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Socrates on Death and Virtue Essay

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Updated: Apr 20th, 2022

Socrates is one of the pioneers of philosophy. His point of argument on different life issues has greatly contributed to the development of the modern philosophy. During his days, many people in the authority and places of influence were vexed by his arguments on various philosophical issues of life.

He never believed anything without first questioning its credibility and truth of the subject matter. This is the reason he was accused and put on trial by his enemies. During and after the trial, he engaged in very intensive arguments with the others on matters of life and death. These last moments are recorded by Plato in Phaedo.

Phaedo is the last dialogue that recorded his final arguments before his death. In this dialogue, Socrates is apparently not afraid of death. He has been prosecuted, and a bench of 500 jurymen has already voted for his death penalty for supporting atheism and corrupting minds of the young in society.

He seems to have already accepted his fate by this time. A visit by some of his friends culminates in heated arguments on some philosophical issues. In the first argument, death becomes the pertinent topic of discussion (Guthrie, 1975).

Socrates gives a clear distinction between true and false virtue brought about by death. He argues that true virtue can only be attained after death. This is the purification that comes from the separation of the soul and body. He argues that the body is a great hindrance to the acquiring of the knowledge and truth.

He holds the belief in the afterlife. This seems to be the major motivating factor to face death through poisoning. According to him, the separation of his soul with the body will give him a full answer to all the questions he has ever craved for.

To him, death is a purification from what he calls the ‘infection’ of the body (Gallop, 1996). He believes that true virtue can only be found in the afterlife where wiser souls and Gods live. He believes that there exists something better after death.

The soul, therefore, is the key to the full attainment of virtue and wisdom (Gallop, 1996). It exists before the body comes into being. It, therefore, might acquire some knowledge before. The hindrance to the realization of the true virtue is corrupted by the body and its elements. This is why, separating the two is the key to the full attainment of the true virtue.

On the other hand, this argument also brings out the false virtue that comes from the corruption of the body. It is a result of the fears of life, which act as the speed governors in the urge to attain the real full virtue. The body has demands that must be fulfilled.

During this process, many important aspects of attaining knowledge may be ignored just to ensure that the body’s demands are fulfilled. The soul, which is still a part of the body, has no free will in exercising true virtue by this time. This explains why Socrates believes that the true virtue can only be attained when the soul and the body are separated (Gallop, 1996).

In the real world we live in, there are needs that must be met. We need shelter, food, and clothing among other things, like comfort. The process of getting these things sometimes makes some people compromise on what should actually be done.

Such compromises are normally big setbacks in one’s process of acquiring the true virtue. The conflict between the soul and the body normally ends up into satisfying the demands of the body. So long as the soul is still with the body, the true virtue is far from being attained.

This is depicted in the movie I have watched about a lady named Teresa. This young lady grew up in a poor family to become so ambitious that she vowed never to live a life of poverty again. As much as she thought what to do to achieve her goals, she decided to selfishly use her feminine charm to lure rich men into her trap.

She did this at the expense of family break ups and divorces. As the time passed, she came into her senses and felt guilty of her actions. Her soul convinced her to stop and do the right things, only for her to change and do the same things to maintain her exorbitant lifestyle.

It is, therefore, very evident that the body is a hindrance to the attainment of the true virtue. The very quest for knowledge by human beings is full of challenges. The drive only comes due to the satisfaction of what the body craves for. Therefore, reaching the full attainment of knowledge is far from reality.

This is also evident in the way decisions are made. Someone in political authority may make a wrong decision that is popular to maintain his or her position to make the right one for everyone’s benefit. Socrates believed that his search for knowledge would be complete after his death. His soul would be free to do what it wills with other Gods and wise souls.

However, it is worth noting that Socrates’ idea on the true and false virtue is not the answer to the search for knowledge. We all have to acknowledge that life is important, and that we can never avoid the realities of life. The soul can never exist alone in this life without the body.

Therefore, we can never know what this life has in store for us. Attaining virtue is a continuous process that is only shaped by the life experiences. This should not be termed as false virtue. Finally, if the soul did not require the body, then there would be no need of being born. I do not see why one should be born and die for the soul to be free to exercise true virtue.

Works Cited

Gallop, David. “Introduction“. Phaedo. Plato. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996. vii-xiii. Print.

Guthrie, William Keith Chambers. A History of Greek Philosophy, Vol. 4, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1975. Print.

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