The Death of Socrates and the Life of Philosophy: An Interpretation of Plato’s Phaedo

Review of Metaphysics 52 (1):127-128 (1998)


Ahrensdorf’s interpretation of the Phaedo leaves few stones unturned. While other scholars have pointed to the fallibility of Socrates’ “proofs” for the immortality of the soul, or have sought to distinguish the primary interlocutors, Simmias and Cebes, or have examined this dialogue’s vindication of the philosophical life, Ahrensdorf manages to pull all these issues together in a coherent, holistic reading of the Phaedo. The dialogue, he argues, presents Socrates’ views that the individual soul is not immortal and that our embodied human existence is the place where the philosophical life is lived out, not some transcendent reality in which perfect wisdom exists. “In the Phaedo, then, Socrates indicates, albeit quietly, that, in his view, the philosophical life is the best way of life, not because of the rewards the divine soul of the philosopher will enjoy in Hades, but rather because of the happiness the philosopher enjoys, as a human being, in this life”.

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Jill Gordon
Colby College

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