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10.5: An Argument for the Soul’s Immortality

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    See 608c-611a. Coming full circle, Socrates returns in the last pages of the Republic to matters that had concerned Cephalus in the opening pages of Book I – death, life after death, and the further consequences of justice. He begins with an argument in support of the claim that the soul cannot be destroyed, the key premise of which is that, if something has a natural evil, a characteristic way in which it can be bad, and this evil is unable to disintegrate and destroy the thing, then nothing can destroy the thing. “Injustice, intemperance, cowardice, and ignorance” – the vices opposed to justice, moderation, courage, and wisdom – are the characteristic ways in which the soul can be bad. These vices wreak havoc in the soul, but do not destroy it. Therefore the soul is incapable of being destroyed. Having just set us the challenge of defending poetry, Socrates now sets us a second challenge: either “refute these arguments” or “never say that the soul even comes close to being destroyed by a fever or any other disease, or by killing for that matter – not even if one were to cut the entire body up into the very smallest pieces.”

    • What is the strongest objection you can think of to this argument?

    • Socrates suggests that sickness is the human body’s natural badness and that rust is iron’s natural badness. What then of something like a thermonuclear explosion? Would he consider it bad both for iron and for the human body?

    • Is moral corruption the only way the soul can be made bad? Do strokes and brain tumors not incapacitate the soul in various ways and to various degrees?

    • What is the soul’s relation to the body?

    This page titled 10.5: An Argument for the Soul’s Immortality is shared under a CC BY license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Douglas Drabkin.

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