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18. The Aristotelian Psuchê

CHRISTOPHER SHIELDS


Subject Classics, Psychology

People Aristotle

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405122238.2009.00021.x


Extract

“But how shall we bury you?” Faced with this question when on the verge of his state-mandated execution, the Platonic Socrates responds with a gentle chuckle, “In whatever way you wish – if you can catch hold of me and I do not elude you” ( Phaedo 115c3–5). As he goes on to remind those among his intimates present at his end, Socrates understands death to be the mere separation of the body and soul. If they are apprehensive about the fate of his body, then they have misplaced their concerns. Since his soul lives on and he is his soul, Socrates will not be available for burial. “I have been making the point at some length now that after I have drunk the poison I shall no longer remain among you, but will have gone off to enter into the joys of the blessed” ( Phaedo 115d2–4). As for the disposition of his corpse, Socrates is no more concerned than he might be for the fate of a threadbare overcoat discarded at the end of its useful life. Although he laments that some have remained unconvinced by his arguments for the immortality of the soul, Socrates finds himself at ease at the moment of his death. Among those unconvinced by the arguments for the immortality of the soul given by Socrates in Plato's Phaedo is Aristotle. When investigating the nature of soul-body relations in his principal work on the soul, De Anima ( On the Soul ; soul = anima in Latin, or psuchê in Greek), ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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