The objections from Simmias and Cebes about the immortality of the soul

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The objections from Simmias and Cebes about the immortality of the soul

Objections and Responses to the Immortality of the Soul

Objections and Responses to the Immortality of the Soul

The objections from Simmias and Cebes about the immortality of the soul came up when the philosopher Socrates was in prison and was about to die. He said that like him every philosopher should be prepared to die and many questions were asked where he decided to explain the meaning of death. He defined death as the separation of the body from the soul (Bolotin, 2001). Thus an argument for the soul’s immortality started, and Socrates explained it in three ways. The first was the cyclical argument which says that all things are got from their opposite state, the second was the argument of recollection which explains that souls exist even before one is born, and lastly was the affinity argument which states that souls are real and they live (Bolotin, 2001). Therefore, these cases led to the objections as indicated below.

I think that Simmias’ objection had followed the deductive logic method because it was more of the possibility drawn from the truths in the premises as well as the conclusion. The question which is likely to be asked in this objection is: why is it that by destroying a body will lead to the destruction of the soul? And this is answered by the theory that He came up with. He talked of a musical instrument and the attunement of the strings of the instrument. The instrument represents the body, and the attunement of the musical instrument represents the soul (Frede, 2004).

The attunement exists due to the instrument being held together at the right tension, and appropriately thus it’s living, and functioning depends on the instrument itself. If the musical instrument is destroyed, the attunement will also be destroyed because it depends on it for survival (Frede, 2004). In the same way just as the modus tollens validity rule of deductive logic states that (if p then q), Sammias is able to compare the situation with that of the body and soul (Frede, 2004). If the soul represents the attunement, then it also exists due to the body which represents the musical instrument being well assembled. Thus we can conclude just as Sammias that by destroying the body it will lead to the destruction of the soul which is in and functions under it (Frede, 2004).

Cebes had an objection too though he first agreed to Socrates argument that said that the soul existed before birth. The contradiction came about because he doubted that the soul existed after death. He supported his doubt with an inductive logic argument because there was a probability of his argument being right. The question to guide in this objection should be why Cebes believed that the soul existed before birth but does not think that it is immortal. He believes that the soul survives the death of the body, but he does not take it as evidence that it’s eternal and therefore he came up with a theory of a tailor and a cloak (Frede, 2004).

The cloak represents the body, and the tailor represents the soul because the soul is contained in the body just as the cloak covers the tailor. A tailor makes and uses many cloaks in a lifetime before he dies and in the same way, the soul uses many bodies before it dies. The tailor remakes the cloak but he dies, and the cloak cannot be remade again, but then it outlives him (Frede, 2004). Likewise, the body continually changes just as the cloak, and it is reconstructed by the soul just as the tailor remakes the cloak. When the soul dies just as the tailor, the body can no longer be transformed and thus it ends up being destroyed and even rots. This shows that the soul does not exist anymore (Frede, 2004).

Socrates responded to Simmias objection concretely and logically where he used three points to clarify his argument. Simmias was a bit confusing because he argued out that the soul was like an attunement which cannot exist before the instrument is made, on the contrary, he believed in the recollection argument which stated that the soul lived before birth (Gottschalk, 2001). In these two discussions, the soul as an attunement has no grounded argument it is just said, but from the recollection argument, it is based on a credible and strong theory known as the forms theory. Forms theory states that we have a prior knowledge which one does not get from the sense perception but it is acquired even before one gets the sense perception and that is before birth (Gottschalk, 2001). Thus with this foundation, Socrates then gave three arguments to oppose Simmias objections.

The first argument was that an instrument could be tuned in different ways that are it can be well and badly tuned thus leading to more or less attunement. On the other hand, a soul cannot be controlled such that there is a less or more soul than the other hence proving that it does not behave like the attunement (Frede, 2004). The second point was that Socrates says that some souls seem to be better than others that are good and bad. Simmias adds on that, agrees and compares a good soul with an instrument in the right tune and a bad soul with an instrument out of tune (Gottschalk, 2001).

Considering their past agreement that no soul has more than any other soul, Simmias thought did not apply because an instrument in tune has more attunement than one out of tune. Thus, they argued out that if a soul were an attunement, it would be in no discord. In conclusion of this argument, the soul is in harmony, and it cannot, therefore, be in acts of evil hence all souls are equally good (Gottschalk, 2001). Thirdly and lastly they both agreed that the body is controlled by the soul to help it move and act. For the attunement to be there, an instrument has to be made thus its existence depends wholly on the instrument itself, but the soul does not depend on the body thus making Simmies argument null and void (Frede, 2004).

Socrates then responded to Cebes’ argument also in a convincing and clear way. He comes up with three arguments; the first was about natural science where he talked of how he wanted the explanation of everything how things came to be, how they will cease and how they will continue to be. The theory states that things behave by necessity and chance. Necessity is whereby things behave in a certain way depending on how it’s made like water is moist and fire rises. Chance tells of how things come together and combine but depending on their relative proportions they may form different substances like bones and blood (Frede, 2004). Socrates realized that the more he continued to research the more he kept on unlearning whatever he previously knew. For instance, he wondered how one and one would add up to two or what makes one bigger than the other. In this theory, it is clear then no reason for why things behave the way they do even to humans there is no reason to why they act the way they do (Frede, 2004).

Secondly, he talked about the Anaxagoras teachings. This theory gives teleological explanations, and on the material one, it adds to it trying to elaborate it further giving proves on the end goal of an object (Frede, 2004). For instance, the principle of fire rises it will try to explain why rising is the end goal of the fire. The explanations are based on intelligence where it is drawn from the theory that states that intelligence is the means in which matter in the universe is explained, where one will be able to understand and differentiate between the material and the place it is supposed to be placed. Thus this theory states that material explanations are based on intelligence. Lastly, Socrates responded to Cebes using the form theory. He said that the material explanation provides conditions without giving the real cause to be adopted (Frede, 2004). The form theory deals with judging things by how it seems to us. For example, if something is big it is said to be big because of its form of bigness, no evidence is needed to prove the feeling of seeing that it is big (Bolotin, 2001).

In conclusion, Simmias and Cebes were convinced by Socrates responses, and they agreed to them due to the clear, logic, and detailed arguments.


Bolotin, D. (2001). The Life of Philosophy and the Immortality of the Soul. Ancient Philosophy, 7, 39-56.

Frede, D. (2004). The Final Proof of the Immortality of the Soul in Plato’s Phaedo 84c – 107a. Phronesis, 23(1), 27-41.×00208

Gottschalk, H. (2001). Soul as Harmonia. Phronesis, 16(1), 179-198.×00124.

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