Nonfiction > Harvard Classics > Plato > The Apology, Phædo and Crito
Plato. (427?–347 B.C.).  The Apology, Phædo and Crito.
The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.
Paras. 200–299
Or you may also be led to the recollection of Simmias himself?  200
  True, he said.  201
  And in all these cases, the recollection may be derived from things either like or unlike?  202
  That is true.  203
  And when the recollection is derived from like things, then there is sure to be another question, which is, Whether the likeness of that which is recollected is in any way defective or not?  204
  Very true, he said.  205
  And shall we proceed a step further, and affirm that there is such a thing as equality, not of wood with wood, or of stone with stone, but that, over and above this, there is equality in the abstract? Shall we affirm this?  206
  Affirm, yes, and swear to it, replied Simmias, with all the confidence in life.  207
  And do we know the nature of this abstract essence?  208
  To be sure, he said.  209
  And whence did we obtain this knowledge? Did we not see equalities of material things, such as pieces of wood and stones, and gather from them the idea of an equality which is different from them?—you will admit that? Or look at the matter again in this way: Do not the same pieces of wood or stone appear at one time, equal and at another time unequal?  210
  That is certain.  211
  But are real equals ever unequal? or is the idea of equality ever inequality?  212
  That surely was never yet known, Socrates.  213
  Then these (so-called) equals are not the same with the idea of equality?  214
  I should say, clearly not, Socrates.  215
  And yet from these equals, although differing from the idea of equality, you conceived and attained that idea?  216
  Very true, he said.  217
  Which might be like, or might be unlike them?  218
  Yes.  219
  But that makes no difference; whenever from seeing one thing you conceived another, whether like or unlike, there must surely have been an act of recollection?  220
  Very true.  221
  But what would you say of equal portions of wood and stone, or other material equals? and what is the impression produced by them? Are they equals in the same sense as absolute equality? or do they fall short of this in a measure?  222
  Yes, he said, in a very great measure, too.  223
  And must we not allow that when I or any one look at any object, and perceive that the object aims at being some other thing, but falls short of, and cannot attain to it—he who makes this observation must have had previous knowledge of that to which, as he says, the other, although similar, was inferior?  224
  Certainly.  225
  And has not this been our case in the matter of equals and of absolute equality?  226
  Precisely.  227
  Then we must have known absolute equality previously to the time when we first saw the material equals, and reflected that all these apparent equals aim at this absolute equality, but fall short of it?  228
  That is true.  229
  And we recognize also that this absolute equality has only been known, and can only be known, through the medium of sight or touch, or of some other sense. And this I would affirm of all such conceptions.  230
  Yes, Socrates, as far as the argument is concerned, one of them is the same as the other.  231
  And from the senses, then, is derived the knowledge that all sensible things aim at an idea of equality of which they fall short—is not that true?  232
  Yes.  233
  Then before we began to see or hear or perceive in any way, we must have had a knowledge of absolute equality, or we could not have referred to that the equals which are derived from the senses—for to that they all aspire, and of that they fall short?  234
  That, Socrates, is certainly to be inferred from the previous statements.  235
  And did we not see and hear and acquire our other senses as soon as we were born?  236
  Certainly.  237
  Then we must have acquired the knowledge of the ideal equal at some time previous to this?  238
  Yes.  239
  That is to say, before we were born, I suppose?  240
  True.  241
  And if we acquired this knowledge before we were born, and were born having it, then we also knew before we were born and at the instant of birth not only equal or the greater or the less, but all other ideas; for we are not speaking only of equality absolute, but of beauty, good, justice, holiness, and all which we stamp with the name of essence in the dialectical process, when we ask and answer questions. Of all this we may certainly affirm that we acquired the knowledge before birth?  242
  That is true.  243
  But if, after having acquired, we have not forgotten that which we acquired, then we must always have been born with knowledge, and shall always continue to know as long as life lasts—for knowing is the acquiring and retaining knowledge and not forgetting. Is not forgetting, Simmias, just the losing of knowledge?  244
  Quite true, Socrates.  245
  But if the knowledge which we acquired before birth was lost by us at birth, and afterwards by the use of the senses we recovered that which we previously knew, will not that which we call learning be a process of recovering our knowledge, and may not this be rightly termed recollection by us?  246
  Very true.  247
  For this is clear, that when we perceived something, either by the help of sight or hearing, or some other sense, there was no difficulty in receiving from this a conception of some other thing like or unlike which had been forgotten and which was associated with this; and therefore, as I was saying, one of two alternatives follow: either we had this knowledge at birth, and continued to know through life; or, after birth, those who are said to learn only remember, and learning is recollection only.  248
  Yes, that is quite true, Socrates.  249
  And which alternative, Simmias, do you prefer? Had we the knowledge at our birth, or did we remember afterwards the things which we knew previously to our birth?  250
  I cannot decide at the moment.  251
  At any rate you can decide whether he who has knowledge ought or ought not to be able to give a reason for what he knows.  252
  Certainly, he ought.  253
  But do you think that every man is able to give a reason about these very matters of which we are speaking?  254
  I wish that they could, Socrates, but I greatly fear that to-morrow at this time there will be no one able to give a reason worth having.  255
  Then you are not of opinion, Simmias, that all men know these things?  256
  Certainly not.  257
  Then they are in process of recollecting that which they learned before.  258
  Certainly.  259
  But when did our souls acquire this knowledge?—not since we were born as men?  260
  Certainly not.  261
  And therefore previously?  262
  Yes.  263
  Then, Simmias, our souls must have existed before they were in the form of man—without bodies, and must have had intelligence?  264
  Unless indeed you suppose, Socrates, that these notions were given us at the moment of birth; for this is the only time that remains.  265
  Yes, my friend, but when did we lose them? for they are not in us when we are born—that is admitted. Did we lose them at the moment of receiving them, or at some other time?  266
  No, Socrates, I perceive that I was unconsciously talking nonsense.  267
  Then may we not say, Simmias, that if, as we are always repeating, there is an absolute beauty, and goodness, and essence in general, and to this, which is now discovered to be a previous condition of our being, we refer all our sensations, and with this compare them—assuming this to have a prior existence, then our souls must have had a prior existence, but if not, there would be no force in the argument. There can be no doubt that if these absolute ideas existed before we were born, then our souls must have existed before we were born, and if not the ideas, then not the souls.  268
  Yes, Socrates; I am convinced that there is precisely the same necessity for the existence of the soul before birth, and of the essence of which you are speaking: and the argument arrives at a result which happily agrees with my own notion. For there is nothing which to my mind is so evident as that beauty, good, and other notions of which you were just now speaking have a most real and absolute existence; and I am satisfied with the proof.  269
  Well, but is Cebes equally satisfied? for I must convince him too.  270
  I think, said Simmias, that Cebes is satisfied: although he is the most incredulous of mortals, yet I believe that he is convinced of the existence of the soul before birth. But that after death the soul will continue to exist is not yet proven even to my own satisfaction. I cannot get rid of the feeling of the many to which Cebes was referring—the feeling that when the man dies the soul may be scattered, and that this may be the end of her. For admitting that she may be generated and created in some other place, and may have existed before entering the human body, why after having entered in and gone out again may she not herself be destroyed and come to an end?  271
  Very true, Simmias, said Cebes; that our soul existed before we were born was the first half of the argument, and this appears to have been proven; that the soul will exist after death as well as before birth is the other half of which the proof is still wanting, and has to be supplied.  272
  But that proof, Simmias and Cebes, has been already given said Socrates, if you put the two arguments together—I mean this and the former one, in which we admitted that everything living is born of the dead. For if the soul existed before birth, and in coming to life and being born can be born only from death and dying, must she not after death continue to exist, since she has to be born again? surely the proof which you desire has been already furnished. Still I suspect that you and Simmias would be glad to probe the argument further; like children, you are haunted with a fear that when the soul leaves the body, the wind may really blow her away and scatter her; especially if a man should happen to die in stormy weather and not when the sky is calm.  273
  Cebes answered with a smile: Then, Socrates, you must argue us out of our fears—and yet, strictly speaking, they are not our fears, but there is a child within us to whom death is a sort of hobgoblin; him too we must persuade not to be afraid when he is alone with him in the dark.  274
  Socrates said: Let the voice of the charmer be applied daily until you have charmed him away.  275
  And where shall we find a good charmer of our fears, Socrates, when you are gone?  276
  Hellas, he replied, is a large place, Cebes, and has many good men, and there are barbarous races not a few: seek for him among them all, far and wide, sparing neither pains nor money; for there is no better way of using your money. And you must not forget to seek for him among yourselves too; for he is nowhere more likely to be found.  277
  The search, replied Cebes, shall certainly be made. And now, if you please, let us return to the point of the argument at which we digressed.  278
  By all means, replied Socrates; what else should I please?  279
  Very good, he said.  280
  Must we not, said Socrates, ask ourselves some question of this sort?—What is that which, as we imagine, is liable to be scattered away, and about which we fear? and what again is that about which we have no fear? And then we may proceed to inquire whether that which suffers dispersion is or is not of the nature of soul—our hopes and fears as to our own souls will turn upon that.  281
  That is true, he said.  282
  Now the compound or composite may be supposed to be naturally capable of being dissolved in like manner as of being compounded; but that which is uncompounded, and that only, must be, if anything is, indissoluble.  283
  Yes; that is what I should imagine, said Cebes.  284
  And the uncompounded may be assumed to be the same and unchanging, where the compound is always changing and never the same?  285
  That I also think, he said.  286
  Then now let us return to the previous discussion. Is that idea or essence, which in the dialectical process we define as essence of true existence—whether essence of equality, beauty, or anything else: are these essences, I say, liable at times to some degree of change? or are they each of them always what they are, having the same simple, self-existent and unchanging forms, and not admitting of variation at all, or in any way, or at any time?  287
  They must be always the same, Socrates, replied Cebes.  288
  And what would you say of the many beautiful—whether men or horses or garments or any other things which may be called equal or beautiful—are they all unchanging and the same always, or quite the reverse? May they not rather be described as almost always changing and hardly ever the same either with themselves or with one another?  289
  The latter, replied Cebes; they are always in a state of change.  290
  And these you can touch and see and perceive with the senses, but the unchanging things you can only perceive with the mind—they are invisible and are not seen?  291
  That is very true, he said.  292
  Well, then, he added, let us suppose that there are two sorts of existences, one seen, the other unseen.  293
  Let us suppose them.  294
  The seen is the changing, and the unseen is the unchanging.  295
  That may be also supposed.  296
  And, further, is not one part of us body, and the rest of us soul?  297
  To be sure.  298
  And to which class may we say that the body is more alike and akin?  299


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