, you might say, the real question falls on redemption and the salvific order.Report

  3. sam says:

    Bob, reread what I wrote: For Plato it’s Eros of the common kind that impedes the “searching, questing, yearning…”Report

  4. Bob Cheeks says:

    Thanks Sam, I’m re-reading. Reminds me of Schelling’s distinction between positive and negative philosophy as the phil. between the truly religious and that which cannot ‘assimilate’ the religious consciousness…’
    Please feel free to enlighten…I’m grilling today!Report

  5. ThatPirateGuy says:

    If I take pictures of my vacation with a snazzy digital camera then I have captured the moments in a digital format on the memory card.

    If the memory card gets crushed before I can back it up then the images are destroyed.

    You are the image, the memory card is your brain. We currently have no way of backing it up.Report