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Socrates: Life and Death Discussion


The Phaedo is among Plato’s most renowned and extensively read dialogues. However, the discussion raised several contentious problems about the conceptions of life and death, as well as what happens after death. Socrates, for example, argues in the dialogue that the soul should not be consumed by the demands of the body because it is immortal. After detaching from the decaying body, the soul endures death.

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As a result, Socrates’ assertion and materialism are among the major competing schools of philosophy about life and death. According to Socrates, the soul lives on and has cognition even after death. Materialists, on the other hand, argue that the body is the true life and that the soul does not exist alone without flesh (as cited in Nnaemeka & Chukwunenye, 2018). I will argue that, despite materialists contending that no afterlife, the soul endures death, as established by Socrates’ cyclical, affinity, and the theory of recollection’s points of view.

Cyclical Argument

Socrates, using a cyclical argument, cited an old belief in his claim that the soul of the dead emanates from the people alive. As a result, live souls are derived from the dead, implying that the soul and the body, albeit distinct, may coexist. This thought influenced and pushed him to deliver his case. According to Socrates, everything comes from its polar opposite; hence, he built his initial reasoning on the inverse (Justin, 2020, p. 423). For example, he observed that a tall guy is tall because he was previously short as a child. Similarly, life and death are opposed, as are tall and short objects. In this situation, living individuals will die and the dead will begin to live. Life and death are just cycles, which means that death cannot be avoided.

The final justification suggested that if two systems fail to balance out, everything should undoubtedly return to its original condition. This indicates that if the rise is not accompanied by a drop, everything should become progressively smaller. The fourth point distinguished between being dead and being alive as two opposed realities (Plato, 166, p. 105). Similarly, “coming to life” and “dying” are two distinct phenomena that finally converge. There is no question that when a person is conceived, he will die. Similarly, everything that perishes will come back to life. Socrates used the word “opposite” to signify “analogies” and “equilibrium moves” in this discourse.

Theory of Recollection

In the argument from the theory of recollection, Socrates denotes that active learning is a recollection process. He contended that recollection occurs when a person listens to or observes something but merely thinks of something else about which he has variable knowledge. For example, witnessing his lover’s goods, such as clothes, might evoke memories of him, although material objects and the person are two separate entities. Socrates also advanced another idea to demonstrate the permanence of the soul. Plato (1966) indicates through Socrates that “…learning is recollection and that, since this is so, our soul must necessarily have been somewhere…” (p. 91). Therefore, learning is not exclusive since it varies inequality, thus, the idea helps us comprehend the concept of “recollection”.

However, before perception, it is critical to have a thorough understanding of the “Equal itself.” This is a strong indicator that souls existed before conception and will continue to exist beyond death. In this theory, souls are indestructible and exist whether the body is dead or living (Plato, 1966, p. 91). Regarding the assumption that “although things appear to be equal, they are deficient inequality,” it is crucial to analyze examples from the real world that demonstrate defective equality. For example, one stick may be shorter than the other and so inferior. Although two sticks may appear to be equivalent or related, they are not.

Affinity Argument

Socrates makes the ‘Affinity Argument’ for the afterlife in Plato’s Phaedo. Socrates contends that because the soul shares basic traits with the unseen and divine, it must also have the additional attribute of perpetuity. The affinity argument connects the soul with a superior reality realm. There are two types of existence: the unseen and visible worlds. The unseen universe is only accessible through our intelligible, deathless, transcendent, and quasi-minds (Plato, 1966, p. 84). The visible universe, on the other hand, is incomprehensible, flawed, complex, and perishable.

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The Affinity Argument describes the distinction between ephemeral, corporeal, and observable objects and immortal, immaterial, and unseen things. The soul is for the unseen, immaterial, and everlasting, whereas the body is visible, materialistic, and mortal (Plato (1966, p. 107). Similarly, even though it can assume several forms, the soul remains everlasting. According to Plato (1966), Socrates denotes that “…the soul is immortal and imperishable, and our souls will exist somewhere in another world…” (p. 107). A soul that has been incorrectly separated will ultimately become a ghost and yearn to return to the flesh. A well-detached soul, on the other hand, would flourish unrestrained and experience the joys of paradise. As a consequence, Socrates defends this assertion with a constructive dilemma: either death implies the termination of consciousness, in which case our eternal state will mimic a single night of dreamless slumber.

Materialist Argument

Materialists, on the contrary, believe that conscious cognition is nothing more than mental activity and that the cessation of consciousness via death is the end of a human’s life. Gilbert Ryle argues in “The Concept Of The Mind” that talking about the “afterlife” is a category mistake (as cited in Nnaemeka & Chukwunenye, 2018, p. 5115). By this, he means that just because we have language that describes body and soul as separate, it doesn’t mean that they are.

The point he’s working to portray is that since our dialect is geared toward reductionism, with phrases like “I feel it in my soul,” it doesn’t mean that the spirit is distinct from the flesh. According to Nnaemeka & Chukwunenye (2018, p. 5115), materialists are critical of assertions that for a person to have a prolonged existence, more than simply the production of a replica is anticipated. Therefore, the soul is only a label for the assemblage of our body, cognition, and memory; it is not a separate entity in and of itself.


In conclusion, Socrates gave three distinct arguments in favor of life after death. As a result, Socrates’ reasoning is not obliged to embrace the idea of soul immortality – in stark contrast to materialists who are ‘forced into’ admitting life after death. From Socrates’ three grounds of argument, it is clear that the assertion of affinity is the strongest, proving that the soul lives on after death. Furthermore, the notion of recollection gives proof that the soul existed way before conception, whereas the last point indicates that it continues after death. There is no empirical or provable claim that is relevant to the philosophical topic of life and death. If consciousness or thought abilities are contingent on a working brain, then Socrates’ arguments are fallacious, even if they are rational. Furthermore, while life after death is highly improbable from a materialist standpoint, it is theoretically plausible in Socrates’ opinion, and hence conceivable based on the preceding reasons.


Justin, G. (2020). Opposites and Plato’s principle of change in the Phaedo cyclical. Journal of the History of Philosophy, 58(3), 423-448. Web.

Nnaemeka, C. J., & Chukwunenye, D. G. (2018). Concept of mind in Gilbert Ryle: A philosophical examination, Elixir International Journal, 119 (1), 51152-51161. Web.

Plato. (1966). Plato in twelve volumes. (H. N. Fowler, Trans.). Harvard University Press. Web.

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