Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Show Summary Details
More options …

Apeiron

A Journal for Ancient Philosophy and Science

Ed. by Wildberg, Christian / Morison, Benjamin

Online
ISSN
2156-7093
See all formats and pricing
More options …
Ahead of print

Issues

Piety and Annihilation in Plato’s Phaedo

Emily Austin
Published Online: 2019-01-30 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/apeiron-2018-0069

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.

Keywords: Socrates; death; annihilation; piety

References

  • Archer-Hind, R. D. 1973. The Phaedo of Plato. 2nd ed. New York: Arno Press.Google Scholar

  • Armleder, Paul J. 1966. “Death in Plato’s Apologia.” Classical Bulletin 42: 46.Google Scholar

  • Austin, E. A. 2010. “Prudence and the Fear of Death in Plato’s Apology.” Ancient Philosophy 30: 39–55.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Baima, N. D. 2015. “Death and the Limits of Truth in the Phaedo.” Apeiron 48 (3): 263–84.Web of ScienceGoogle Scholar

  • Benatar, D. 2006. Better Never to Have Been: The Harm of Coming into Existence. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar

  • Bluck, R. S. 1955. Plato’s Phaedo. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd.Google Scholar

  • Bostock, D. 1986. Plato’s Phaedo. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar

  • Brickhouse, T. C., and N. D. Smith. 1989. Socrates on Trial. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar

  • Brickhouse, T. C., and N. D. Smith. 2002. “Incurable Souls in Socratic Psychology.” Ancient Philosophy 22: 21–36.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Burnet, J., ed. 1900–1907. Platonis Opera. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar

  • Burnet, J., ed. 1911. Plato’s Pheado. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar

  • Dorter, K. 1982. Plato’s Phaedo: An Interpretation. Toronto: Toronto University Press.Google Scholar

  • Gallop, D. 1975. Plato: Phaedo. Oxford: Clarendon.Google Scholar

  • Harman, E. 2009. “Critical Study of David Benatar. Better Never to Have Been: The Harm of Coming into Existence.” Nous 43 (4): 776–85.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Herodotus. 1987. The History. trans. David Grene. Chicago: Chicago University Press.Google Scholar

  • Jones, Russell E. 2013. “Felix Socrates?” Philosophia 43: 77–98.Google Scholar

  • Jones, Russell E. 2016. “Socrates’ Bleak View of the Human Condition.” Ancient Philosophy 36: 97–105.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Kagan, S. 2012. Death. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.Google Scholar

  • Kamtekar, R. 2016. “The Soul’s (After-) Life.” Ancient Philosophy 36: 115–32.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Mackenzie, M. M. 1981. Plato on Punishment. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar

  • Miles, M. 2001. “Plato on Suicide (Phaedo 60c–63c).” Phoenix 55 (3/4): 244–58.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Nagel, T. 1979. ‘Death’ in His Mortal Questions. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar

  • Reeve, C. D. C. 1989. Socrates in the Apology. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing.Google Scholar

  • Roochnik, D. L. 1985. “Apology 40c4–41e7: Is Death Really a Gain?” Classical Journal 80: 212–20.Google Scholar

  • Rowe, C. J. 1993. Plato: Phaedo. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar

  • Rudebusch, G. 1999. Socrates, Pleasure, and Value. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar

  • Shaw, J. C. 2015. “Punishment and Psychology in Plato’s Gorgias.” Polis 32: 75–95.Web of ScienceGoogle Scholar

  • Strycker, Emile de, and Simon R. Slings. 1994. Plato’s Apology of Socrates: A Literary and Philosophical Study with A Running Commentary. Leiden: Brill.Google Scholar

  • Taylor, A. E. 1927. Plato: The Man and His Work. London: Methuen.Google Scholar

  • Wagner, W. 1894. Plato’s Phaedo. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.Google Scholar

  • Woolf, R. 2004. “The Practice of a Philosopher.” Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy 26: 97–129.Google Scholar

About the article

Published Online: 2019-01-30


Citation Information: Apeiron, ISSN (Online) 2156-7093, ISSN (Print) 0003-6390, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/apeiron-2018-0069.

Export Citation

© 2019 Walter de Gruyter Inc., Boston/Berlin.Get Permission

Comments (0)

Please log in or register to comment.
Log in