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Offline Rainmusic

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Food for thought
« on: June 23, 2017, 05:24:56 PM »
I subscribe to this and came across something for you here who seem to be well read and learned people,thought maybe it would fit somehow.

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Go to the profile of Berny Belvedere

Berny BelvedereFollow
Editor-in-Chief of Arc Digital | Contributor to @WashingtonPost and others | Professor of Philosophy

May 11·8 min read


Death of a Philosopher

What did Socrates, in his final days, reveal to us about the Great Unknown?

Coming some four hundred years before the man who taught his followers to drink a cup in order to live, Socrates drank a cup in order to die.

But before he received this anti-Eucharist, the infused hemlock, Socrates publicly ruminated on the nature of death to his fellow Athenians.

Plato, Socrates’ most famous pupil, captured these speeches in his work The Apology, which in this case means legal and philosophical defense rather than a petition for forgiveness.

The Internet Classics Archive | Apology by Plato

Apology by Plato, part of the Internet Classics Archive
In the Apology, Plato records Socrates defending himself against the charges of impiety and corruption, which stemmed from Socrates allegedly encouraging the Athenian youth “not to acknowledge the gods which the state acknowledges, but some other new divinities.”

In the course of his apologia, Socrates offers two arguments about death. But before we can get to those we need to reacquaint ourselves with Socrates’ self-conception, which is the key to understanding his philosophy.

The Wisest Of Them All

When the Oracle of Delphi proclaimed him the wisest man of all, Socrates did not take this to suggest he had greater expertise or more advanced knowledge than the others. Quite the opposite — he was proclaimed the wisest because, unlike the so-called experts, Socrates knew that he didn’t know.

Athens, pretty much like all societies before it and all societies since, boasted its own set of experts in every conceivable field — morality, politics, religion, beauty, etc. Yet Socrates understood something about these experts. He noticed that when pressed, although they would be able to rattle off an example or two about their subject of expertise (“What is beauty, you ask? Well, the Parthenon.”), they would find themselves utterly unable to articulate the essence of the subject itself.

In other words, Socrates found that when their expertise came under scrutiny, it was clear they didn’t really know what they claimed to know. Socrates, on the other hand, claimed not to know, and in that very way knew more than they!

In fact, Plato’s dialogues, which feature Socrates as the voice of reason, are structurally arranged to draw out this discrepancy. In order to do so, they typically follow this pattern:

1. Socrates meets with a so-called expert.

2. Socrates questions the so-called expert.

3. The so-called expert finds himself unable to respond to Socrates in a philosophically adequate manner.

4. The so-called expert is shown to not actually know what he is claimed to know.

Though the Apology’s structure is importantly different than the majority of the other Platonic dialogues, in one sense it’s the same: the central conflict is between Socrates and a pretender to knowledge. His main accuser is Meletus, whom Socrates addresses, and embarrasses, early on.

Socrates’ First Argument Concerning Death

In the course of refuting the charges brought against him, Socrates offers the first of his two arguments regarding death.

1. Death should be feared if and only if it is known to be bad.

2. Neither he nor anyone else knows that death is bad.

3. Death shouldn’t be feared.

Socrates calls fear of death “the pretense of wisdom, and not real wisdom, being the appearance of knowing the unknown,” adding that “no one knows whether death, which they in their fear apprehends to be the greatest evil, may not be the greatest good.”

What are we to make of this argument?

It seems Socrates has a general principle in mind that is undergirding his first premise. Something like this: You should only fear that which you know is bad.

The idea is not that a person should fear everything he or she knows to be bad. Fear is just not a relevant emotion when it comes to certain experiences we would construe as bad ones. Having a headache is bad but not an occasion for fear.

The idea, rather, is that it is only legitimate to fear something when one has knowledge that it is bad. Since we don’t know that death is bad, we shouldn’t fear it. Fear should be reserved only for that class of experiences one is sure are bad ones.

Recall that for Socrates it is very important to not claim we know, or act as if we know, when we don’t really know.

This provokes us to ask a highly important question: What does it mean to know something? What separates knowledge from mere belief? Within Plato’s own writing we get the formula that has been dominant within philosophy for ages: knowledge is justified, true belief.

In other words, an item of knowledge is a belief that is true and that you are justified in having.

But notice that death is unlike other experiences in that it strips you of the very life you need to go on and evaluate it further. Miracles aside, there’s no coming back from it.

So using Plato’s own recipe for what constitutes knowledge, it seems we lack justification for being sure that death is either good or bad. When it comes to other experiences, the justification tends to come from someone — ourselves or others — undergoing the experience and then informing others about it. The reason that books such as Heaven Is For Real don’t satisfy the justification requirement is that they are not seen as trustworthy accounts.

This requirement is an important one. Consider two scenarios involving you at a game show. In both scenarios, you have to choose which door the treasure is behind: the first, second, or third door. In both scenarios, you choose door number two. In the first scenario, you choose that door because two is your lucky number. In the second scenario, you choose that door because your friend, who has always been trustworthy, works for the show and gives you insider information so that you’ll split the money with him later. The treasure is indeed behind door number two. Here’s the thing: in the first scenario, we wouldn’t call your belief that it’s behind door number two an instance of knowledge; but in the second scenario, we would.

What’s the difference? Justification.

So let’s give Socrates premise 2 — the real problematic principle is the one we said is bolstering premise 1: You should only fear that which you know is bad.

This principle seems obviously wrong.

Imagine you go on a roller coaster only to find out moments into its launch that the ride has killed 20 people in the past year — does Socrates think we have no grounds for fear in such a circumstance? Were folks wrong to fear a nuclear apocalypse during the height of the Cold War? We can think of innumerable scenarios that we don’t, strictly speaking, know are bad, yet we see fear as a perfectly legitimate response to them — and not just legitimate, but potentially helpful, too.

Socrates’ Second Argument Concerning Death

What about Socrates’ second argument?

Two things have happened since Socrates gave his first argument. He has been found guilty, and he has been sentenced to death.

Here’s his second argument:

1. Death is either like peaceful sleep, which is a good thing.

2. Or it involves joining a permanent community of heroes and philosophers, which is also a good thing.

3. Whichever of these it is, death is good.

It is interesting to note Socrates’ optimistic turn. In the first argument, our lack of knowledge about what happens after death was given as a check on our emotions; in this argument, Socrates explicitly finds room for a different sort of emotion: hope. He actually says “there is great reason to hope” that the conclusion, above, is true.

Earlier, reason did not supply us with grounds for fear; but now, reason apparently can supply us with grounds for hope.

Is Socrates simply engaged in wishful thinking here?

It appears so. How else should we interpret his decision to narrow the range of possibilities to just these two? Consider the inversion of premise 2: What if death involves joining a permanent community of cowards and simpletons? Why didn’t Socrates consider this as a possibility? This would certainly be a bad thing for him, one would think.

Or maybe not. Here’s Socrates just moments after producing his second argument concerning death: “no evil can happen to a good man, either in life or after death.”

Is it possible that Socrates is of the belief that even if our inverted version of premise 2 were to occur, he would still consider it a good? He might come to see it as an opportunity to teach the simpletons how to reason and the cowards how to become brave — he is, after all, a teacher.

Still, it’s hard to believe we wouldn’t be able to conceive of a scenario which even Socrates would view as bad. Imagine a neverending, Dante-inspired torture chamber. Good luck trying to find the silver lining in that scenario.

Even if we see Socrates as engaged in a bit of motivated reasoning — theorizing that death is either like dreamless sleep or like endlessly interesting conversations, both of which would be good things — there may be another issue with his reasoning.

Upon closer inspection, premise 1 appears to be highly problematic.

In the Apology, he writes that if death is “a state of nothingness and utter unconsciousness,” then death is like “the sleep of him who is undisturbed even by the sight of dreams.” That’s fine. So far, so good.

But then he says this would make death “an unspeakable gain.” How is he able to construe eternal sleep as good? He reasons that if you were to ask a person to evaluate which nights have been the most restful, that person would point to those undisturbed, peaceful, dreamless instances of sleep.

Here’s the critical problem with this reasoning: the very element that makes an instance of peaceful sleep a good thing is the resulting experience of feeling refreshed, feeling well-rested, feeling reenergized. Apart from this, there is nothing about peaceful sleep that one can legitimately characterize as good, unless you think unconsciousness or lack of existence is good, which Socrates did not, and Plato certainly did not.

So, even granting Socrates’ naive narrowing of death to those two possibilities, the first of those should not be characterized as good since it is missing the very feature that would generate its goodness.

In a way, these arguments work in the exact opposite way than they were intended. That Socrates produced two of his worst arguments while facing the prospect of death should not be lost on us.

The first argument concludes that we shouldn’t fear death — yet if the possibility of death could get Socrates to reason this poorly, maybe we should fear it greatly! The second argument concludes that death is a good thing — yet if his own imminent death could get Socrates to rule out equiprobable, though far less desirable, possibilities, maybe we should rage, after all, against the dying of the light!





Go to the profile of Berny Belvedere

Berny Belvedere

Medium member since Mar 2017

Editor-in-Chief of Arc Digital | Contributor to @WashingtonPost and others | Professor of Philosophy


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Two things:

1 — Socrates’ Contradiction

Socrates says we shouldn’t make assumptions about things we don’t know, and then proceeds to make an assumption about something he doesn’t know. He announces we shouldn’t fear death because no one has any idea what happens after, and then he declares it must be…

Read more…


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Offline windfeather

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Re: Food for thought
« Reply #1 on: June 24, 2017, 02:07:02 PM »
its too bad he had to drink that hemlock
when he could have renounced what he was doing and left town
i think in the end he was a bit concerned about whether choosing death was the right thing
people die for their beliefs
i don't know if its worth it

i've decided that its illogical to fear death
its not illogical to fear pain
so you could fear a painful death
i guess we fear our own annihilation
thats a weird thing to fear
« Last Edit: June 24, 2017, 02:21:02 PM by windfeather »

Offline Rainmusic

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Re: Food for thought
« Reply #2 on: November 12, 2017, 07:41:10 PM »
The people that chose death are not around.the people that chose life are indeed still living.

To face death while your still alive,to be treated as though you are dead is in a sense having the advantage of knowing a portion of it before your there.The gift that some gave to me and im sure to others.

Offline windfeather

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Re: Food for thought
« Reply #3 on: November 13, 2017, 07:08:56 AM »
The people that chose death are not around.the people that chose life are indeed still living.

To face death while your still alive,to be treated as though you are dead is in a sense having the advantage of knowing a portion of it before your there.The gift that some gave to me and im sure to others.

oh i like