Comparison of Plato's The Last Days of Socrates and Hesse's Siddhartha

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Comparison of Plato's The Last Days of Socrates and Hesse's Siddhartha

The Last Days of Socrates and Siddhartha are sources that reveal information about religious or philosophical ideas in the cultures that they focus on. While vast differences exist between the Greek and Indian values that shape their philosophies, they make similar assumptions as they attempt to make sense of the world. Understanding the dichotomous relationship of the soul and the body is integral to grasping the similarities and differences between the classical Greek and Indian paths because the way in which these concepts are understood defines the very nature of truth.

Socrates, the main character in The Last Days of Socrates, and Siddhartha,
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"...I spend all of my time going about trying to persuade you, young and old, to make your first and chief concern not for your bodies nor for your possessions, but for the highest welfare of your souls..." (Plato 62). He bases his arguments in an understanding that people can only be wise when their souls are free from their bodies, because the senses interfere with inquiry (Plato 131). Socrates admits, however, that throughout life the body and the soul are connected. They only separate at death, which he explains as "...the separate condition by itself of the soul when released from the body" (Plato 108). Based on this assumption, Socrates encourages people to give up bodily pleasures such as food, sex, and fancy clothes so that their souls can be as free as possible from their sensual bodies (Plato 108). Siddhartha uses the term Self to express the concept of the soul and the body. In order to free himself of the influences of the body on his soul, Siddhartha attempts "...to become empty, to become empty of thirst, desire, dreams, pleasure, and sorrow-to let the Self die" (Hesse 14). However, he too finds it impossible to completely separate the soul and the body so that he can discover truth.

Although Siddhartha and Socrates are both searching for truth by trying to understand the dichotomy between the soul and the body, they approach this quest in very