Plato's Self-Corrective Development of the Concepts of Soul, Forms and Immortality in Three Arguments of the "Phaedo"

Dissertation, Bryn Mawr College (1993)

Scholars agree that the proofs for immortality of the soul in Plato's Phaedo are unconvincing. Many scholars think Plato was unaware of any errors. I argue both that the proofs are ultimately unconvincing and that Plato was aware of the flaws. I argue that the overall purpose of the Phaedo is to present a number of possible arguments for the soul's immortality in a philosophically systematic way. ;Only three of the arguments for immortality in the Phaedo include a discussion of the forms: the argument from recollection of the forms at 73a-77a; the argument from a dualistic split between forms and sensibles at 78b-84b; and the argument from forms as causes of the existence and nature of sensibles at 96a-107c. First, I argue that the view of forms, soul and immortality in each argument is internally consistent. Next, each of the three arguments contains three significantly different views of forms, soul and immortality. Finally, the arguments are related to each other in a philosophically significant way. When the reader examines the definitions, assumptions and inferences in the argument from recollection, it is possible to draw conclusions about the most important weaknesses in the argument. The next argument, the argument from dualism, begins with a new set of definitions, assumptions and inferences which avoid the flaws of the previous view. However, it also contains serious flaws. The third argument, in turn, begins with assumptions and definitions which avoid the problems of the argument from dualism. Each of the arguments is a further development, or refinement, of the previous view, rather than a radical rejection of it. Even the last argument in the Phaedo, however is inadequate. The Phaedo, therefore, is a truly dialectical philosophical conversation about the immortality of the soul. The views of soul and forms in the Republic are, in turn, more refined than any in the Phaedo, leading the reader to reconsider and reformulate the question of immortality
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