More on the Phaedo with Shelly Kagan


In this section, I have listed summaries of Kagan's presentation of Socrates principle arguments with along with Kagan's accompanying critiques.

The Phaedo is an argument not for the existence, but for the persistence (immortality) of the soul.

  • Numbers – the mind can partake in the abstract idea of numbers/ mathematics, but there is not something that exists in the world as the number 2.

  • Everything has this according to Plato’s theory of the Forms

  • Plato via Socrates posits that it is the soul that thinks about the Forms

  • For Plato, the empirical world has a transient & rolling dreamlike quality. The participation in Forms is vast and changing. The Forms themselves are stable & eternal and unchanging.

  • For Plato, one must strive to separate oneself from his bodily desires in life to get somewhere good after your body dies.

  • The dialogues are a “learning device” to get better at philosophy. The way one shows respect is to consider and question the argument.

“Even if we are dualists, how can we be sure the soul survives the death of my body?”

-Shelly Kagan The argument from The Nature Of The Forms – because the Forms are non physical, they cannot be grasped by something physical.

  1. Ideas (Forms) are eternal/ non-physical

  2. The eternal/ non-physical can only be grasped by the eternal/ non-physical

  3. (So) that which grasps the Ideas (Forms) must be eternal/ non-physical

  4. non-physical = not the body

  5. eternal = immortal

  • Problem: “There’s no good reason for (2) to be true.” SK

  • It takes one to know one – You don’t have to be a cat to study cats. However it could be particular and not general. “But why should we believe (2)?” SK

The argument from Recycling – parts get reused, “We are all awake, but previously we were asleep & will go back again. Things come into being by being previously pre-existing parts.” SK

  • Problem: How can we conclude that the soul is one of the things that will get reused after the death of my body. Even though recycling seems to be universal truth.

  • Kagan seems to lean toward phenomena over theology/dualistic explanation. Perhaps the soul is phenomena.

The argument from Recollection – We know the Forms because we remember them from a past life. The soul has come from before. We know things about the Platonic Forms cannot be found in this world, where do we know them from.

  • Problem: Do we have to grant that it was a previous life? Can we not extrapolate from our own experience? Do we need actual acquaintance with Supreme Justice? Can we not come up against/ acquaint ourselves with the Forms in this life?

Are we even able to imagine perfect Roundness? Justice? Beauty? Math?

#phaedo #death #shellykagan #socrates #soul #openyalecourse

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