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10.6: The Soul Without Barnacles

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    See 611a-612a. What would the soul be without the body? Socrates has us imagine the sea god Glaucus who, though a god, has been buffeted about by the waves and incrusted with mollusks, seaweed, and the like so that he appears more like a “wild beast” than a divine being. The soul’s true nature, he suggests, is just as difficult to perceive, wrapped up as it is in the body. But if it were free of the body, what would be left? Socrates hints that it might be a single part – the rational part, presumably – which, through love of wisdom (philosophia), would live in contemplation of the forms (of “what is divine and immortal and what always exists”).

    • Whether or not this is idle speculation is debatable, but there is something fascinating about trying to understand what life without a body would be like. Desires for breathing, drinking, eating, and activities of this sort would, presumably, be no more. What else would be different?

    • Would gender identities cease?

    • What about desires for praise or feelings of shame – would they continue to exist?

    • Would one still be spatially located and capable of movement?

    • Would one still be able to communicate with others?

    • Would music still be perceivable?

    • How would disembodied souls differ from one another?

    • Would they have different memories?

    • Would they care about their pasts or would their attention be fixed exclusively on eternal things?

    This page titled 10.6: The Soul Without Barnacles is shared under a CC BY license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Douglas Drabkin.

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