Personally this dialogue was a bit more difficult to get into than “Symposium” to me, and not because it related to death. The manner in which Socrates evolves his argument was hard to follow and understand for me. Here is what I got out of the texts.
A quick summary of Phaedo: On the day of his death by poison, Socrates in placating his friends with his views on death.
When Socrates is talking about pain and pleasure together he said, “they never come to a man together, and yet he who pursues either of them is generally compelled to take the other.” (pg. 37) I can see truth in this by my own experiences. Wanting something so much for pleasure can actually cause one pain. This was quote that intrigued me, but it didn’t have much to do with the rest of the conversation.
Later Socrates states that “…any man who has the spirit of philosophy, will be willing to die, though he will not take his own life, for that is held not to be right.” (pg. 38) Why is it that dying shouldn’t be feared, but we shouldn’t induce death? Why is this not “held in the right”? Coming from a background that does not believe in God, I do not understand how these rights are discovered.
I inferred from the text that after death is rebirth. “The weaker is generated from the stronger.” This led me to think, does God see the mistakes he made in some people (too strong, too weak, too tall, too short, …) and then over compensates for what the previous person was lacking when that soul is reborn into another body?
Death is said to be the opposite of life in this conversation. I’m not so sure. I feel the opposite of death is birth. Birth is the regeneration of a life into this world, where as death is taking the life out of this world. In the text Socrates essentially says that Death leads to revival which leads to new life, which will ultimately lead back to death. So replacing life with birth you can infer that Birth->Living->Death->Revival->Birth.
Based on Socrates’ rebirth theory, he believes that the knowledge of equality, beauty, good, justice, and holiness are all things that are intuitively known at birth. I feel this was not true at this time because how could there have been an intuition of equality when the men of that day did not acknowledge women as equals within society? Generally most people have the same ideas about good and justice, but there are those who do not. Where they the ones lacking intuitive morals upon rebirth? Socrates mentions that “learning [is] a process if recovering our knowledge.” (pg. 53) This fits his theory well, but I am not sold on the idea that we are born with these morals. I feel these are taught intuitions. Because mistreating a child can lead to the child becoming a serial murderer and how could that be if they were born with intuitive good and justice?
A final note on this dialogue were the words of Phaedo “he was like a father of whom we were being bereaved, and we were about to pass the rest of our lives as orphans.” (pg. 90) Socrates is known as one of the world’s greatest philosophers, these final moments were spend doing what he did best, talking about philosophy, and what I found tragic in this instance was this quote. His disciples were not mourning Socrates, but his place is their lives that became a void.