Piety and Annihilation in Plato’s Phaedo

Apeiron 52 (4):339-358 (2019)
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Abstract

At the close of Plato’s Apology, Socrates argues that death is a benefit regardless of whether it results in annihilation or an afterlife. According to the standard interpretation, Socrates of the Phaedo rejects the idea that annihilation is a benefit, instead arguing that the soul is immortal and that annihilation would harm a philosopher. Socrates certainly suggests in a few passages that he would resent annihilation. In this paper, however, I argue that the Phaedo does not mark a significant shift in Socrates’ views about whether annihilation benefits. In both dialogues, he recognizes that if the gods choose to annihilate humans, they signal that human life is bad overall and that deprivation of a bad state is a benefit, albeit a benefit without an existing beneficiary. I contend that for Socrates, the possibility that humans benefit from annihilation entails neither the rationality of suicide nor the view that philosophers live miserable lives.

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Emily Austin
Wake Forest University

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References found in this work

The Soul’s (After-) Life.Rachana Kamtekar - 2016 - Ancient Philosophy 36 (1):115-132.
Socrates’ Bleak View of the Human Condition.Russell E. Jones - 2016 - Ancient Philosophy 36 (1):97-105.
Incurable Souls in Socratic Psychology.Nicholas D. Smith - 2002 - Ancient Philosophy 22 (1):21-36.

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