BECK index

Prison and Death

by Sanderson Beck
(based on Plato's Crito and Phaedo)

SOCRATES: A Series of Philosophical Plays is now published as a book. For ordering information, please click here.


Prison Attendant
Xanthippe and Myrto, wives of Socrates
Lamprocles, an older son
Sophroniscus and Menexenus, little sons
Friends of Socrates and a boy

Scene: Inside the prison of Athens at dawn. Socrates is sleeping in his cell, as Crito sits waiting for him to wake up. Suddenly Socrates opens his eyes and sees Crito.

Why have you come so early, Crito?
What time is it?

Dawn is breaking.

I'm surprised the prison guard let you in.

He's used to me now, Socrates,
on account of my coming so often;
besides I have done something good for him.

Did you just come, or was it some time ago?

Quite a while ago.

Why didn't you wake me up right away,
instead of sitting there in silence?

No, by Zeus, I wouldn't do that, Socrates;
I only wish I weren't so sleepless and depressed.
I've been marveling at how pleasantly you sleep,
and I didn't wake you up on purpose
so that you could continue so pleasantly.
You've always had a happy disposition,
and especially now in your present misfortune,
you bear it so easily and mildly.

Surely, Crito, it would be a mistake at my age
to resent it if I must die now.

That doesn't prevent others of your age
in such misfortune from resenting their fate.

That's true. But why did you come so early?

To bring you a message, Socrates,
not hard for you as it seems,
but to me and all your friends both hard and heavy.

What is it?
Has the ship arrived from Delos,
upon whose arrival I must die?

It hasn't arrived yet, but it will today
according to reports from some
who saw it at Sunium,
and by force tomorrow will be the end of your life.

Good Crito, if this is the will of the gods, so be it.
Yet I don't think it will come today.

What makes you think that?

I must die on the day after the ship comes in.

That's what the authorities say.

Then I don't think it'll come today, but tomorrow.
I infer this from a dream I had last night,
and it was lucky you didn't wake me up.

What was the dream?

A beautiful and good-looking woman
clothed in white came to me
and called to me saying, "Socrates,
'On the third day you'll come to fertile Phthia.'"

A strange dream, Socrates.

Actually it seems clear to me, Crito.

Very clear, apparently.
But dear Socrates,
even now you can still be saved,
if you'll be persuaded by me;
for if you die,
for me it's not just one misfortune,
but apart from losing a companion
I could never replace,
it will also seem to many
who don't know us well,
that I could have saved you,
if I'd spent the money.
Now what reputation
could be more shameful than that---
to make money more important than friends?
For many won't believe
you weren't willing to escape
even though we were eager to get you out of here.

Why care about what many think?
For the reasonable,
who are more worth considering,
will think this was done as it actually was.

But don't you see, Socrates, that it's necessary
to care about the opinion of many.
These very circumstances show
that many can accomplish great evil
if they're prejudiced against someone.

If many could accomplish great evil,
then they could also do great good;
but they can't make one either wise nor unwise,
but they do whatever happens by chance.

That may be so, Socrates, but tell me this:
aren't you thinking about me and our friends,
that if we helped you escape from here,
the informers would cause trouble for us,
and we'd be forced to lose our property
or much money
or suffer something else in addition?
For if this is your fear, relax;
it's right for us to risk this danger to save you,
and if necessary even greater than this.
So obey me, and don't do anything else.

I'm considering this, Crito,
and many other things.

Then don't be afraid,
for surely it's not much silver,
which some would take
to save you and get out of here.
Don't you see that
the informers may be easily bought?
My money is at your command---
which I think is enough;
and if out of some concern for me
you don't think mine should be spent,
foreigners here are ready to spend theirs;
Simmias the Theban has provided enough silver;
and Cebes is also ready, and many others.
So don't hesitate to save yourself,
and don't be disagreeable
about what you said in court,
that if you went away
you wouldn't know what to do.
For wherever you go they will love you;
if you wish to go to Thessaly,
I know people there
who will make much of you and offer you safety
so that no one in Thessaly will bother you.
Besides it doesn't seem right to me, Socrates,
to give yourself up, when you might be saved;
you're trying to bring such things on yourself
as even your enemies who want to destroy you.
Also you'd be abandoning your children,
whom you could bring up and educate,
but leaving them behind
they'll do whatever chances,
which will probably be
what orphans do in destitution.
For either one shouldn't have children,
or one should take care of raising
and educating them;
but you seem to be choosing the laziest way,
when you should choose
as a good and courageous man,
just as you have said all through your life
that you really care about virtue and education.
So I'm ashamed both for you
and for us, your friends,
lest it seem that we acted cowardly in this affair,
both in how the case
was brought into court and tried,
and then this end
as though a mockery of the affair
will seem to have been lost to us
because of our cheapness and cowardice,
if we didn't save you nor did you save yourself,
which was possible with just a little help from us.
Therefore, Socrates, see that these things
be not both bad and shameful for you and for us.
But decide now,
or rather there is no time to decide,
but only to have already decided,
and there is only one decision;
for everything must be done this coming night.
And if we delay, it can no longer be done.
So by all means, Socrates, obey me,
and don't do anything else at all.

Dear Crito, your eagerness is worth much,
if it should prove to be correct;
but if not, then the greater it is, the harder.
So we must look at
whether I should do this or not;
since not only now but I have always been one
who obeys the logic
which by reasoning appears best.
And the arguments I made before
can't be rejected now
just because this has happened to me,
and they appear nearly the same to me.
Unless we have better arguments in the present,
you know that I shall not yield to you,
not even if the current power of the crowd
could frighten us like children by threatening us
with imprisonment and death
and confiscation of money.
So how can we look at this most reasonably?
Should we first take up
this argument about opinions,
that intelligence must hold to certain opinions;
or was it correct before I was condemned to die,
but now do we find
it was just for the sake of argument,
and was it in truth play and nonsense?
Crito, I'm eager to examine together with you,
whether it's different since I am here, or the same,
and whether we should say goodby to it or obey it.
It was argued, I think each time, by those arguing,
that some opinions are worth more than others.
Before the gods, Crito, is this argued correctly?
For you who are outside the human probability
of having to die tomorrow
and are not swayed by that,
consider if it seems adequately argued to you
that not all the opinions of people
should be honored.
What do you say?
Is this not argued correctly?

Yes, correctly.

Then should not the good ones be honored,
and not the bad ones?


And aren't the good ones those of the wise,
and the bad those of the unwise?

Of course.

Then does the practicing athlete pay attention
to the praise and blame and opinion of everyone,
or only to the one who is a trainer or physician?

Only to the one knowledgeable.

Then we should not be afraid of the blame of many,
but esteem the praise of the knowledgeable one.


But will disobeying this one
while honoring the opinions of many
who have no understanding lead to injury?

Of course.

And what kind of injury comes to the disobedient
and into what parts of one does it extend?

Clearly into the body; for it ruins it.

You argue correctly, Crito.
Then is it also not true
concerning right and wrong,
shame and honor, good and bad,
which we're considering,
should we obey the opinion of many and fear it,
or of the one who has understanding
who should be respected
more than all the others?
If we don't follow that one,
we'll injure and ruin
what is made better by justice
and ruined by injustice.
What do you think?

I believe it, Socrates.

So if what is improved by health
and ruined by disease
is destroyed by obeying the opinion
of those not aware,
is it still livable for us when it is ruined?

Certainly not.

And that's the body, isn't it?


Is what is ruined by wrong and benefited by justice
less important than the body?

Certainly not.

But it's more important?

Much more.

So we shouldn't consider what many will say,
but what the one who is aware will say
about justice and wrong and truth itself.
So at first you brought this in incorrectly,
introducing the opinion of many for us to consider.
But then, some might say, the many can kill us.

That's also clear, Socrates, and would be said.

but admirable one, this argument we discussed
still seems to me the same as it was before;
let's see if it still holds for us or not,
that it's not living that is best, but living well.

It still holds.

Then from this agreement we must look at
whether it's right for me to try to escape from here
without permission of the Athenians, or not;
and if it appears to be right, let's try;
but if it isn't, let's dismiss the idea.
Now what you say are considerations
about spending money and opinion
and supporting children,
are really speculations, Crito, of those many
who easily kill and would bring to life again,
if they could, without intelligence.
However, since the argument compels us,
we must consider whether we shall act justly
in paying money and thanking
those who let me escape,
or whether in truth
it would be wrong to do this;
and if these actions appear wrong,
we must debate not whether
I must stay here and quietly die
but whether to suffer anything at all
before wronging.

I think you speak well, Socrates;
but let's see what we should do.

Good friend, let's look together,
and if you can contradict anything I'm saying,
do so, and I will obey you;
but if not, then stop already
saying so often to me the same argument,
that I should escape from here without permission;
since I value doing these things
with your approval, but not unwillingly.
Now see if the beginning of the investigation
seems reasonable to you
and try to answer as best you can.

I'll try.

Do we say that
in no way are we to wrong intentionally,
or may we wrong in some ways, but not in others?
Or is it never good to wrong,
as we have often agreed before?
Are we to throw out these earlier agreements, Crito?
Or above all is it as we said then,
whether many say so or not,
and whether we must suffer even harder things,
nevertheless is not injustice both bad and shameful
to the wrong-doer in whatever way it happens?
Did we say this or not?

We said it.

Then we must never wrong.

Of course not.

Nor retaliate against wrong, as many think,
since we must never wrong.

Apparently not.

Then doing evil actions against the evil,
as many do, is just or not just?

It is not just.

For doing evil to people
is no different than wronging.

You say the truth.

Then one must not retaliate
nor do evil to any person,
no matter what one may suffer from them.
Make sure, Crito, in conceding this
you don't agree in a way contrary to your opinion.
For I know this is held and will be held by few.
Thus those who believe this and those who don't
on this have no common decision,
but seeing each others' decisions,
by force of this they condemn each other.
So look very carefully at
whether you agree with this,
and let's begin with the decision here,
that it's never correct to do wrong or retaliate
or having suffered evil to avenge by returning evil;
or do you stand aside
and not agree from the beginning?
For it seems to me thus both before and still now;
but if it seems any other way to you, tell me.
But if you're holding to it as before,
listen to the next point.

I'm holding to it and agree with you;
so say it.

Should one do what one has agreed is just,
or should one deceive?

One should do it.

So consider what comes out of this.
By our escaping from here,
not obeying the state,
are we doing evil to anyone or not?
Are we holding to what we agreed was just or not?

I have no answer, Socrates,
for I don't understand.

Look at it this way.
If we're about to run away from here,
the laws and community might come and ask:
"Tell us, Socrates, what have you in mind to do?
Is this another action you are planning
to destroy our laws and the entire state
as far as you are concerned?
Or do you think a state may exist
and not be overturned
in which court rulings have no strength,
but by private people they are made ineffective?"

What shall we say to this, Crito?
For an orator could say
much on behalf of the laws,
which direct that court judgments be effective.
Or shall we say to them,
"The state wronged us
and did not judge our case correctly"?
Shall we say this, or what?

Yes, by Zeus.

But what if the laws should say,
"Socrates, was this agreed to by you and us,
to abide by the verdicts which the state judges?"
And if I were surprised by
what they were saying,
perhaps they might say,
"Socrates, don't be surprised, but answer,
since you like to question and answer.
What fault do you find with us and the state
that you are attempting to destroy us?
First did we not give you birth
and was it not through our security
that your mother and father conceived you?
Do you complain about the laws of marriage?"

"I don't complain," I would say.

"What about those concerning education?
Or was it not well directed by the appointed laws
to have you instructed in music and gymnastics?"

"It was well," I would say.

"Fine. Then born, raised, and educated,
were you not our offspring and slave?
Do you think justice is equal for you and for us,
and whatever we may attempt to do to you,
do you think it is just for you to do this back?
Justice was not equal for you toward your father
and toward a master, if you happened to have one,
so that whatever was suffered, might be done back,
or hearing bad things to talk back
or being struck to strike back, and so on;
will this be so toward your country and the laws,
so that if we try to destroy you thinking it is just,
you too will try to destroy us laws and the country,
and will you say doing this is acting justly,
the one who in truth cares about virtue?
Or don't you see that more than parents and family
the country is honorable and revered and holy
both among the gods and intelligent humans,
so she must be revered
and more yielded to and humored
when the country is angry than when a father is,
and either persuade her or do what she orders,
and suffer whatever she directs be suffered,
keeping quiet, and if beaten or imprisoned
or brought to war to be wounded or killed,
these are to be done;
and justice is like this,
not yielding nor retreating
nor abandoning one's duty,
not only in war and in court but everywhere
one must do what the state and the country order,
or persuade her what is natural justice;
but to be violent is
neither holy to mother nor father,
and even much less to one's country?"

What shall we say to this, Crito?
Are the laws telling the truth or not?

It seems so to me.

"Look now, Socrates," perhaps the laws would say,
"if what we say is true,
what you're now attempting to do to us isn't just.
For we gave you birth, nurtured and educated you,
providing fine things to you as a citizen,
while proclaiming permission
for any Athenian citizen
who has seen the business in the state and our laws,
if we don't please,
one is allowed to take one's things
and go away wherever one wants.
None of our laws stand in the way nor forbid this,
if anyone wishes to go to a colony
or move your home.
But those of you who remain having seen
how we judge cases and administer the state,
we say have agreed with us to do what we order;
and the one not obeying we say wrongs us,
because of having agreed with us to obey
one neither obeyed nor persuaded us,
if we were not doing what is right,
for we offer these two alternatives.
We say you'll be liable for these responsibilities,
if you do what you have in mind, Socrates,
and you not least of the Athenians, but especially."

Then if I should say, "Why so?"
Perhaps they might justly reproach me
because I among the Athenians especially agreed.

For they could say,
"Socrates, we have much evidence
that we and the state pleased you;
for you stayed home more than all other Athenians
and must have been particularly pleased,
not going out of the city for festivals
except once to the isthmus,
nor anywhere else, unless on military service,
nor did you travel anywhere like other people,
nor did you want to know other states and laws,
but we and our state were enough for you;
so strongly did you prefer us and our politics
that you even produced children here.
Furthermore in your trial you could have proposed
the sentence of exile, if you wished,
which now you're attempting against the state's will,
then you could have done that with its permission.
But then you were proud
and not upset if you must die,
and preferred, as you said, death before exile;
but now you're not ashamed of those words,
nor do you respect us laws, trying to ruin us,
you're acting like the meanest slave would act,
trying to run away in violation of contracts
which you agreed to with us as a citizen.
So first reply to this,
whether we're telling the truth
saying you agreed to be a citizen
by your actions and not by word,
or is it not true?"

What shall we say to this, Crito?
Shouldn't we agree?

By necessity, Socrates.

"Aren't you then breaking these contracts with us,"
they could say,
"which were not agreed to by force
nor deception nor decided in a short time,
but over seventy years in which you could have left,
if you didn't like us
and the agreements weren't just?
But you preferred neither Sparta nor Crete,
which you say have good laws, nor any other state,
but you went abroad less than the lame and blind.
So you were pleased with the state and its laws,
for who could like a state without liking its laws?
And now aren't you holding to the agreements?
You will, if you're persuaded by us, Socrates;
and you'll not make yourself ridiculous in exile.

"For by transgressing and making these mistakes,
what good are you doing
for yourself or your friends?
For it's pretty clear your friends would be risking
exile and loss of citizenship or property;
and if you go to a nearby state, Thebes or Megara---
for both have good laws---
you go as an enemy, Socrates,
and those who care for their state will despise you
thinking you are a corrupter of the laws,
and you'll confirm the opinion of the judges
so that they'll think correctly the verdict was just;
for whoever corrupts the laws
may seriously be thought
a corrupter of the young and of thoughtless people.
Then will you avoid civilized states with good laws?
And doing this then will life be worthwhile for you?
Or will you approach them
and not be ashamed to discuss
the arguments you made here, Socrates,
that virtue and justice are most valuable for people,
along with the institutions and laws?
Don't you think your business would appear unseemly?
One would think so.
However, you may leave these places and go to Thessaly
with Crito's visitors, where disorder is the greatest,
and perhaps they would enjoy hearing with laughter
of your running away from prison in a disguise,
wearing skins or altering your dress like runaways do;
but that an old man, probably with little time left,
dared to want life so shamelessly he broke the laws,
will no one say it?
Maybe if you don't bother anyone, Socrates,
but otherwise you'll hear much unworthy of yourself.
You'll live inferior to all people and as a slave.
What will you do feasting in Thessaly
as though you went there for a banquet?
And where are our arguments about justice and virtue?
Yet you may wish to live for the sake of the children,
so that you may raise and educate them.
But will you take them into Thessaly to educate them,
making them strangers so that they can enjoy that?
Or maybe not that,
but if they're raised without you
will your being alive help them in any way?
For your friends will have to take care of them.
If you journey to Thessaly
will they take better care of them
than if you were to journey to Hades?

"But Socrates, be convinced by us who raised you,
don't make children nor life nor anything else
more important than justice,
so that when you go to Hades
you may argue all this
in your defense to those ruling there;
for by doing these things it doesn't seem to be
better for you here nor for any of the others
nor will it be better when you arrive there.
But now you go away wronged,
if you do go away,
not by us the laws but by the people;
and if you escape so shamefully
retaliating and returning bad actions,
breaking your agreements and contracts with us,
and doing evil to those
whom you least should do so---
yourself and friends and country and us---
we shall be angry with you while you live,
and there our brothers, the laws in Hades,
will not receive you kindly,
knowing that you attempted to destroy us,
as far as you could.
So don't let Crito persuade you
to do what he says
rather than what we say."

My dear friend Crito,
understand this is what I hear,
like the mystics seem to hear the flutes,
and in myself the sound of these arguments rings,
and it makes it impossible to hear any others;
but realize, as it seems now to me,
if you argue against these,
you will speak in vain.
Yet if you think you might accomplish anything,
say it.

But, Socrates, I have nothing to say.

Let it be then, Crito,
and let's act this way,
since this is the way God leads.

Socrates presses the hand of Crito in his, as the scene dissolves.

In the new scene Socrates is still in his cell, and the Prison Attendant is releasing his chains. Xanthippe is sitting nearby holding their small child Menexenus in her arms.

As you know, Socrates, the ship from Delos
finally arrived yesterday after its long delays,
and so the Eleven have ordered me to prepare
for your execution at sundown today by poisoning.

Yes, I understand.

Several of your friends
have gathered outside as usual
so they could visit you on your last day.
I can let them in now, if you like.

I would be pleased if you would.

The Prison Attendant goes out and soon Crito, Apollodorus, Phaedo, Simmias, Cebes, and other friends come into the cell. Xanthippe, realizing the poignancy of the moment, cries out emotionally.

Oh Socrates, this is the last time
your friends will speak to you and you to them.

She begins to sob.

Crito, let someone take Xanthippe home.

It will be done, Socrates.

Some of the friends next to Crito gently help her stand up and escort her out. Socrates sits on the bed bending his stiff legs and rubbing them with his hands.

How odd seems this thing called pleasure,
my friends;
how wonderfully is it related to its opposite, pain,
in that they will not come to one at the same time,
but if we pursue one and get it,
we are usually forced to get the other also,
as though in one head the two are joined together.
I think if Aesop had thought of it,
he would have composed a fable,
how God wishing to reconcile their warring,
couldn't, but fastened their heads together,
so that when one comes, later the other follows.
It seems exactly this way to me,
since my leg was in pain from the chains,
but now pleasure seems to have come following it.

By Zeus, Socrates, I'm glad you reminded me.
The poet Evenus wants to know
why you decided to compose poems
based on the stories of Aesop,
when you came here,
never having made verses before.
When he asks me again,
what should I say to him?

Tell him the truth, Cebes,
that I don't want to compete with him in poetry,
for I know that wouldn't be easy;
but I've been checking out
the meaning of some dreams,
to see if their commands were
for me to make music.
For often the same dream
came to me throughout my life,
saying in one way or another to me, "Make music."
Previously I interpreted it as
encouraging me in what I was doing,
like those who cheer runners,
since philosophy is the greatest of the muses,
and I was practicing that;
but since the trial and during the festival
which delayed my execution because of the ship,
it seemed to warn me
to make this popular music;
so I thought I shouldn't disobey it, but do it.
First I composed a hymn to the god of the festival
and then needing stories I found Aesop handy.
So, Cebes, tell Evenus to take care and,
if he is wise,
to pursue me as quickly as he can.
For it seems the Athenians order me
to depart today.
What a thing to urge Evenus, Socrates!
For I've met him many times
and from what I've seen
he'll not hardly want to obey you.

Why not? Isn't Evenus a philosopher?

He seems so to me.

Then he'll be willing,
both Evenus and everyone
who is worthy of having a part in this business.
Yet he probably won't commit suicide;
for they say that is not the divine will.

Socrates turns on the bed and puts his feet on the floor. The others by now are sitting around him.

Why do you say that, Socrates,
that it's not divine will to commit suicide,
but the philosopher is willing to follow the dying?

But Cebes, haven't you and Simmias
heard about this from associating with Philolaus?

Nothing distinctly, Socrates.

I too only speak about this from hearsay;
but what I've heard I don't mind saying.
Maybe it's especially fitting when about to go there
to examine and tell stories about that departure
and what kind of a place we think it is;
for what else is there to do
in this time until the setting of the sun?

So, Socrates, why ever do they say
it's not divine will to kill oneself?
Philolaus has said this, but nothing definite.

You must be ready, for you might hear.
However, it may seem strange to you,
if, when it is better to die than to live,
it is not holy for people to do to themselves
what is good for them,
but they must wait around.

Zeus knows.

It seems unreasonable,
but maybe it has some meaning.
What is said in secret about this,
that as humans we're in a kind of prison
and shouldn't release ourselves nor run away,
appears to me as great and not easy to understand;
yet I think it's well argued, Cebes,
the gods take care of us humans as their possessions;
or don't you think so?

Yes, I do.

Then if one of your possessions should kill itself,
your not having indicated you wanted it to die,
would you be angry with it and punish it?


Then maybe it's not unreasonable
that one must not kill oneself,
until God sends the necessity,
just as even now it has come upon me.

That seems likely;
yet what you just said,
that philosophers are willing to die seems absurd
if what you just now said is reasonable,
that God is taking care of us as possessions.
For it's not reasonable
for the wisest not to be troubled
by departing from the gods' care
who are the best overseers watching over them.
The unaware might think
they'll be better taken care of
by fleeing the master and becoming free
and wouldn't realize it's not necessary
to flee from the good but rather to remain,
because they would be fleeing unreasonably;
while the aware would always want
to be with those better than themselves.
Yet Socrates,
this seems to contradict what you said.

Cebes is always searching for arguments,
and he's not immediately persuaded
by what one says.

But Socrates, now it seems to me
there is something in what Cebes is saying;
for why should the wise
wish to flee better masters?
And I think Cebes is
directing the argument at you,
because you are so willing
to leave us and the gods,
who are good rulers,
as you yourself agree.

You have a right to say it,
and I think you want me to defend this,
as though I were in court.


Then I'll try to defend myself
more persuasively to you
than I did to the judges.
For if I didn't think I go
first to wise and good gods,
and second to people who've died,
better than those here,
I'd be wrong in not being troubled by death;
but understand that I hope to come to good people,
though I certainly wouldn't insist upon this;
but I would affirm even more
the coming to the gods
who are definitely good masters.
So I'm not troubled but am in good hope
that something exists for those who have died
and, as it has been said long ago,
it's much better for the good than for the evil.

Then Socrates, with this understanding in mind
do you have to depart,
or will you share it with us?
For it seems this good
belongs in common to us also,
and it would be a defense
for you at the same time,
if you could persuade us by what you say.

I'll try,
but first we should listen to Crito
who's been wanting
to say something for a long time.

It's only that for a long time now, Socrates,
the one who is to give you the poison
has been telling me
that you should converse as little as possible,
for he says talking especially heats one up,
and one mustn't interfere
in this way with the poison
or else it's sometimes necessary
for those who do this
to drink it a second or third time.

Forget it;
just let him be prepared to give it twice
or if it's necessary three times.

I knew almost what you would say,
but he's been giving me
the business for some time.

Just forget it.
But now I wish to explain
to you judges the reason why
one who has in reality
spent one's life in philosophy
will naturally be confident when about to die
and has good hopes of obtaining great good there,
and how this is so I'll try to indicate.
For those who grasp philosophy correctly
risk being unrecognized by others,
because it is nothing but practicing how to die.
So if this is true,
it surely would be absurd
to want all through life nothing but this,
and when it comes, to be troubled by it,
which they were wanting
and practicing for a long time.

SIMMIAS (Laughing)
By Zeus, Socrates,
I'm certainly not in a laughing mood,
but you made me laugh.
For I think if many heard this
they would think
it was well said about philosophers,
that in reality philosophers are for death,
and it's not unrecognized,
because they deserve this.

And they would be saying the truth, Simmias,
except that they are unrecognized.
For they don't recognize
in what way true philosophers
are for death and deserve death
and what kind of death.
So let's talk among ourselves
and forget about them.
Do we think death is something?


Then isn't it the release of the soul from the body?
Death releases the body
apart from the soul by itself,
and the soul is released
apart from the body by itself.
Then is death anything else but this?

No, it isn't.

From this we move into what we're considering.
Do you think a philosophical person
is concerned about
the so-called pleasures of eating and drinking?

Least of all, Socrates.

But then about the pleasures of love?

Not at all.

Do you think such a person
thinks highly of the cares of the body,
such as clothes and possessions?
Does that one overrate them or underrate them?

I think a true philosopher underrates them.

Then is such a person
not concerned with the body,
but as far as possible
would withdraw from the body
and turn toward the soul?


Then is it clear the philosopher especially
releases the soul from communion with the body,
differing from other people in that?


And surely it seems to many people, Simmias,
that the one who takes no pleasure in these
doesn't deserve to live,
but one is tending to die
who is not thinking
about the pleasures of the body.

What you say is true.

Then what about the acquiring of wisdom itself?
Is the body a hindrance or not in this search?
What I mean is,
does sight and hearing have any truth,
or is it as the poets are always repeating to us,
that we neither hear nor see anything accurately?
Yet if these senses are not accurate nor precise,
the others being inferior are idle,
don't you think?


Then when does the soul attain the truth?
For when it attempts
to look at something with the body,
it's clear that at that time it's deceived by it.


So then in reasoning, if in no other way,
does something of the realities become evident?


But it reasons best
when none of these trouble it,
neither hearing nor sight
nor pain nor any pleasure,
but especially when it itself
says goodby to the body
and as far as it can
doesn't commune nor connect with it
in order to reach out to reality.

That's so.

Thus in this too does the soul of the philosopher
especially underrate the body and flee from it,
and seek to become it of itself?


Now what about the following, Simmias?
Do we say there is such a thing as justice or not?

We do say so, by Zeus.

And beauty and goodness?

Of course.

Then have you ever seen
any of these with your eyes?

By no means.

But did you reach them
with any of the bodily senses?
I'm talking about all of the realities,
such as greatness, health, strength, and so on.
Is their truest essence contemplated by the body,
or does one have to prepare oneself especially
to understand most accurately each thing considered?


So then would one do this most purely,
who comes especially with the intuition itself to each,
not comparing sight in the intuition
nor dragging in any other senses with the reasoning,
but it of itself using unmixed the intuition
in attempting to contemplate each of the realities,
removing them especially from the eyes and ears
and so to speak from all the body,
which would confuse and not allow the soul
to attain truth and wisdom, when joined to them;
then isn't this one, if anyone, ready for reality?

What you say is extraordinary, Socrates.

Then it seems philosophers
must come to terms with this
in order to even
talk to each other about such things,
that just as likely as
there is a path to carry us out,
as long as we have a body
our soul is caught in evil,
and we'll never attain sufficiently what we want;
and this we say is the truth.
For the body constantly
keeps us busy needing food;
diseases falling on it hinder our search of reality.
It fills us with many passions and desires and fears
and fantasies of all kinds and nonsense
so that it is said in truthful reality
because it is inborn in us
one can never think at all.
For wars and factions and battles are caused
by nothing else but the body and its desires.
For all wars occur because of the gaining of money,
and we need money because of the body,
slaving in its service;
and because of this
we have no leisure for philosophy.
Worst of all is that
even if some leisure away from it comes to us
and we turn to consider something,
in this seeking it causes trouble to get in the way
disturbing and distracting us so that because of it
one is unable to observe the truth,
but in reality it has been shown to us
that if we are ever to know anything clearly,
one must be released from the body
and observe these same actualities
with the soul itself;
and then there will be
what we want and say we are lovers of, wisdom,
when we're dead, as the argument shows,
but not in life.
For if with the body
one can't have clear knowledge,
there are two alternatives:
either knowledge is not to be attained at all
or else when one has died;
for at that time the soul will be it of itself
apart from the body, but not before then.
And if we live in it in this way,
then it's likely we'll be nearest to knowledge,
especially if we're not involved with the body,
which isn't necessary all the time,
and are not filled by its nature,
but keep ourselves clear of it
until God releases us;
thus the clear ones
released from the body's folly
probably will know by themselves
all that is unmixed;
and this may be the truth.
For the one not pure is not promised purity,
it not being the divine will.
I think, Simmias,
it's necessary to say such things
to each other and to all who love learning.
Or don't you think so?

Most certainly, Socrates.

Then if this is true, my friend,
there is much hope in arriving where I am going,
that there, if anywhere,
this will be fully attained
for the sake of which
much has been undergone in life,
so that this journey offers good hope to those
who think the intuition is prepared as purified.


Then does this purification
not correspond especially
to the separating of the soul from the body
and the habit of bringing together and collecting
it of itself everywhere out of the body,
and to dwell as far as possible in the now present
and in it alone by itself,
released out of the body as though out of chains?


Then is this not called death,
the soul released and apart from the body?


But to release it the true philosophers alone
are also always the most eager,
and is the exercise of the philosopher to do this:
release and separate the soul from the body,
or not?

It appears so.

Then as I said before, it would be ridiculous
if one prepared oneself in life
by living as near as possible to dying,
but when it finally comes, to be troubled by it.
Wouldn't that be ridiculous?

Of course.

In reality then,
true philosophers practice how to die,
and death is less feared by them of all people.
Consider it this way, Simmias.
If they are in every way suspicious of the body
and want to have the soul by itself,
wouldn't it be quite unreasonable
if they were afraid and troubled by this occurring,
if they weren't glad to go there where they hope
what they were wanting in life would happen;
and they were wanting wisdom and release
from associating with this which they suspected?
Many have died and gone willingly to Hades
hoping to see favorites and family and friends;
so those wanting wisdom
and taking seriously this hope,
that nowhere else will they meet this,
will they be troubled dying
and not be glad to go there?
I wouldn't think so,
if they're truly philosophers,
and they couldn't meet pure wisdom anywhere else.
If this is so, wouldn't it be unreasonable
for them to be afraid of death?

Very much so.

Then is this not a sufficient indication,
if you see those who are troubled
when about to die,
that they're not lovers of wisdom
but of the body?
They're also likely to be
lovers of money and honor.

It is as you say.

Then Simmias, isn't the name courage
especially fitting to philosophers?


The prudent who live in philosophy
are concerned with not being excited by desires
and being orderly,
and do they care little about the body?


But if you consider
the courage and prudence of others,
they may seem to you to be absurd.

How come, Socrates?

Do you believe all others
think death is a great evil?

Quite so.

Then don't the courageous face death
in fear of greater evils,
when they do face it?

That's so.

Then all are courageous out of fear and need,
except for philosophers.
But isn't it unreasonable to be courageous
through need and fear?


And don't the orderly ones suffer the same thing?
Aren't they prudent by a kind of indulgence?
For wanting and afraid of
being deprived of pleasures,
they abstain from some
and are controlled by others.
Yet they call indulgence being ruled by pleasures.
So they control some pleasures,
because they want to indulge in others.

So it seems.

So it wouldn't be correct to purchase virtue,
exchanging pleasure for pleasure and pain for pain
and fear for fear and greater for less,
like with coins, but wisdom alone is the right coin,
for which all those must be exchanged,
and by wisdom all may be valued
and bought in reality,
courage and prudence
and justice and all true virtues;
but separating wisdom
and making these exchanges is servile
and there is nothing healthy nor true in it,
but truth in reality would be a purification of these,
and prudence and justice
and courage and wisdom itself
are some kind of cleansing.
Probably those who established
the initiations for us were not trivial,
but in reality long ago hinted that
whoever lands in Hades uninitiated and unprepared,
will lie so to speak in the mud,
but the cleansed and perfected
will live with the gods.
For there are, as they say in the mysteries,
many thyrsus-bearers but few mystics,
and these are in my opinion the true philosophers.
As far as I could I left nothing undone in my life,
but in every way I sought to become one;
and if I sought correctly and achieved something,
going there I'll know clearly, if God wills it.
So this is my defense, Simmias and Cebes,
how naturally I don't take it hard
nor am I troubled
to be leaving you and the masters here,
believing that there no less than here
I shall meet good masters and friends;
so if I'm more convincing to you in this defense
than I was to the Athenian judges,
it will be well.

Socrates this is all well said,
but things about the soul
cause much unbelief in people,
since when it is released from the body,
it may no longer exist anywhere,
but on the day one dies
it may be destroyed and lost;
immediately running out of the body
and being scattered like breath or smoke to vanish,
and then it would no longer be anywhere.
If it were gathered together anywhere by itself
and released from these evils which you described,
there would be much hope and beauty, Socrates,
and what you say would be true;
but probably this requires
much reassurance and faith,
that the soul of the dead
has any ability and wisdom.

That's true, Cebes;
but what shall we do?
Do you want to communicate with words
about whether this is probably so or not?

Yes, I'd like to hear your opinions about this.

I think if someone heard us now,
even a comic poet,
they couldn't say we're chattering
and making arguments about irrelevant things.
So if you like,
this should be examined thoroughly.
Let's consider whether the souls
of people who died are in Hades or not.
There is an ancient argument,
which we remember,
that those arriving there are from here,
and again they come back
and are born from the dead;
if the living are born again from the dying,
certainly our souls would be there;
for they wouldn't be born again
if they didn't exist.


Let's consider how all things are generated,
whether opposites are generated
out of their opposites,
as when anything becomes greater
does it by necessity
become greater out of the smaller?


And if it becomes smaller,
was it out of the greater?

It's so.

And out of the stronger comes the weaker,
and out of the slower the faster?


But does the worse come out of the better,
and the just out of the unjust?

Of course.

Then between all pairs of opposites
things are generated from one over to the other,
and from the other back over to the first,
as with dividing and combining, cooling and heating.
Then is there an opposite to life,
just as sleeping is opposite to waking?


What is it?


Then are these generated out of each other,
and aren't their two origins
between the two of them?

Of course.

What are the origins of
falling asleep and waking up?
Is waking generated out of sleeping,
and is sleeping generated out of waking?


Now you tell me about life and death.
Don't you say that living is opposite to being dead?

I do.

And are they generated out of each other?


Then what is generated out of the living?

The dead.

And what is generated out of the dead?

I must agree that it's the living.

Out of the dead then, Cebes,
are living beings born?


Then our souls exist in Hades.

That seems likely.

Then if we don't deny the opposite of birth
and make nature go about on one leg,
must we restore to the dying the opposite origin?


Which is?

Coming back to life.

So birth into the living
would be coming back to life.
Then for us to agree
the living are born from the dead
no less than the dead from the living
seems to me to be proof the souls exist somewhere,
from where they are born again.

That follows from the arguments, Socrates.

Now if generating didn't always give back others
going around like in a circle,
but went straight into the direct opposite
without bending back again nor making a circle,
wouldn't all things end up in the same form
with the same experience
if they stopped generating?

What do you mean?

For example if falling asleep existed,
and waking up did not give back those asleep
you know they'd all end up asleep like Endymion.
Or if all things were combined, and not divided,
soon it would be Anaxagoras' "all things together."
So dear Cebes,
if everything died which received life,
and the dead stayed that way,
not coming back to life,
then isn't it necessary to end up
with everything dying and nothing living?

I think so, Socrates.

And we're not deceived in these arguments, Cebes,
but in reality the living come back to life
and are born out of the dead,
and so the souls of the dead do exist.

Besides, according to the argument, if it's true,
which you often like to mention, Socrates,
that learning is nothing but happening to recall,
according to this it's necessary for us to have learned
at some previous time what we now remember.
But this is impossible, if our soul didn't exist
somewhere else before being born in the human form;
so also in this the soul is likely to be immortal.

But Cebes, what were the demonstrations of this?
Remind me; for I'm not sure I recall at present.

A fine proof is that people being questioned,
if one asks well,
they say everything themselves;
and yet if knowledge and reason
weren't within them,
they wouldn't be able to do this.
If one leads them to a diagram or some such thing,
it can be shown most clearly that this is so.

If you're not convinced by this, Simmias,
see if you don't disbelieve
that learning is recalling?

I don't disbelieve, but I do need to learn this
which the discussion is about, namely recalling.
From what Cebes said I'm already recalling;
nevertheless I'd like to hear what you want to say.

I'd say that if anyone recalls anything,
they must have known it at some previous time.


Then when knowledge comes like this,
is it recalling?
I mean,
if someone having seen or heard something
knows not only that, but also another awareness,
the knowledge of which is not the same, but different,
then has not that one recalled that awareness?

What do you mean?

Knowledge of a person
is different from that of a harp.
You know that lovers
when they see a harp or garment
which their favorites like to use,
they experience this:
when seeing the favorite's harp
the mind receives the form of the favorite.
And this is recalling;
just as someone seeing Simmias
may often recall Cebes,
and there would be countless other such examples.
Then isn't this recalling,
especially when experienced through time
being examined on what was forgotten?


Then also seeing a drawing of Simmias
does one not then recall Simmias himself?

Of course.

Now consider if there is such a thing as equality.
I don't mean a stick to a stick or a stone to a stone,
but beyond these things the idea of equality itself.
Shall we say it exists,
and do we know what it is?

We shall say so by Zeus, emphatically.

From where did we receive knowledge of it?
Did we receive knowledge of it from seeing sticks?
Don't sticks appear equal in one way but not another?


But does equality itself ever appear to you unequal?

Never, Socrates.

Then equal things and equality itself aren't the same.
But from equal things
which are different from equality
did you understand
and receive knowledge of equality?


But do the sticks appear as equal as equality itself,
or are they lacking something
from being like equality?

They are lacking much.

Then when seeing something
which is like something else
does one think this is like that quality but inferior,
and does this thought come from previous knowledge
which one says it resembles but is deficient?


Then did we experience this
with equals and equality?


Then it's necessary for us to foreknow equality
before the time we first see equal things.

That's so.

From the senses we perceive
how things resemble equality
but can never reach it exactly.
But before we began to see
and hear and use other senses
we must have received knowledge of equality itself,
if we are able to compare it with the equal things
which we perceived through the senses.

That follows, Socrates.

When we were born did we see
and hear and use senses?


Before having these
did we receive knowledge of equality?


Then before being born it seems likely
that we must have had this idea.
If we received it before being born,
did we know then and when born not only equality
and the greater and lesser but all such abstractions?
For this argument is not any more about equality
than about beauty and goodness
and justice and holiness
and about everything
which we recognize as existing,
both in questioning and in choosing answers.
So we must have received knowledge
before being born.

That's true.

And having received it, if we didn't forget it,
we would be born knowing
and know throughout life.
For isn't forgetting losing knowledge we had?

Certainly, Socrates.

I think if we received it before being born
but then lost it when we were born,
later by using the senses
we can regain that knowledge,
which we had before
and now the senses help us recall;
then isn't learning
regaining this relative knowledge?


For it seems possible that
by perceiving with senses we're reminded
of what we've forgotten but knew before;
either we're born knowing
and know all through life,
or later, by learning we remember them.
Then which do you choose, Simmias,
were we born knowing,
or do we recall later
the knowledge we received before?

I'm not sure, Socrates.

But choose what you think:
can knowing people explain what they know?

That is necessary.

Do you think everyone can explain
what we're discussing?

I wish they could, Socrates,
but I'm afraid that by tomorrow at this time
there won't be anyone who could do so properly.

Then you don't think everyone knows these things?

By no means.

Then they remember whatever they learned?


When did our souls receive
the knowledge remembered
if it was not after being born as humans?

It must have been previously.

Then souls existed previously without bodies,
and before they were born in human form
they had wisdom.

Unless we receive this knowledge
when born, Socrates;
for this time still remains.

But my friend,
isn't that when we lose the knowledge?
For we're not born with it, as we just agreed;
do we receive knowledge
at the same time we're losing it?
Or do you have some other time to suggest?

No, Socrates,
but I fooled myself saying nonsense.

Then if there exists what we're always repeating,
beauty and goodness and every such essence,
and we refer all things of the senses to these,
our being already existing before discovering them,
and we use these to compare things,
these essences existing just as our soul does,
then our soul also exists before we were born.

The argument is beautiful, Socrates,
that our soul exists just as these essences do,
namely beauty and goodness
and others you mentioned;
and I think it is sufficiently proven.

But what about Cebes,
for he must also be convinced.

He is, I think, even though he is very skeptical;
I think this has not failed to persuade him
that before we were born our soul existed.
However, whether also when we die it still exists,
doesn't seem to be proven
to him nor to me, Socrates,
but still the concern of many remains,
that the soul of the dying person may be dispersed,
and this could be the end of its existence.
For what prevents it from
being born from somewhere
and existing before entering the human body,
but when it has come and left this,
from at that time ending itself
and being destroyed?

You speak well, Simmias,
for it seems half is proven,
that before we are born our soul existed;
but it's necessary to prove also that when we die
it will exist no less than before we were born,
if the proof is to be complete.

It has been proven, Simmias and Cebes, just now,
if you're willing to combine this argument
with the one we agreed upon before,
that everything living is born from the dead.
For if the soul is born from the dead and dying,
then isn't it necessary also for the dying to exist,
since those souls must be born again?
Yet I think you both want
to examine it more thoroughly,
and you're afraid like children
that when the soul steps out of the body
the wind may blow it away and disperse it.

CEBES (Laughing)
As though afraid, Socrates, try to persuade us;
but maybe we're not so much afraid,
but there is a child within us who fears such things;
therefore let's try to persuade this child
not to be afraid of death as if it were a hobgoblin.

But you should chant every day
until you charm it away.

Where shall we find such a good chanter, Socrates,
since you are leaving us?

Greece is large, Cebes, with many good people,
and there are foreigners, among all of whom
you should search to find such a chanter,
sparing neither money nor labor,
since there is nothing more important.
But you should also search among each other,
for you may not find anyone better than yourselves.

That will be done,
but let's continue where we left off,
if it's pleasing to you.

Of course it's very pleasing.
Then we must ask ourselves what kind of thing
is liable to suffer this experience of dispersing;
and after this next to consider what the soul is,
and from these to be encouraged
or afraid for the soul.
Then isn't what is combined and compounded
naturally liable to suffer this being divided;
and if something happens to be uncompounded,
isn't it alone likely not to suffer this?

It seems so to me.

Then isn't what is always constant and the same
very probably uncompounded,
but what is changing
and never constant compounded?

I think so.

Let's turn to the essences in the previous argument
to which we give the meaning being in discussing.
Do equality and beauty and other essences
in reality ever show any change whatsoever?
Or are they uniform and constantly the same?

Necessarily the same.

But what of things which are many,
such as people or horses or clothes,
are they constant and always like each other,
or are they not constant and never the same?

The latter; they're never the same.

These you can touch and see
and perceive with senses,
but those that are constant are never reached
by anything except by the reasoning of the intuition,
and are these not seen but invisible?

You speak the absolute truth.

Then do you wish to assume two forms of reality,
the visible and the invisible?

Let's assume so.

And is the invisible always constant
and the visible never constant?

Let's assume this too.

Then to which do we say the body is more similar?

Clearly to the visible.

What about the soul?
Is it visible?

Not by humans, Socrates.

Then the soul is more like the invisible.

Necessarily, Socrates.

When the soul uses the body to look at something
through sight or any other senses of the body,
then is it dragged by the body into the inconstant
and does it wander confused and dizzy like one drunk
when it is touching such things?


But when it looks by itself, it goes into the pure
and eternal, which is immortal and always the same,
and as related to its essence it's always with that,
whenever it's by itself and has stopped wandering;
being always constant and communing with such
is this experience of the soul called wisdom?


Now when the soul and body are in the same thing,
nature directs one to serve and be ruled,
and the other to rule and be master;
which do you think is similar to the divine?
Do you think it's natural for the divine to lead
and for the mortal to be led and serve?

I think so.

Which then is the soul like?

Clearly, Socrates, the soul is like the divine,
and the body like the mortal.

Then the result is that the soul is
most similar to the divine and immortal
and intelligent and uniform and indissoluble
and is always the same being constant,
while the body is like
the human and mortal and many
and unintelligent and dissoluble
and is never constant.
Isn't it fitting for the body to be quickly dissolved,
and for the soul to be entirely indissoluble?

Of course.

Then understand that when a person dies,
the seen part, the body, which we call a corpse,
is fit to be dissolved and fall apart;
but the soul, invisible, departing to another place,
noble and pure and invisible, into Hades in truth,
to the good and wise God,
where if God wills, soon also may my soul go.
Then can this when released from the body
be dispersed and destroyed, as many say?
Far from it, dear Cebes and Simmias,
but if it departs pure,
not being attached to the body,
since it didn't join it in life willingly,
but avoided it and gathered itself into itself,
and always practiced this, which is loving wisdom,
would this not be in reality practicing dying?


Then being so does it go to what is like itself,
the invisible, divine and immortal and wise,
where arriving it's ready for itself to be happy,
released from wandering and folly and fear
and cruel passion and all other human evils,
and as it is said by the initiates,
in truth spending the rest of time with the gods?

Yes, by Zeus.

But if it departs polluted and impure from the body,
because it was always attached to the body
and was fascinated by it and its desires and pleasures,
so that nothing else seemed true but bodily things,
which one can touch and see
and drink and eat and use for sexual love,
but being used to hating and fearing
and avoiding the invisible and intelligible
chosen by philosophy,
do you think that a soul in this condition
will depart it of itself unmixed?

Not at all.

But absorbed in bodily habits and practices,
one would think it is heavy and earthy and visible;
and such a soul is weighed down and dragged again
into the visible realm by fear of the invisible realm,
roaming about monuments and graveyards,
where shadowy forms of souls have been seen,
phantoms which cause such souls to be visible,
which are not released purely.

It is probable, Socrates.

It's also probable
these are not the souls of the good,
but of the inferior,
compelled to wander in such places
to pay justice for their former evil ways;
and they wander until
they're followed by a bodily form
and by desire they're bound into the body,
into such a character as they found interesting in life.

What characters do you mean, Socrates?

Gluttons and the insolent
and those who like to drink
not being wary are likely to be bound
into a breed of asses and such beasts.
Don't you think so?

It's probable.

Those who have chosen injustice
and tyranny and robbery
go into a breed of wolves and hawks and kites.
So each goes into what is similar to its practice.
Then are the happiest those going to the best place
who have practiced democratic and political virtue
which they call prudence and justice?

Why are they the happiest?

Because they will probably find a political breed
like bees or wasps or ants or in the human race,
and from these will be born moderate people.
But when departing it's not right for anyone
who is not loving wisdom and completely pure
to reach the family of the gods,
but only for those who love learning.
Thus those loving wisdom correctly, my friends,
keep away from all bodily desires and are patient,
not giving themselves over to them,
not from fear of economic ruin and poverty,
like many who love money;
nor do they keep away from them
because of anxiety about dishonor
and the disgrace of hardship,
like those who love power and honors.

That would not be fitting, Socrates.

Of course not, by Zeus.
Accordingly those who care for their own souls,
and don't live working for the body
aren't driven down by those
who don't know where they're going,
and believing they must not oppose the practice
of philosophy and her release and purification,
they turn following her wherever she leads.

How, Socrates?

I'll tell you;
for the lovers of learning know that
until philosophy actually receives their soul
it is fastened and glued in the body,
compelled to look at realities through this prison
and not through her own self,
and wallowing in complete ignorance
she looks down at the terribleness
of imprisonment through desire,
which itself bound is the binding's main accomplice;
but lovers of learning know
philosophy receives the soul
and tries to gently encourage and release her,
indicating that perceiving with the body's senses
is filled with deceit and error,
and persuading her to withdraw from them,
except in so far as it is necessary to use them,
and advising her to collect and gather into herself,
and trusting nothing else but herself by herself,
except her very own intelligence of reality itself;
and whatever is viewed
in any other way isn't believed,
it being thus sensory and visible,
while she sees the intelligible and intangible.
So not thinking it necessary to oppose her release
the soul of the true philosopher keeps away
from pleasures and desires and griefs and fears,
so far as is practical,
reasoning that whenever these are excessive
one suffers sickness or expenses through desires,
but the greatest evil experienced is not considered.

What is that, Socrates?

The soul at the time of excessive pleasure or pain
is compelled to believe what is felt is most true.
But in this isn't the soul most bound by the body?

How so?

Because each pleasure and pain like a nail
fastens itself to the body and makes it corporeal,
believing what the body says is true.
For in agreeing with the body
and liking these things
she is compelled to adopt the same habits
and never arrives purely into Hades,
but always goes out infected by the body,
so that soon she falls again into another body
and like scattered seed is sown on the earth,
and so does not share in communion
with the one form of the divine and pure.

What you say is most true, Socrates.

So true lovers of learning are well-ordered,
and the courageous soul of the philosopher
reasons that it is not useful to let go of philosophy,
or she would be bound again in pleasures and pains,
and she will prepare for calmness from them,
following reasoning and gazing at the truth
and supported by the divine she lives thus,
and when she dies, departs into this free of evils.
And from such nurturing no one need be afraid
that she will be torn apart in departing the body
or be dispersed by winds and no longer exist.

Long silence as Socrates and most of the others contemplate, but Simmias and Cebes quietly exchange a few words.

SOCRATES (Cont'd.)
What is it?
Do you think the argument is inadequate?
For there still are suspicions and loose ends,
if anyone wants to discuss it thoroughly.
If anyone has a doubt, don't hesitate to say it,
and tell me if you think you can find a better way.

Really, Socrates, I'll tell you the truth,
for while each of us has doubts
and has been urging the other to ask about them
because we would like to hear them discussed,
yet we hesitate to cause
unpleasant annoyance for you
because of the unfortunate circumstance.

SOCRATES (Laughing softly)
Oh Simmias,
what difficulty I'll have convincing others
that I don't regard
my present circumstances unfortunate,
when I'm not even able to persuade you;
but you're afraid I'll be more irritable than before
and probably I seem to you
worse in prophecy than swans,
who when they perceive that they must die, sing best,
rejoicing that they're about to go away to their god.
But people because of their own fear of death
misrepresent swans,
saying they sing lamenting death,
and don't realize that no bird sings
when hungry or cold or suffering any other grief,
but I think since the swans are Apollo's birds
they are foreseeing the good things in Hades
and sing to celebrate on that day more than before.
Now I believe I'm sacred to the same god as the swans
and have prophecy no worse than theirs from the master,
and I depart from life no more despondent than they.
Therefore you ought to speak whatever you want,
as long as the Athenian officials permit it.

You speak well, and I'll tell you my doubt,
and then Cebes can say what he does not accept.
It may be difficult to know these things in life;
yet not to discuss them in every way
and exhaust every consideration would be remiss,
but we should learn or discover whatever we can,
taking the best arguments and the hardest to refute,
and on them, as though riding on a boat,
venture to sail through life with them,
unless one can find a safer ship by some divine word.
So I'm not ashamed to ask,
since you agree with this;
and I won't blame myself at a later time
that now I didn't speak what my concerns were.
For to Cebes and I
the inquiry doesn't seem adequate.

Then tell me, dear friend,
how it seems inadequate.

Concerning a harmony and a harp with its strings
one could make the same argument,
that the harmony is invisible and incorporeal
and beautiful and divine in the well-tuned harp,
but the harp itself and the strings are corporeal
and physical and compounded and earthy and mortal.
So when someone shatters the harp
or breaks the strings,
according to your argument the harmony still exists,
because it is related to the divine and immortal,
while the wood and strings would rot away.
I think it must have also occurred to you, Socrates,
that we assume the soul is like a harmony
and our body like the physical harp;
and so if the body goes out of tune by sickness,
the soul at once starts to perish, even if it's divine,
just like other harmonies and artistic works,
and the remains of the body
may endure for a while
until they are either burned or decayed.
So see what you can say to this argument,
if someone claims the soul
being combined with the body
is the first to perish in what is called death.

What you say may be right, Simmias.
So if anyone is more ready than I, why not answer?
For the argument is not about a trivial point.
First let's hear what Cebes challenges in the argument
so that we can gain time to think of what to say,
and then either agree if they seem to ring true,
or if not, plead the argument already presented.
Come on, Cebes, tell us what's bothering you.

I'll tell you, for it appears to me as before
that the argument still has the same fault.
That our soul existed before coming into this form,
I don't deny it was neatly and adequately demonstrated;
but when we're dead that it still exists somewhere
does not seem to me to be proven.
I don't agree with Simmias' objection that the soul
is not stronger and more lasting than the body,
for I think it surpasses it very much in every way.
So if I see the weaker body still existing for a while
when a person dies,
why would I question whether
the stronger and more lasting is still preserved?
Consider this,
and I'll use a simile, as Simmias did.
What if someone argued
about an old weaver who died,
that the person didn't perish but exists somewhere,
and offers as evidence a coat
which the weaver had woven,
because the life of a person
is more lasting than a coat,
and so if a coat still survives
the person must be safe.
But I don't think it's so, Simmias,
for everyone realizes that this is folly,
since the weaver wore out many coats
and perished after having woven many of them,
but before the last one,
and certainly no person is weaker than a coat.
I think the simile applies to the soul and body,
that the soul is longer lasting,
and the body is weaker and does not last as long;
but one could say each soul wears out many bodies,
especially if one lives for many years;
for if the body is corrupting and changing
while the person is still living,
the soul is always weaving anew
what is wearing down,
and it would be necessary
when the soul finally perished,
to have on this last one woven
and to perish before it;
and then the body would soon corrupt and decay.
So by this argument we cannot confidently believe
that when we die, our soul still exists somewhere.
Even if we concede the soul's existence before birth
and the possibility that she may still exist
and be born and die again many times,
because the soul is strong enough for many lives,
this still doesn't prove after many births and deaths
that she may not perish completely
in one of her deaths;
and no one could know about this final death,
which brings ruin to the soul,
for it's impossible for any of us to perceive it.
If this is so, one cannot face death confidently
unless one can show
the soul is completely immortal;
otherwise when about to die
one may always be afraid
that in separating from the body
the soul may perish.

All the listeners are greatly disheartened by these arguments except for Socrates who gently strokes the head of Phaedo who is sitting on a short stool next to his bed. Socrates runs his fingers through Phaedo's long hair as he speaks to him.

So perhaps tomorrow, Phaedo,
I suppose this beautiful long hair will be cut off.

It's likely, Socrates.

Not if you are convinced by me.


Today both you and I will cut off our hair,
if our argument dies
and we're not able to revive it.
And if I were you,
and the argument escaped me,
I'd take an oath not to let it grow long
until I had conquered
the argument of Simmias and Cebes.

But not even Heracles could take on two of them.

Then call me as Iolaus, his servant,
while it's still light.

I'll call rather as Iolaus for Heracles.

That makes no difference;
but first let's be careful
not to suffer a certain emotion.

What kind of emotion?

Let's not become logic haters, like cynical people;
since nothing is worse than the logic-hating emotion.
Logic hating and cynics come from the same attitude.
For people develop a cynical attitude
from trusting too much without skill,
believing people to be true and sound and trustworthy,
then later finding them bad and untrustworthy;
after experiencing this many times
especially by those one believes nearest and dearest,
often taking offense one ends up hating everyone
and believing absolutely no one is sound at all.
Haven't you observed this happening?


Then isn't it clear such a person is without skill
in dealing with people in human relations?
For the skillful believe that
the good and bad are few,
and that most people are somewhere in between.

That is likely.

But in arguments when someone believes them true
without being skilled in discussing,
later when sometimes an opinion is proven false,
and another again and again,
they may begin to think that none of them are sound,
but that everything changes like a twisting river
and that nothing ever stays the same for long.

That's true.

Then Phaedo, it would be pitiful
if in a true argument,
which can be understood
but comes across such arguments
that sometimes seem true and other times don't,
if one shouldn't blame oneself for lack of skill,
but because of the hassling
shifts the blame to logic
and then for the rest of life
goes on hating discussion
and is deprived of the truth
and knowledge of reality.

Yes, by Zeus, that would be pitiful.

First then, let's be aware of this and not believe
that no arguments can be sound at all,
but rather that we may not be sound,
though we may be courageous
and willing to be sound,
both for you and others and your future life,
and for me on account of this death,
since the danger is not being philosophical about this,
but like the uncultured and contentious
who when they disagree don't consider what is true
but how to present their own point of view
so that it will seem so to the listeners.
I differ in that I'm not so eager that what I say
should seem true to others,
except as a by-product,
but that it should seem especially so to me.
For I reason quite selfishly, dear friend:
if what I say is true,
then believing it is beautiful;
but if dying is nothing,
then in the time before death
at least I'll not yield to unpleasant mourning,
and this ignorance of mine will not last.
So I'm prepared for the argument,
Simmias and Cebes;
yet if you're persuaded by me,
you'll consider Socrates little and truth much more:
if you think I tell the truth, then agree;
but if not, then oppose every argument,
so that from my eagerness
I won't deceive you and me
and like a bee leave the sting behind as I depart.
But let's go on now.
First remind me what you said, if I don't remember.
Simmias, I think, disbelieves and is afraid the soul,
though both more divine and beautiful than the body,
may perish first since it's in the form of a harmony;
but Cebes seemed to agree with me on this,
that the soul lasts longer than the body,
but it's unclear whether
after wearing out many bodies
the soul leaving the body at the end may perish,
and that death is this destruction of the soul,
since the body never stops perishing.
Now Simmias and Cebes,
is this what we must consider?

Yes, Socrates.

Then do you not accept
all of the previous arguments,
or just some of them?

We accept some, but not others.

Then what do you say about the argument
in which we said learning is remembering,
and from this our soul must exist somewhere else,
before it was entangled in the body?

I was then really quite convinced by that,
and I remain so now more than by any argument.

I too hold to that and would be very surprised
if this should ever seem otherwise to me.

But my Theban guest, you must think otherwise,
if you keep the opinion that a harmony is a compound
and the soul a harmony composed with the body.
For how could you say a composite harmony existed
before those things from which it is composed?

I couldn't, Socrates.

When you say the soul exists
before it enters the body,
is it composed out of what does not yet exist?
For surely a harmony is not like the soul in this,
but first the harp and strings come into being,
then the sounds still untuned
and last of all is the harmony composed,
and it's the first to perish.
So how does this argument agree with yours?

It doesn't.

Yet surely it should be in accord
with the other argument
when it concerns harmony.

Yes, it should.
Then which of the arguments do you prefer,
that learning is remembering
or that the soul is a harmony?

Much more the former, Socrates.
For the latter came to me without any demonstration
with probability and plausibility for many people;
but I'm aware that arguments making demonstrations
based on probability may be false,
and one not guarding against them may be deceived.
But the argument about remembering and learning
was demonstrated by worthy propositions,
that our soul exists before she enters the body,
just as this which is has the reality which is.
Thus I must not accept that the soul is a harmony.

But what about this, Simmias?
Can a harmony or any other compound
be in another state besides that
from which its elements were composed?


Or can anything do or experience anything else
besides what they do or experience?

Of course not.

Then a harmony cannot lead the things
from which it is composed, but it follows.


Then a harmony cannot be moved
or sounded or be opposed
by anything else opposite to its parts.
Aren't some tunes more harmonious than others?


Is this true about the soul,
that one soul is more of a soul than another?

Not at all.

Follow along now towards God.
Are some souls intelligent and virtuous,
but others stupid and bad?
Is this true?

Yes, it's true.

Then what will those
maintaining the soul is a harmony
say that virtues and vices in the soul are?
that there is harmony and discord inside the harmony?

I guess they'd say something like that,
but it doesn't make much sense now.

Then is the hypothesis correct
that the soul is a harmony?

I don't think so.

Now in the wise does anything rule except the soul?


Which yields to the body's feelings and which opposes?
I mean when the body is hot and thirsty,
can the soul keep one from drinking,
or when hungry from eating
and in many other things like this
can the soul oppose the body or not?

It certainly can.

But didn't we agree previously
that it couldn't do this if it were a harmony,
since it has to follow its conditions and never leads.

We did.

But doesn't the soul work exactly the opposite way,
leading those things of which it consists,
opposing and mastering them throughout life,
disciplining them harshly in gymnastics and medicine,
threatening and admonishing desires and lusts and fears
as though she is something other than those things?
Just as Homer has Odysseus say in the Odyssey,
"Endure it, heart;
even more horrible have you endured."
Do you think he thought of this reality as a harmony
to be led by the conditions of the body,
and not something to lead and master these things,
being itself much more divine than any harmony?

By Zeus, Socrates, I think you're right.

Then it would not be beautiful at all
for us to say that the soul is a harmony.

That's true.

Well, the Theban harmony has been gracious to us,
but shall we find grace with your argument, Cebes?

This argument against the harmony was wonderful,
and I wouldn't be surprised
if my argument had the same experience.

O happy one, be careful not to talk big,
lest some envy overturn the argument to be made;
but surely this is in the care of God.
So let's examine if there is anything in what you say.
Surely the crown of what you seek is:
to prove that the soul is indestructible and immortal,
if the philosopher about to die may be confident
in believing that dying one will do well there
more than if one died after living a different life,
and that this courage is not stupid nor foolish;
that dying, the soul is something strong and divine
and existed even before we were born as humans,
you say all this does not prove she is immortal,
but that the soul is long-lasting and existed before,
knowing and doing many things,
yet still not immortal,
but her very coming into the body
was the beginning of her destruction, like a disease;
and she lives in distress finally perishing in death.
And you say it doesn't matter whether
she enters into a body once or many times,
and one should be afraid unless one is a fool
or has an argument to give how she is immortal.
Something like this, I think, Cebes,
is what you mean;
I repeat it on purpose so that nothing may escape us,
and if you wish,
you may add or subtract anything.

Right now I have nothing to add or subtract.

Pause, as Socrates thinks.

It's not trivial, Cebes, what you're seeking;
for it's necessary to investigate completely
the cause of generation and decay.
So I'll tell you my own experience about this,
if you wish; since it may be useful to you,
and you may use it in arguing when you discuss.

I wish you would.

Then listen to what I say, Cebes.
When I was young,
I was very eager for this knowledge,
which they call the study of nature.
For it seemed great to me to know the causes of things,
why each thing comes into being and why it perishes;
and I often changed, considering first these things:
do heat and cold take putrefaction, as some argued,
and the living things grow together;
do we think with blood or air or fire or none of them,
and does the brain provide the sensations
of hearing and seeing and smelling,
and does memory and opinion come out of these,
and from the memories and opinions received
does knowledge according to them become stable?
I considered the ruin of these things
and the state of heaven and earth
until finally it all seemed very unnatural to me.
For what I knew before
seemed to have blinded me,
so that I unlearned what before I thought I knew,
about how a person grows and other things.
For I was thinking before
this was clear to everyone
that it is by eating and drinking;
for from food flesh and bones grow,
and thus the small person becomes big.
That's what I was thinking then.
Doesn't it seem reasonable to you?


Then consider this too,
for I thought it was inadequate,
whenever two people stood next to each other
the big one might be larger than the small by a head,
and that ten seemed to me to be more than eight
because two was added to it, and so on.

Now what do you think about this?

By Zeus, I don't know the causes of these,
for how one added to one can make two,
while one divided also can become two,
I wonder how these ones change into a two.
So I no longer believe I know
how anything is generated
or perishes or exists, according to this method.
Then I heard someone
reading from a book by Anaxagoras,
arguing that the mind orders and causes everything.
I was pleased by this cause and thought it good
to have the mind be the cause of everything,
and if this is so, I thought,
the mind orders everything as it is best to have it;
so if anyone wants to discover the cause of things,
how they are generated or perish or exist,
one must discover how it is best for it to be
or to experience anything whatsoever or to do.
From this argument nothing else should be considered,
but the virtue and the best, which one must know.
Contemplating this I was glad to think I had found
a teacher of the causes of reality in Anaxagoras,
hoping to be shown whether the earth is flat or round,
and that he would explain why it was better for her;
and if he said she was in the center,
he would explain why that was better;
and if these things were proved,
I was prepared to yearn no longer for other causes.
I was ready to learn about the sun and moon and stars,
their speed toward each other and their courses,
how it is better for them to be and do what they do.
For I never thought
after saying they're ordered by mind,
that any other cause would be offered for them
than that it is best to have them so as they are;
I was thinking that causes would be explained by
what was best for each and good for all in common;
and I wouldn't give up those hopes for a great deal,
and taking the books very seriously
I read them as quickly as I could
to find out as soon as possible what was best.

From this wonderful hope, my friend,
I was swept away,
when reading I found
the man made no use of the mind
nor did he identify any causes in ordering things,
but air and ether and water and other oddities.
It seemed to me it was like the experience of someone
saying that Socrates does everything by mind,
and then in explaining the causes of each thing I do,
to say that I'm now sitting here
because of the bones and muscles in my body,
and then explaining how joints separate the bones
and the muscles contract and relax to move the bones,
and because of this I'm sitting here in a bent position;
and concerning this discussion he would argue causes
such as voice and air and hearing and so on,
neglecting to say the true causes,
that since the Athenians thought it best to condemn me,
because of that it seemed best to me to sit here
and more right to stay and undergo their judgment;
since by the dog, I imagine that long ago
these muscles and bones
would be in Megara or Boeotia,
carried by their opinion of what is best,
if I didn't think it more just and better than fleeing
to undergo the judgment which the city may impose.
But to call such things causes is very odd;
and if anyone should say that
without bones and muscles
I couldn't have done what seemed to me best,
one would be saying the truth;
yet to say because of these things I do what I do
and I do these by mind,
but not by choosing what is best,
would be a far-fetched and rash way of speaking.
For the discussion would not distinguish
that the cause is in reality something else,
and the other is that without which
the cause could never be a cause;
so it appears to me many are groping in the dark,
attaching a false name to a stranger,
when they address a cause in this way.
So one putting a whirlwind around the earth
makes the earth remain below heaven,
and another as a flat trough supported by air;
but of the power which can now establish them as best,
they neither seek nor do they think it has divine force,
but they believe they can discover an Atlas
stronger and more immortal
and all-embracing than this,
and in truth they don't think at all of the good
which must both unite and embrace all things.
Thus of such causes I wanted to become a student
wherever, whenever, and from anyone;
but since I was deprived of this and didn't find it,
nor was I able to learn from anyone else,
do you wish me to tell you about my second voyage
which I conducted searching for the cause, Cebes?

I do wish it enormously.

I thought then, after this,
since I had failed in considering the realities,
I should be careful not to suffer
like those watching the sun during an eclipse;
for some ruin their eyes
unless they look at it in water or by reflection.
I understood this and feared the soul
might be blinded looking at things with the eyes
and trying to perceive with each of the senses.
So it seemed necessary to me
to take refuge in meanings
to consider in them the truth of the realities.
Perhaps the way I represent some may not be accurate.
For I don't concede considering realities in meanings
is to consider them in images any more than in actions;
but I began in this way,
hypothesizing each argument
which I judge is most sound,
and whatever agrees with that I assume is true,
both concerning causes and anything else,
and what doesn't agree, as not true.
But I want to tell you more clearly what I mean,
for I don't think you understand yet.

No, by God, I certainly don't.

Well, I mean nothing new, for I'm always saying it.
I'm going to try to explain to you
the form of the cause which I've been working on,
and I'm back again to begin from those realities,
hypothesizing there is beauty in and of itself
and goodness and greatness and all the rest of them,
which if you grant me and agree these exist,
I hope from them to explain to you the cause
and discover how the soul is immortal.

Truly, as it is granted to you, quickly conclude.

Consider then next,
if it seems to you as it does to me,
that if anything else is beautiful except beauty itself,
it's beautiful for no other reason
than for the reason that it shares in that beauty;
and I say this of all things.
Do you consent to such a cause?

I do.

I still don't understand these other wise causes;
if anyone tells me the reason
why anything is beautiful
is either its flowery color or shape or anything else,
I let them go, for I'm confused by all the others,
and I hold simply and perhaps simplistically by myself,
that nothing else makes it beautiful
except the presence or communion of that beauty
in whatever way that may happen to come to it.
This seems to me to be the most sure answer,
that all beautiful things become beautiful by beauty.
Is this a safe answer, or don't you think so?

It is.

And great things are great by greatness,
and the lesser are less by smallness.


And you wouldn't accept it if someone said
one is greater than another by a head,
but you would affirm that the greater is greater
by nothing else than by greatness,
fearing I think, lest an opposite argument met you,
if you said someone is greater by a head,
that the greater is greater by a head which is small;
and this is monstrous, for it to be great by the small.
Or wouldn't you be afraid of this?

CEBES (Laughing)
I would.

Would you be afraid to say
ten is two more than eight,
by two rather than by counting?


Wouldn't you avoid saying that in adding one to one
addition is the cause of the two
or division in the dividing of one into two?
But you would proclaim you know of no other cause
of how each thing is generated
than by sharing in the essential idea which each shares,
that two shares in duality and one in unity,
and you would let go of additions and divisions
but hold to the sure hypothesis and what agrees with it.
And if anyone challenged this hypothesis,
you would let it go until you considered the argument,
whether to you they agree or disagree;
and so you would follow that principle,
which should appear best of the higher ones,
until you come to what is sufficient,
and you wouldn't become confused like the contentious
in discussing about the beginning and its effects,
if you wish to find any of the realities.
If you are a philosopher,
I think you would do so.

Well said.

You tell the truth, Socrates.

So when you speak in this way,
and say that Simmias is larger than Socrates
but smaller than Phaedo,
don't you say
in Simmias is both largeness and smallness?

I do.

But you agree that Simmias exceeds Socrates
not for having been born, but by his largeness.


He's not exceeded by Phaedo
because Phaedo is Phaedo,
but because Phaedo has largeness
compared to Simmias.

That's so.

Thus Simmias has the name small and large,
being in between the two of them,
by exceeding in largeness he exceeds smallness,
and submitting to largeness
which exceeds his smallness.
I'm talking like a book, but it's as I say.


For it seems to me not only that largeness itself
will never be at the same time large and small,
but also largeness in us will never accept the small
nor will it ever be exceeded by it,
but either it flees and withdraws,
when its opposite, the small, comes toward it,
or with that one coming near it perishes;
but it will not in surviving accept smallness
nor be anything other than as it was.
Just as I accepted and survived smallness
and still exist as this same small person,
and largeness has not endured being small,
so smallness in us will never become and be large,
nor will any opposite, which is still what it was,
become and be at the same time opposite to itself,
but it either goes away or perishes in this experience.

Absolutely so.

Before the gods,
didn't we agree in the previous argument
the very opposite of what is being said now,
that out of the lesser the greater is generated
and out of the greater the lesser,
that opposites are generated out of their opposites?
But now it seems to me it's being said
that this could never occur.

You have spoken like a man, Apollodorus,
but you don't understand the difference
between the meaning of now and then.
For then it was said that out of the opposite thing
an opposite thing is generated,
but now that the opposite essence itself
could never become its own opposite,
neither in us nor in nature.
For then we were talking about
things having opposites,
but now about those opposite qualities themselves,
and those themselves we say
will never accept generation from each other.
Cebes, are you bothered by anything we said?

Not too much,
though I'm not saying that
many things don't bother me.

Then we're agreed plainly on this:
an opposite is never to be an opposite to itself.

Now see if you agree with me on this.
Do you call anything heat and cold?

I do.

Then are they the same as snow and fire?

No, by God.

But is heat something other than fire,
and is cold something other than snow?


But here, as in the previous argument,
if snow ever accepted heat,
it would no longer be as it was, snow and warm,
but encountering heat will withdraw itself or perish.


And fire encountering cold
withdraws itself or perishes,
yet it can never endure accepting the cold
and still be as it was, fire and cold.


Then concerning some of these
not only the form itself
is worthy of its name into the eternity of time,
but also something else, which is not that,
but has the shape of that always whenever it exists.
In the following
what I'm saying may become clearer.
For doesn't the odd always occur
according to this name?


Then is it the only thing,
or is there something else,
which is not the same as the odd,
but which always must be called odd too,
because its nature is never separated from the odd?
I mean this is possible in the case of three and others.
But consider the three.
Isn't it always addressed by its own name and as odd,
which is not the same as three?
Similarly with the five and half of all the numbers,
not being the same as the odd, each is always odd;
and the same with the even numbers,
or don't you agree?

Of course.

Now observe what I wish to clarify.
Not only are those opposites not accepting each other,
but also opposites don't accept that form
which is opposite to the reality in them,
but in its approach they perish or withdraw;
won't three perish
before it will submit to becoming even
as long as it is still remaining three?


But two is not opposite to three.


Then not only opposite forms approaching don't remain,
but also other opposites approaching don't remain.


Then shall we, if we can, determine what these are?


Then Cebes, will they be those which,
when they take possession,
not only compel it to take its own form,
but also always some opposite's form?

What do you mean?

As we just said, the forms which possess the three
must be in themselves not only three but also odd.


So the opposite forms to that shape,
which make it this, never could be.


And does the odd make it so?


And is the even opposite to this?


Then the three will never come to the form of the even.

Of course not.

So the three has no part in the even.


Then the three is uneven.


Now what is to be determined is which things
not being opposites to something
nevertheless don't accept the opposite itself,
as the three in not being opposite to the even
still does not in any way accept it,
and the two to the odd and fire to cold and so on;
but see if you note this:
not only the opposite doesn't accept the opposite,
but also that, which brings forth something opposite,
will never accept the oppositeness of the thing brought.
So now tell me from the beginning,
and don't make the obvious answer, but imitate me,
and find another safe answer from what was said.
For if you ask me what makes something hot,
I'll not tell you that obvious answer that it's heat,
but from the more refined now, that it's fire;
and if you ask, what makes a body ill,
I'll not say an illness, but a fever;
and what makes a number to be odd,
I'll not say oddness, but a one, and so on.
Do you sufficiently understand what I mean?

Quite sufficiently.

So answer: what make the body to be alive?

The soul.

Then is this always the case?

Of course.

Then the soul that takes possession of it,
does it always come bringing life to that?

It does.

And first is there an opposite to life?

There is.

What is it?


Then will the soul ever accept the opposite
to what it always brings, as previously argued?

Most certainly not.

Then what do we call
the form not accepting the even?

The uneven.

And what does not accept the just and musical?

The unmusical and the unjust.

And what do we call that
which does not accept death?

The immortal.

Then does the soul not accept death?

No, it doesn't.

So the soul is immortal.


Then shall we say this is demonstrated?

Most sufficiently, Socrates.

But what if the uneven has to be indestructible?
Can the uneven ever stop being uneven?

How could it?

Then may we say this about the immortal?
If the immortal is also indestructible,
it's impossible for the soul
when death comes upon it, to perish;
for from what was said before
it will not accept death nor will it ever be dead,
just as three will never be even, nor will the odd,
nor will fire be cold, nor will the heat in it.
But someone might say,
what prevents the odd from becoming even
when approached by the even,
as we agreed,
but perishing may it become even instead?
To one saying this we wouldn't deny it doesn't perish;
for the uneven is not indestructible;
since if this were conceded to us,
we could easily contend that
when the even approaches
the odd and the three withdraw and are gone,
and also with fire and heat, could we not?


So too now concerning the immortal,
if it's conceded to us also to be indestructible;
but if not, another argument would be needed.

But it's not needed on account of this;
for scarcely anything else would not accept ruin,
if the immortal which is eternal will accept ruin.

But God, I think, and the form of life itself,
and if there is anything else immortal,
by all it would be agreed they will never perish.

Of course, by everyone, and especially by the gods.

Since then the immortal is also indestructible,
the soul, if it happens it is immortal,
also would be indestructible, wouldn't it?

Very definitely.

Then when death comes upon a person
the mortal part of one, it seems, dies,
and the immortal, safe and incorruptible,
going away is gone, withdrawing from death.


Then more than all, Cebes,
the soul is immortal and indestructible,
and in reality our souls will exist in Hades.

I have nothing else to say
along these lines, Socrates,
nor can I disbelieve the arguments.
However, if Simmias or anyone else
has anything to say,
he would do well not to keep silent;
for I don't know any better time than the present,
if anyone wants to say or hear anything about this.

I myself have no disbelief from the discussion;
yet under the greatness of the subject
and knowing human weakness I still have disbelief
along my lines about what was said.

Then Simmias, the first hypotheses,
even if they're believed by you,
similarly should be more carefully examined;
if you analyze them sufficiently,
I think you'll find that the argument becomes clear,
as far as it's possible for a human.


But men, understand that if the soul is immortal,
then one must take care of her,
not only for this time which we call life,
but for all time,
and the danger seems terrible now if one doesn't.
For if death were a release from everything,
it would be a god-send for the evil
who in dying would be released from the body
and at the same time from their evils with the soul;
but now since it appears to be immortal,
no one can escape evils
nor be saved in any other way
except by becoming as good and wise as possible.
For the soul goes into Hades
with nothing but her education and upbringing,
which it is said greatly helps or harms the dead
in the very beginning of the journey there.
So it's said,
that then each angel of the dead ones,
as assigned in life,
attempts to lead them to a place
where those gathered must be judged
to pass into Hades with that guide
who has been appointed
to conduct them from here to there;
and after remaining the necessary time
another guide brings them back here again.
And I don't think the path to Hades is simple,
for it needs guides
and no one would stray if it were;
but it seems to have many forks and circuits;
I speak now from the signs of the holy rites here.
Thus the orderly and sensible soul follows
and doesn't ignore the present circumstances;
but the one with the body's desires,
as I said before,
and long excited around the visible place,
after much resistance and suffering,
is led by force and with pain by the appointed angel.
And when the impure and the unjust and murderers
arrive where the others are,
they're avoided by all
who aren't willing to become their companions,
but they wander in complete confusion for a time,
and then by necessity
are carried to their proper home;
but those who passed through life
purely and moderately
get divine companions and guides
and live in their proper place.
There are many marvelous regions of the earth,
and she is in size not what she is imagined
by those who are used to talking about the earth,
according to someone who has persuaded me.

What do you mean by that, Socrates?
For I've heard much about the earth myself,
yet not what you believe;
so I'd gladly listen.

It seems to me hard to narrate this,
and maybe I won't be able to do so,
because my life would be over before it's completed.
But nothing prevents me from telling what I believe
to be the form of the earth and her regions.

That will be sufficient.

I believe then, that first, if the earth
is in the middle of the heavens being carried round,
she doesn't need air or anything for her not to fall,
but she is maintained by the whole pattern of heaven
and by the equal balance of the earth herself;
for something balanced in the middle of something
will not incline to either side but stays unswerving.
First I believe this.

And correctly.

Next then, she is something very large,
and we live in a small portion around the sea
between the pillars of Heracles and the Phasis river,
like ants or frogs around a pond,
and many others live elsewhere in many such places.
For there are around the earth many hollows
into which water, mists and air have flowed together;
but the earth herself is in the same pure heaven
as the stars are, which is called ether by some,
and its sediments flow into the earth's hollows.
Now our living in her hollows is unnoticed,
and we think we're living up on the earth,
just as if someone living at the bottom of the ocean
should think they live on the sea,
and seeing the sun and other stars through the water
should believe the sea to be heaven,
and because of slowness and weakness
they never reach the surface of the sea
nor are ever seen popping up out of the sea
into a place more pure and beautiful than theirs,
nor have they heard about it
from one who has seen it.
This is the same thing we have experienced;
for living in the hollows of the earth is to think
one is living above her and that the air is heaven,
since because of this heaven the stars really move;
but the fact is, by weakness and slowness
we're not able to go through to the upper air,
since, if anyone should go to the top of it
or becoming winged should reach it,
popping up to look,
just as fish pop up out of the sea to see things here,
so someone there also could look down on things,
and if their nature were capable of standing the sight,
they would recognize that that is truly heaven
and truly the light and so truly the earth.
For this earth and stones
and region here are corrupted,
just like things in the sea are by the brine,
and nothing worth much grows in the sea,
but it is caves and sand and endless mud and mire,
and nothing is beautiful compared to our things;
but those things surpass ours by even much more.
For a story worth hearing may be told, Simmias,
which hits upon the things of the earth below heaven.

Socrates, we would gladly listen to this story.

Then it's said, my friend, first that to see the earth
is like looking from above into twelve spheres,
varied, with distinct colors which are like patterns;
and there the whole earth is made out of these,
and out of even brighter and purer ones than these,
purple of amazing beauty and golden light
and white whiter than chalk or snow,
and she is composed likewise out of the other colors,
still more amazing and beautiful than the ones we see.
For these same hollows which are full of water and air
present a color shining among other varied colors.
In this same reality things grow in proportion,
trees and flowers and fruits;
the mountains and stones are likewise
smoother and transparent with colors more beautiful;
the pebbles are what here are prized gems,
sards and jaspers and emeralds and gold and silver.
Those stones are pure,
because they're not corrupted
as these here are by rottenness and brine,
which also produce in them deformity and disease.
This earth is a blessed sight to see.
Upon her there are many animals and people,
living inland, around the air and the sea,
on islands where the air flows around,
for what the water and the sea
are to us for our use,
there the air is like this,
and what the air is to us, the ether is to them.
Their seasons are temperate,
and they have no diseases;
a lifetime is much longer than here,
and sight and hearing and sensibility excel ours
just as the air does the water and the ether the air.
Also their groves and sacred places are divine,
and gods really live in them,
speaking prophecies and visions of the gods,
and such communions occur there with them;
the sun and moon and stars
are seen as they really are,
and their happiness is in accord with all of this.

So the whole earth has this nature,
and these things are around the earth;
but down in her hollows are many regions,
some deeper and more spread out than where we live,
and some have narrower openings and some are wider;
but they are all connected to each other by the earth,
and having passages through which water flows
from one to another like in a basin,
there are rivers under the earth
of warm and cold waters,
and also of fire and of mud flowing before lava;
these fill each region and flow around them,
oscillating up and down within the earth.
One larger chasm is bored right through the earth,
which many poets have called Tartarus.
For all the rivers flow together into this chasm,
and each becomes like the earth
through which it flows.
The cause of all the streams flowing in and out
is that this liquid has no foundation or base,
but oscillates and waves up and down,
like breathing always blows in and out.
So when the water withdraws into the lower region,
it flows into streams and fills them like pumps,
making seas and marshes and rivers and springs;
sinking beneath the earth they empty into Tartarus.
They flow around the earth like snakes,
and it's possible to go down as far as the center,
but no further, since its uphill every way from there.

So there are four great streams:
the greatest and outermost is called Oceanus;
opposite it Acheron flows through deserts into a lake,
where the souls of the dead arrive and,
having stayed the time due,
some longer some shorter,
again are sent out to be born into living creatures;
the third river, Pyriphlegethon, burns with much fire
and makes a lake boiling with water and mud and lava;
the fourth river is dark blue and makes the Styx lake.

When the dead arrive where the angel brings them,
first they are judged according to how they lived.
Those who did not live moderately go to Acheron,
where they live in the lake until purified of wrongs,
making amends they are forgiven
for what they did wrong,
and for good deeds
they gain according to their merit;
but those judged to have incurable wrongs
or who committed great sacrileges
or murders or crimes,
the fitting destiny casts them into Tartarus,
and they never get out of there.
But the curable ones,
judged to have committed crimes,
who in anger did something violent,
and lived the rest of their lives in repentance,
they must fall into Tartarus,
but after a year the wave throws them back out,
and the rivers carry them to the Acherusian lake,
from where they cry to those they killed or offended,
begging to be allowed out of the lake and be accepted;
if they persuade them,
they get out and stop the evils;
but if not, they're carried again into Tartarus;
and their sufferings don't stop
until they convince those they wronged;
for this is the sentence imposed by the judges.
But those judged to have lived excelling in holiness
are free from these regions
and released as from prison,
and they arrive up in the pure home and live there.
Those purified sufficiently by philosophy
live without bodies altogether in the time thereafter,
and arrive into homes even more beautiful than these,
which cannot be described in the time available now.
However, on account of the things we have discussed,
we should do everything to share in virtue in life;
for the contest is beautiful and the hope great.
Now to rely on such things being as I described them
is not appropriate for someone of intelligence;
yet that it is something like this for our souls,
since the soul appears to be immortal,
it does seem fitting to imagine that it is so;
for the venture is beautiful,
and it is useful to chant such things to oneself.
So on account of all this it is beneficial
for one to take courage concerning the soul,
who in life renounced the pleasures of the body
and its ornaments as being alien,
believing even more something else is to be perfected,
and has been serious about learning things
and has adorned the soul with her own order,
discretion, justice, courage, freedom and truth;
thus one waits for the journey into Hades,
as coming about when destiny should call.
So you, Simmias and Cebes and the others,
hereafter at some time each of you will pass;
but now already destiny,
as the tragedies say, is calling me,
and the hour is close for me to turn to the bath;
for it's better to be bathed
before drinking the poison
so the women won't have to bother
bathing the corpse.

Well, Socrates, what do you direct me to do
concerning your children or anything else
which we could do for you as a special favor?

As I always say, Crito, nothing new;
that by taking care of yourselves
you are doing a favor
both to me and mine and yourselves,
if you actually do it,
whether you promise now or not;
but if you neglect yourselves
and aren't willing to live
according to these speeches and the ones before,
not even if you promise much now
will you do any better.

Accordingly we shall be eager to do so;
but in what manner shall we bury you?

However you wish, if you can catch me,
and I don't escape from you.

Socrates laughs gently and looks at the others.

SOCRATES (Cont'd.)
I haven't convinced Crito that I'm this Socrates,
who now is conversing and conducting the argument,
but he thinks I'm that corpse which he'll see later,
and so he asks how he should bury me.
Even though I have just made a long argument that,
when I drink the poison,
I'll no longer stay with you,
but I'll go away into the joys of the blessed,
yet it seems to him
I was only encouraging you and me.
So you will give me a pledge to Crito,
opposite to the one which you pledged to the judges.
For that one was that I was to remain;
but you will pledge I am not to remain, when I die;
but I'll go away,
so that Crito may bear it more easily,
and seeing my body either burned or buried
he'll not be upset that I am suffering terribly,
nor say at the funeral that Socrates
is being displayed or carried out or buried,
for understand, excellent Crito,
to say what is not beautiful not only is wrong itself,
but also it produces evil in the souls.
So have courage and say this body is being buried,
and bury it anyway you like
and as you believe it is most customary.
Crito, you may attend me in the bath,
but the rest of you please wait here.

Socrates stands up and goes out of the room to the bath, followed by Crito.

Wasn't the argument and the story beautiful?

Yes, very;
the man seems to know where he is going.

Now we're going to be like orphans.

The scene dissolves.

In the next scene in the room with the bath, Socrates has bathed and is visiting with his wives and children. He embraces each of them one last time and sends them out the door. Then he and Crito walk back into the other part of the prison cell where the others are waiting. The sunlight coming in the cell indicates that sunset is very near. Socrates sits down again on the bed. After a short time the prison attendant comes and stands next to Socrates.

Socrates, I won't condemn you,
as I condemn others,
who are angry with me and curse me,
when I give them the word
to drink the poison ordered by the rulers.
I have known you not to be like that in this time
and to be the noblest, gentlest and best man ever here,
and even now I know you won't be angry with me,
but with those whom you know
are the ones responsible.
Now you know what I came to announce;
so goodby and bear the restraints as best you can.

The Prison Attendant bursts into tears, turns and goes out.

Goodby my friend, and we'll do these things.
What a charming person!
During the whole time he has come to me
and has conversed sometimes
and has been most agreeable,
and now how nobly he weeps for me.
But come now, Crito, let's obey him,
and let someone bring the poison,
if it's been ground;
and if not, then let someone grind it.

But I think, Socrates,
the sun is still on the mountains and hasn't yet set.
Also I know others drank it quite late,
when the word should have been given to them,
they have dined and drank quite well,
and kept company with those
they happened to desire.
So don't hurry at all;
for it's still permitted.

Naturally they do these things which you say,
for they think they gain by doing them,
but I naturally won't do such things,
for I don't think I would gain anything
by drinking it a little later
other than to bring on ridicule to myself,
clinging to life and sparing it
when there's nothing left in it.
But come, obey, and don't do otherwise.

Crito nods to the boy standing nearby. The boy goes out and returns with the Executioner who carries a cup.

SOCRATES (Cont'd.)
Well, sir, for you have knowledge of this;
what is necessary to do?

Nothing, except to drink it
and walk around until your legs become heavy,
and then lie down;
and thus it will do it itself.

The Executioner holds out the cup to Socrates who takes it calmly without changing his expression. Socrates looks up at the Executioner with his usual concentration.

What do you say to
pouring out a libation to someone?
Is it permitted or not?

We grind the amount, Socrates,
which we think is the measure to drink.

I understand,
but it is allowed and beneficial
to pray anyway to the gods,
that the change of residence
from here to there be fortunate,
which now I pray and may it be so.

Socrates holds up the cup, then drinks all of the contents, and calmly hands the cup back to the Executioner. Apollodorus and Phaedo have been weeping for some time, but now Crito too stands up and is unable to restrain his tears. Then Apollodorus lets out a wail so grief-stricken that all the others now weep unabashed, except for Socrates.

What are you men doing, you wonders!
Didn't I send away the women on account of this,
so that they wouldn't offend in these ways?
For I've heard it's beneficial to die among praising.
So keep quiet and be patient.

But Socrates, I hate to see you
being put to death so unjustly.

Well, dear Apollodorus,
would you rather see me
being put to death justly?

No, of course not.

Then we must learn to endure all things.

This helps them gain some composure, while Socrates walks around, paying attention to his legs.

SOCRATES (Cont'd.)
My legs are getting heavy.

Then you should lie down now.

Socrates lays down on the bed on his back. The Executioner examines his feet and legs by pressing them hard, starting with the feet and working his way up the legs.

Can you feel that?


How about that?

No, not at all.

When it reaches his heart, he will be dead.

Socrates pulls a blanket over him. At the time when the Executioner was pressing near the stomach, Socrates uncovers his head for a moment.

Crito, we owe a cock to Asclepius;
please pay it and don't neglect it.

Socrates covers himself up again.

It shall be done,
but see if you have anything else to say.

After a short time, the body of Socrates moves for a moment. The Executioner uncovers him, and the eyes of Socrates are set. Crito reaches over and closes the eyes and mouth.


Copyright 1996, 2008 by Sanderson Beck

SOCRATES: A Series of Philosophical Plays is now published as a book. For ordering information, please click here.

"Know Yourself"
The Sophists
Prudence and Courage
The Lover
The Banquet
The Good
The Trial
Prison and Death

Introduction to Socrates and Plato
CRITO by Plato
PHAEDO by Plato

The Socratic Problem
Life of Socrates
Attitudes of Socrates
How Socrates Taught
What Socrates Taught
Did Socrates Practice It?
Influence of Socrates

BECK index