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September 22nd 2009

Exegesis # 1 – The Equal

The purpose of this paper is to analyze Socrates’ argument in the Phaedo

which proposes the Theory of Recollection as proof for the immortality of the
soul, and therefore philosophy as a practice for death and dying.

1) One can see an object and be reminded of another object.

2) This is because we have knowledge of the form of ‘Equality’.
3) Someone can perceive two objects as equal whereas another may not.
4) Two people will never understand the form of ‘Equality’ as being the form
of ‘Inequality’.
5) Therefore ‘the Equal’ is not the same as the equal things. (3, 4)
6) We do not get knowledge of ‘the Equal’ through the senses. (3, 4, 5)
7) We only acquire senses at birth.
8) Therefore we must acquire knowledge of ‘the Equal’ before birth. (6, 7)
9) Therefore, knowledge is recollected from before we are born. (2, 8)
10) Therefore, the soul must have existed before it came to be in our physical

The implications of the above argument are simple. Socrates is trying to

convince his friends that since he is a philosopher, there is nothing cowardly
about accepting his death sentence. His friends, of course, want him to run
away. He refuses to, and claims that “philosophy is the practice for death and
dying”. Socrates believes that the philosopher is a pure mind on a quest for
ultimate true knowledge. This mind is confined to a body, which incessantly
pressures it to give in to materialistic desires such as food and clothes,
moving it away from its goal. Meaning, there is no shame in a true
Philosopher wanting to die, since at last his soul will be able to observe things
on its own, freed from the grotesque body and all its bothersome needs.
However, this premise only holds under one condition; that the soul is
immortal. In this argument, Socrates refers to the theory of recollection to
prove the hypothesis that the soul exists before birth. He then combines this
argument with his prior one, the theory of opposites, and claims that since the
soul existed before death, and that its birth originated from death (the
opposite, and decrease of life), then it will exist after death because it will be
born again through an increase of life. This is the weakest point of the
argument, and is attacked by Simmias and Cebes.

In conclusion, this exegesis broke down Socrates’ argument proving that a

true philosopher should embrace death for it is the freeing of the soul from the