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3 - Defense of the Desire to Be Dead

61c–69e

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 February 2023

David Ebrey
Affiliation:
Universitat de Barcelona
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Summary

Socrates argues here that the sole pursuit of philosophers is dying and being dead. In doing so, he introduces most of the key topics in the dialogue, including forms, inquiry, the soul, and the philosophical life. Nonetheless, this section of the dialogue is often overlooked, perhaps because it seems simply to assert many of its claims. I argue that we often must wait until later in the dialogue to find the explanation for these claims, as part of the Phaedo’s unfolding structure. Once we take this section seriously, we can appreciate its tight and careful argumentative structure. Moreover, Socrates’ accounts here, in particular his ethical account, are sophisticated theories in their own right. The section also introduces some unusual and important terminology that Socrates uses later in the dialogue, including “auto kath’ auto” (which I argue should be translated “itself through itself”) and terminology for identifying the forms. The chapter ends with a new account of the famous “exchange passage.”

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Chapter
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Plato's Phaedo
Forms, Death, and the Philosophical Life
, pp. 54 - 87
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2023

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