Practicing to Die? Let's Talk Philosophy
Practicing to Die
Socrates can be described as having been a Dualist. He was therefore of the belief that the body and soul were separate from each other. This is an important view given that Socrates believed that the physical world is just but the shadow of reality, and to obtain true knowledge, the soul had to be freed from the body, which imprisons it.
According to Socrates, true philosophers spend their lives preparing for death and for dying. He agrees with Simmias that true philosophers strive to distance themselves from bodily pleasures (sex, fancy, cloths, foods etc.) as possible. In his opinion, this is due to the fact that philosophers are largely concerned about their souls, and its well being. Although he does not believe in suicide, Socrates points out that a true philosopher want to free their souls from their bodies as much as possible. For this reason, he is convinced that engaging in philosophy is to practice dying, and in doing so, have the being freed from the body.
Socrates uttered these words when he was about to drink the poison and die. For such philosophers as Anaxarchus and Socrates, there was a strong belief that the body and soul were separate, and that following death, the soul would leave the body and go on to a better afterlife. Since death was the only means through which true philosophers could free the soul as much as possible from associations with the body, Socrates states that to engage in philosophy was practicing to die.
On the other hand, Socrates was of the opinion that the senses tend to be imprecise, and can therefore deceive an individual or a philosopher. In order to get the best kind of wisdom therefore (one that comes from reason alone) it was necessary to be as distanced from all the distraction of the body as possible.
It was his belief that the truth is sought by the reasoning capacity of the soul and that the body hindered this process. He says that: "thought is best when the mind [soul] is gathered into herself and none of these things trouble her—neither sounds nor sights nor pain nor any pleasure—when she has as little as possible to do with the body, and has no bodily sense or feeling."
Socrates had spent most of his life without trying to seek the pleasures of wealth, treasure, mansions or sexual pleasure. Although he had children; he lived like one without a home. This was in his quest for understanding and truth. He felt that his true nature was to be a soul that is separate from the body that can die. To a philosopher who had strived to make such a separation for the sake of truth, death was welcomed.
•Why did they kill him you may ask? Socrates that it.. Well, he was being a smart-ass, and they didn’t take too kindly of his kind back in the day.. He was a threat, and they didn’t want him to: •“Take their job”, haha, get it? Uhhh, never mind..
Practicing to Die
I would compare Socrates to Descartes. Descartes, being a Dualist as well felt that it was important to doubt, and thus question everything in order to achieve true knowledge. This therefore led him to doubt his very existence,and ultimately stating that the only thing he was sure of was that his mind existed given that he could think. According to Socrates, the body, and relying on the senses prevents people from achieving true knowledge given that the physical world is just a shadow of true forms.Socrates believed that it was only the soul that was capable of learning of the true forms and thus obtaining true knowledge. For this reason, Socrates came to the conclusion that real philosophers, in search of true knowledge were essentially practicing to die, and thus free the soul to obtain true knowledge of the forms.
This can better be explained by learning of the Allegory of the cave in my other hub :) Do check it out
So what do you think of true philosophers from Socrates' point of view? what do you suppose Socrates really meant? Does this support the idea of Dualism? Comment in the section below, let me know your thoughts, let's learn from each other..
Would love to hear a different point of view on this.
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Get in touch for more material. Also check out these sources;
Alican, Necip Fikri (2012). Rethinking Plato: A Cartesian Quest for the Real Plato. Amsterdam and New York: Editions Rodopi B.V.
Ross, William David (1951). Plato’s Theory of Ideas. Oxford: Clarendon Press
Fine, Gail (2003). Plato on Knowledge and Forms: Selected Essays. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Bostock, D. Plato’s Phaedo. Oxford, 1986.