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The Affinity Argument in Plato’s Phaedo
Plato’s Phaedo is a great dialogue written during his middle period. It is written as a third-person account of a philosophical conversation between Socrates and his friends, on the day he died (Cooper ix). Socrates accepts that he has to die in order to attain the objectives of true philosophy (Cooper 94, Phaedo 63c). He asserts that the soul can only gain wisdom once the physical body is dead.
He also argues that learning is a recollection of the fact that one’s soul exists even before his or her birth, and lives beyond death (Phaedo 67). In most parts of the dialogue, Socrates argues about opposites of things; that one thing originates from the opposite of the other (Phaedo 105d-107). In essence, Phaedo is an explanation of immortality of the soul, as put across by Plato.
It has four main issues or arguments which Socrates presents as a way of proving the immortality of the soul. These are; the Argument from Opposites (Cyclical Argument), the Theory of Recollection, the Argument from Affinity and the Argument from Form of Life (the Final Argument).
This paper solely focuses on the third argument-Argument from Affinity. It aims at criticizing Socrates’ idea of the immortality of the soul. The paper proceeds from the premise that philosophers are great thinkers, who should not merely mention ideas but provide proof of them as well.
The Argument from Affinity
This is the argument which presupposes that human physical body is material, visible and perishable. On the contrary, the soul is immaterial, invisible and immortal. Socrates laid down his arguments that people ought to be more concerned with the soul than the physical body since in the long run the body will die but the soul will outlive it (Phaedo 78b).
Indeed, many people especially the religious leaders lay a lot of emphasis on the soul. Therefore, we see relatives of the dead gathering together to pray for the soul of the deceased person. Religious leaders also pray for the body and the soul of the dead but lay a lot of emphasis on the soul. This is to say that Socrates’ philosophy still lingers in the minds of many people (Cooper 95).
However, Socrates ought to have used reason to lay his claims instead of just mentioning ideas and leaving them as assumptions. These assumptions are held by the religious leaders in claiming that those who live virtuous lives will go to heaven. This can be quite misleading, and the underlying question is, what will happen to those with a lot of vices and their souls after death?
Socrates ignored very important aspects of the human body while explaining the immortality of the soul. He did not factor disorders such as dementia and brain malfunctioning in his claims. He simply put the immortality of the soul as the last thing that comes out of human living (Phaedo 94b-e). This falls short of what a true philosopher should profess as well as the angles in which philosophers look at things.
Following his claims on the opposites of things, one can say that the soul is mortal. Socrates argued that something is formed from its opposite; the soul exists within the mortal body. Therefore, one would not be wrong to say that the mortal body can corrupt the immortal soul. What this means is that the soul is not immune from being tainted by the body (Phaedo 83d-e).
Tension arises when people are faced with different challenges, some of which make them to indulge in worldly desires. For instance, stealing can cause someone’s soul to be tainted and “imprisoned in another body” because stealing is wrong. The main challenge that people face now is how to disentangle themselves from this tension.
Socrates argued that if any person is virtuous then his or her soul is immortal and they should not fear death as it is an end to earthly suffering (Phaedo 118). Those who love truth remain honest, and have great value for wisdom will have their souls unperturbed and their eternal life will be full of goodness.
Socrates believed in this immortality up to the time of his death, and he gladly accepted to die. It is instructive to note that this argument can be summed up by saying that the human body dies and decays but the soul lives forever. However, he did not explain his claims clearly.
Application of the Affinity Argument in Contemporary Societies
This argument has been viewed by many people as a way of enhancing virtuous living. Not a day will pass without a religious leader emphasizing on the importance of the soul in eternal life.
Several individuals have lived by such teachings which owe their origin to Plato and Socrates, for several years. However, many people abide by these teachings simply because their leaders teach so, and not because they have in-depth understanding of them.
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In conclusion, Socrates fell short of a philosopher’s manner of presenting ideas from different angles. Philosophers just don’t state ideas without remarkable explanations.
This paper serves as an eye-opener to contemporary philosophers, especially those who base their arguments on Socrates’ teaching to be extremely careful when quoting him. As a philosopher, one should not just issues mere utterances without adequate supporting facts and ideas viewed from different angles.
Cooper, John. Plato, Five Dialogues: Euthypro, Apology, Crito, Meno, Phaedo (Second Edition). Indianapolis: Hackett Pub Co, 2002. Print.