The Phaedo professes to be a record of the conversation between Socrates and the friends who have come to visit him in prison on the last day of his life in 399 B.C. But, as with other Platonic dialogues, we can only guess at the date it was written. We can, however, rather confidently place it in relation to other works. Three periods are generally recognized in the writings of Plato: the earliest, which contains the shorter so-called Socratic dialogues and a few of the longer, such as the Gorgias and the Protagoras; the middle period, which resolves around the Republic, and a later period for the more difficult logical and philosophical works. The Phaedo shares some characteristics with the first two periods and seems to fit somewhere between the two, after the Meno and before the Republic, which would seem to date it about 390 B.C. or shortly thereafter
The Phaedos first allusion to the reality of myth occurs when Phaedo tells Echechrates why a lengthy period of time, thirty days, passed between Socrates trial and execution. It was the Athenians practice, Phaedo explains, to send a mission every year to Delos with a complement of seven youths and seven maidens in payment of vow made to Apollo for that gods having saved Theseus. While the ship is away from Athens, the city must be kept pure. An execution would defile the city. Hence, Socrates could not be executed until the ship had returned. This introductory episode is significant because it illustrates the fact that the Athenians had allowed a mythical even to affect the laws of the city. When Echechrates asks Phaedo why so much time elapse between the trial and the execution, Phaedo remarks that it was chance. At first glance, the element of chance would seem to refer to the squalls (58c) that would detain a ship on its round-trip from Athens to Delos.
Since Socrates did endure a relatively long stay in prison, the weather was doubtless a contributing cause. However, the weather factor would be irrelevant if not of the ship. Furthermore, Phaedo is careful to tell Echechrates the priest of Apollo crown the ship on the day before trial(58a), that is, before legally deciding that Socrates is guilty. Thus, the binding power of the mythic convention would remain legally in effect regardless of the outcome of this particular trial. And since the round-trip distance between Athens and Delos is approximately 180 statue bad weather to increase that span of time. In other words, the geographical context implies the Athenians acceptance of the Theseus story of the Phaedo to transpire.
In sense. Therefore a pivotal condition for the possibility of Socrates final decision, a blend of argument and myth, depend on the Athenians believing what was doubtless mythical that Theseus went to Crete, did battle with the Minotaur, and he was safe after a vowing to Apollo. When Phaedo remarks so it is said at the outset into the fact of that law as such, but into whether or not the justification of that law can or perhaps accepted. A mythical reference at the outset of the dramatic action serves as a prelude indicating the importance of mythical representation in the realities of the day, in this case the last day in the life of Socrates. Echechrates asks the Phaedo for a complete and accurate account of the events on the day of Socrates execution. Phaedo responds that it is speaking of him myself or by hearing someone else (58d). This subtle introduction of the active/passive interplay anticipates a more explicit discursive treatment of this kind of opposition later in the dialogue.
The fact that Phaedo derives his greatest pleasure from memory of a man says something about memory as the vehicle of such pleasure and also about pleasure itself, that is, that it can educate and elevate nobility of character Socrates represents. Nonetheless, despite Phaedos capacity for such ready pleasure, a long time passes since the death of Socrates, a fact we learn from Echechrates (57b); as a result, Echechrates is beholden to Phaedos memory as far as the accuracy of the final memory and need to think for oneself, is also tacitly cautioned at the very outset to scrutinize what Socrates said and did all the more carefully. Socrates is now dead, but the memory of Socrates fills Phaedo with his greatest pleasure, Prior to his death, however, Phaedo had different reaction and pain mixed together, a strange feeling according to Phaedo, which was shared by the entire company present at the execution (58b). This introductory mention of the actual argument from opposites, the first proof for the immortality of soul. But there is more than mere anticipation at work here, for the juxtaposition of such details suggests significant philosophical consequences.
First of all, it is surely conceivable to conjoin the pleasure of philosophizing and the pain of mourning, just as on less exalted plane one could enjoy partaking of a gourmet meal while afflicted with a broken hand, For if the pleasure and pain affect different aspects of consciousness, then they could well be simultaneous, But the confluence of an actually experienced pleasure and pain seems to run counter to the notion that pleasure and pain are (or at least are asserted to be) instances of metaphysical opposites. Phaedos recounting of this episode increases in philosophical importance when it is linked with the related experience Socrates undergo and verbalize immediately upon his awakening. When Socrates is unchained, he comments upon the relief he experiences and then introduces, almost by the way, the notion that pleasure nearly always emanates from pain, its apparent opposite. For Socrates, that which men call pleasure is strange thing; it is strange because it is both related to that which seems to be its opposite, pain, in that they will not both come to a man at the same time, whereas if he pursues the one and seizes it, he actually obliged to seize the other also, as if there were two things joined in one head (60b).
The image of pleasure and pain being joined together in one head suggests that the conjunction can be somehow intelligible. However, the intelligibility of such fused opposites may be Janus-like in that conjunction is a merge of opposites, where such merge is, at best, only transitory and in some essential sense inapposite. The tension in the image Socrates selects to illustrate his point anticipates the impromptu fabrication of a mythical explanation of this conjunction, styled in the manner of an Aesopian fable. Socrates mention of what men call pleasure as if true pleasure were something other than what men typically refer to as exemplar of this kind of experience introduces the notion that the pleasure construed as an opposite to pain itself cannot be related. Of course, even if pleasure and pain are suspected as opposites, it does not follow that opposition itself is suspect. But perhaps this is the ultimate point we are to consider. For if our intuitive sense of the rightness of predicting opposition to pleasure and pain is misplaced, then the very notion of opposition itself might be only a threshold concept requiring additional inquiry. The possibility then arises that a dimension of reality does not admit of opposition, a possibility that becomes crucial later in the dialogue.
Socrates then offer the following hypothesis on the relation between pleasure and pain: if Aesop had thought of them, he would have made myth telling how god wished to part them when they were at war, and when he could not do that, he fastened their heads together, and because of this, when one of them comes to anyone, the other follows. So it means that for me, after pain was in my leg because of the fetter, pleasure appears to have come following after. Cebes picks up this new literary theme: By Zeus, Socrates, I am happy you remind me. Several others have recently asked and the hymn to Apollo, and Evenus asked me the day before yesterday what you had in mind in composing these verses after you came here, since before you never composed anything (60c-d), Cebes then asks Socrates what he, Cebes, should say when Evenus asks him about his curious phenomenon.
Plato, and G M. A. Grube. Plato's Phaedo. , 1977. Print.
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