Article ID: CBB939004533

Piety and Annihilation in Plato’s Phaedo (2019)


At the close of Plato’s Apology, Socrates argues that death is a benefit regardless of whether it results in annihilation or an afterlife. According to the standard interpretation, Socrates of the Phaedo rejects the idea that annihilation is a benefit, instead arguing that the soul is immortal and that annihilation would harm a philosopher. Socrates certainly suggests in a few passages that he would resent annihilation. In this paper, however, I argue that the Phaedo does not mark a significant shift in Socrates’ views about whether annihilation benefits. In both dialogues, he recognizes that if the gods choose to annihilate humans, they signal that human life is bad overall and that deprivation of a bad state is a benefit, albeit a benefit without an existing beneficiary. I contend that for Socrates, the possibility that humans benefit from annihilation entails neither the rationality of suicide nor the view that philosophers live miserable lives.

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Authors & Contributors
Vlastos, Gregory
Owen, G. E. L.
Fine, Gail
Sedley, David N.
Scott, Gary Alan
Scott, Dominic
Apeiron: Journal for Ancient Philosophy and Science
Dianoia: Annali di storia della filosofia
European Legacy
Oxford University Press
State University of New York Press
University of California Press
Soul (philosophy)
Theories of knowledge
Anaxagoras of Clazomenae
Empedocles of Agrigentum
Time Periods

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