Phaedo by Plato

I spent much of my day reading the 50 page Platonic dialogue, Phaedo. I was intimidated by the thought of sitting down and reading this in its entirety in one sitting. I took small breaks in between, but, for the most part, read it within the span of three or four hours. Despite its demand of my extensive time and energy, this dialogue has proved to be the most thought provoking of the dialogues I have read. The main points discussed in this dialogue consist of death (fear of vs. desire for), virtue, the immortality of the soul and recollection (how Plato posits we “know”), the life of loving to learn (philosophy), and most importantly the Forms. I was forced to really think while reading this dialogue. I really enjoyed this dialogue. The following is an excerpt that stood out to me:

Therefore, if we had this knowledge, we knew before birth and immediately after not only the Equal, but the Greater and the Smaller and all such things [i.e. the Forms],  for our present argument is no more about the Equal than about the Beautiful itself, the Good itself, the Just, the Pious and, as I say, about all those things which we mark with the seal of “what it is,” [i.e. the Forms] both when we are putting questions and answering them. So me must have acquired knowledge of them all before we were born.

-Plato, Phaedo (p. 66)

Plato (via Socrates’ “character” in this dialogue) reaches to a vague resemblance of universal truth/knowledge, that is that all humans know at birth a set of “things”–Forms–that are immortal and immutable.

Now, this idea of the Forms can be reconciled with the Christian faith. These immutable and immortal truths are found in God–in fact, they are God, God is them. God is Equality/Equal (think of the Trinity); God is Beauty/Beautiful; God is Goodness/Good; God is Justice/Just, and God is Piety/Pious. It makes sense that great theologians such as Augustine found themselves reading works of Neo-Platonism. Plato may be “pagan” but his philosophy (from what I have read) seems to be pretty reconcilable to Christianity.


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