The Lost Plato Volume 1: Plato's Struggle With Socrates
Chapter One: In Search Of Socrates
In the Apology Plato presents us with a picture of Socrates at his trial. Socrates is accused of corrupting the youth, of not worshipping the gods that the city worshipped, but worshipping new divine beings (24b-c). What brought these accusations upon Socrates was his philosophic examination of himself and of others (21b-24b, 28e). Socrates nevertheless vows to practise philosophy as long as he breathes (29d4-5). For him philosophy is the source of true happiness (36d-e), and life without philosophic self-examination is not worth living (38a). Socrates was sentenced to death, and in the Phaedo we find him on his last day fulfilling the vow he publicly made in his Defence: he does practise philosophy as long as he breathes. In prison, among his closest friends, he spends the last day of his life ‘in philosophy’ (en philosophiai, Phd. 59a2), and in his doing so philosophy becomes supreme action. In other words, on his last day Socrates overcomes any split between word and action, philosophy and life. The power of his last philosophic discourse was such that it did not allow his friends to abandon themselves to sorrow. Thus Phaedo, Socrates’ young beloved disciple (89a-c), although stricken with pain, could not help experiencing an admixture of pleasure (hêdonês 59a6) when listening to Socrates in his last hours (59a4-6), for Socrates was radiating happiness (58e3), turning the day of his death into the culmination of his whole life (84d-85b). This picture of a true philosopher has been relegated by modern Platonic scholarship into the realm of philosophic fiction.(1) There seems to be a weighty reason for this relegation, for in the Phaedo Socrates attempts to prove the immortality of the soul by taking recourse to the theory of Forms. It therefore seems that if we take the Phaedo as a true account of Socrates’ philosophic thinking then we must ascribe the theory of Forms to the historical Socrates. Modern Platonic scholarship is built on the supposition that Plato conceived the Forms after the death of Socrates. If this supposition is right then the Phaedo must be fictional, and on the principle of charity it may be conjectured that Plato attributed the Theory to Socrates because he considered it the proper justification of Socrates’ attitude, which Socrates himself would have given if he had fully developed his theory.(2) I shall argue that in the Phaedo there is no place for this kind of charity. For if the Phaedo is fictional, if the historical Socrates on his last day thought and behaved differently, if he did not discuss the immortality of the soul, if he did not derive from his philosophic discourse the strength to face his death with courage, then by staging the dialogue on Socrates’ last day and by making a fictionally transformed Socrates into its hero Plato expressed a profoundly negative verdict both on the historical Socrates and on philosophy itself, implying that one could be true to philosophy only in fiction. This view of philosophy appears to be the dominant view among interpreters of Plato, but it is in discord with Socrates' words and actions depicted by Plato in other dialogues and derived from Socrates’ other contemporaries, as will be shown. From Diogenes Laertius we learn that Antisthenes, Socrates’ close friend and disciple, held that virtue was sufficient to ensure happiness if one had the power of Socrates (autarkê de tên aretên pros eudaimonian, mêdenos prosdeomenên hoti mê Sôkratikêsischuios, VI.11), which can only mean that in Antisthenes’ view Socrates had the power to act in accordance with what virtue commanded him to do. In Plato’s Gorgias Socrates tells Callicles: ‘If you find me assenting to your words, and hereafter not doing that to which I assented, consider me to be an entirely worthless fool, and don’t bother reproving me in the future’ (488a6-b1). In Plato’s Crito Socrates acts according to his view that a true philosopher would not run away from the consequences of his thoughts, words, and actions. As his end is approaching, Crito tries to persuade him that he should escape from prison, and Socrates explains why he must stay (Crito, 44b-45b). He argues that if he escaped from prison then by this act he would undermine the laws of Athens (50a-b) and confirm in the minds of the judges their view that they were right in condemning him (53b-c); by staying and facing the death to which he was condemned he demonstrated that the verdict was completely wrong. In all this his integrity as a philosopher was at stake; he asks Crito: ‘Did our arguments seem to be right before I was condemned to death, and were they now exposed as mere talk for the sake of talking, all in vain, mere childish nonsense?’ (46d2-4) Socrates' emphasis on the unity between philosophic discourse and the life of a true philosopher finds its strongest expression in his philosophic discourse on his last day; the Crito can be fully understood only in the light of the Phaedo. In the Phaedo Socrates argues that a philosopher is not afraid of death and is therefore truly courageous (67e-68d); these are not empty words in the mouth of Socrates as we know him from the Apology, the Symposium, or the Laches. In the Apology Socrates simply states that when he took part in the military campaigns at Potidaea, Amphipolis, and Delium, he obeyed the orders given to him by the military leaders, and kept his ground facing death (28e); in the Symposium Alcibiades gives colour to Socrates’ statement. Neither Alcibiades himself nor any other soldier was a match for Socrates when it came to endurance of fatigue, lack of food, or any other privation (Symp. 219e-220b); Alcibiades was wounded in the battle and no one else had the courage to stand by him except for Socrates. During the rout of the Athenian army at Delium Alcibiades had a better opportunity to observe Socrates than at Potidaea, for he himself was on horseback and comparatively out of danger. He says that Socrates walked on the battlefield with as much assurance as in the streets of Athens, calmly watching both his comrades in arms and the enemy, so that it was clear to anybody even from a distance that whoever attacked him would meet with a stout resistance; Socrates was retreating together with Laches, a courageous Athenian general, and Alcibiades observed how much greater presence of mind had the former than the latter (220e-221c). Plato chose Laches as Socrates’ interlocutor in the Laches, a dialogue devoted to the discussion of courage. Laches says that he hates listening to men whose words are not matched by their deeds, but loves hearing a true man discoursing on virtue,a man who is worthy of his theme, and adds that he has had no experience of Socrates’ words, only of his deeds (tôn ergôn epeirathên), yet concerning these he found him worthy of noble words (kai ekei auton hêuron axion onta logôn kalôn, 188e6-189a1). As can be learnt from the Apology, it was the freedom with which Socrates spoke his mind in his defence that greatly contributed to his death sentence, for when he was found guilty, and the prosecution demanded that he be sentenced to death, had he himself suggested exile and appealed to the mercy of the judges, there is a great likelihood that the jury would have preferred it to the death sentence.(3) But he said that what he truly deserved was something very different; as a philosopher he greatly benefited the city, he needed leisure (scholên, Ap. 36d5) to do his job properly, and since he was poor, the most fitting thing for him would be free meals in the Prytaneum (Ap. 36d-37a). With this proposal Socrates made it very hard for the judges to be merciful. Socrates spoke in his Defence as freely as in philosophic discussions in which he discussed virtue, examining himself and others, refuting (elenxô, 29e5) all those who pretended to know what virtue was, that is to know what they should do with their lives (28e, 29d-30e, 38a). This freedom of speech was perceived by the politicians as dangerous. It is of paramount importance for our understanding of Plato to realise how strongly he emphasized Socrates’ freedom as an essential part of Socrates’ philosophic legacy and how staunchly he defended it. He did so in a conspicuous way in the Apology. He corroborated it in the Laches in a less provocative manner, and therefore perhaps more effectively. In this dialogue, presumably one of the first dialogues written after the death of Socrates, Laches asks Socrates to teach him and refute him as he pleases (kai didaskein kai elenchein eme hoti an boulêi, 189b2-3), for so high has been his opinion of Socrates ever since the day when Socrates was his companion in danger (189b3-6). It was the way in which Socrates lived his life that justified the freedom with which he chastised his fellow countrymen. The Crito and the Laches are short dialogues, and the discourse contained in these two works is written so as to be accessible to the broadest readership; Plato wanted to bring home to the Athenians what they did to themselves, to the whole city, and to their young in particular, when they condemned Socrates to death. Both dialogues remind the reader of Socrates as he thought and behaved facing the death sentence. In the Crito the connection is obvious;Socrates in the dialogue prefers death to subverting the laws of Athens by escaping from prison. That Plato in the Laches wants to remind the reader of Socrates’ last day is for the modern reader harder to detect, but it becomes clear when we compare the Laches with the Phaedo. In the Phaedo Socrates says that throughout his life he had a recurrent dream that commanded him to do art (mousikên, 60e6), which he interpreted as an exhortation to do philosophy, for he considered philosophy to be the greatest musike (hôs philosophias men ousês megistês mousikês, 61a3-4). In the Laches Laches says that he is delighted beyond measure when he compares the speaker and his words and finds them in complete harmony (harmottonta, 188d2): ‘And such a one I deem to be a man of music (mousikos), attuned to the fairest harmony (harmonian kallistên hêrmosmenos) ... whose life is truly harmonious because his words accord with his actions (ton bion sumphônon tois logois pros ta erga, 188d3-6)’. If the Laches was written prior to the Phaedo, as is generally and rightly assumed, then Laches’ words cannot echo the Phaedo; instead, they must be reminding the reader of what Socrates actually said on his last day. The Laches thus corroborates the authenticity of the dream episode in Plato’s rendition of Socrates’ last day, but even if we view the Phaedo on its own, the manner in which the dream is introduced and the immediate setting within which Socrates refers to it strongly indicate that Plato relates something that actually happened. For Socrates’ words in the Phaedo concerning philosophy and mousikê are part of his reply to a poet and philosopher Evenus, and to some other people (kai alloi tines, 60d2) who wanted to know why Socrates wrote poems after coming to prison, when he had never written poetry before (60c8-d7). Socrates replied that he did so in response to certain dreams that had often visited him in his past life and always said the same thing: ‘Socrates, make art (mousikên, 60e6) and practise it.’ In the past he had thought that the dream was urging him to do exactly what he was doing, that is to do philosophy, for he believed philosophy to be the greatest art. But now, after he had been sentenced and with his execution delayed because of the festival of Apollo, he thought it safer (asphalesteron, 61a8) not to depart from life before fulfilling his sacred duty, if by any chance the dream was urging him to do art as it is normally understood, that is to write poetry. (60d8-61b1). I cannot see how the dream episode could be reduced to Plato’s attributing to Socrates in the Phaedo such thoughts and sentiments as he considered appropriate for Socrates to have face to face with his imminent death. In a number of Plato’s dialogues Socrates is disparaging of art and poetry as it was normally understood, and even of the art of writing as such,(4) and this disparagement is closely linked to the Theory of Forms.(5) Had Plato introduced the Theory of Forms to the reader in the Phaedo as a new theory that would have transformed the last day of Socrates into an occasion filled with the deepest happiness, had it been in Socrates’ possession on that day, why then does he open the dialogue by casting doubts on Socrates’ understanding of art and philosophy? And why was the story of the dream introduced as an answer to Evenus? Evenus was a poet and philosopher from Paros who was at the time teaching in Athens. Socrates picked on him in his Defence; Evenus paraded himself as an ‘expert on human and political excellence’, offering his teaching for a moderate price of five minae (Pl. Ap. 20b-c). If the Phaedo were fictional, why did Plato link it to the Apology in this manner? This question is difficult to answer. But if the purpose of the dialogue is to present Socrates on his last day as authentically as possible, then the answer is at hand. Socrates in his Defence referred to Evenus with biting irony, and Evenus retaliated by asking for the reason of Socrates’ writing of poetry in prison, no doubt well aware that with this question he put his finger on Socrates’ uncertainty and weakness; had Socrates at the last moment revised his views on art and philosophy? Socrates replied by challenging Evenus: ‘‘Cebes, tell him to have strength (errôsthai), and if he is wise (an sôphronêi), to follow me as quickly as he can. I’m off today, it seems, by Athenians’ orders.’ (61b7-c1). This extraordinary message is the trigger to the whole subsequent discussion about the meaning of philosophy and its role in human life, and about the soul’s immortality. Simmias, Cebes’ friend and compatriot from Thebes, exclaimed: ‘What a thing you’re urging Evenus to do, Socrates!’ Socrates reposted: ‘Isn’t Evenus a philosopher?’ All that follows can be seen as Socrates’ explanation of his message to Evenus: a true philosopher endeavours to see true being, and he can fully achieve this aim only in the disembodied existence of his soul after his death. We may presume that Socrates’ reply to Evenus was soon widely known. In it Socrates characterizes his whole life in a nutshell; through all his life he has been true to the command ‘practise mousikên’ interpreted as a command to practise philosophy; on his last day he remained true to this command to the very end. Socrates’ doubts concerning his life-long vocation expressed in his attempts to write poetry during his imprisonment were just a momentary lapse. On his last day he compares himself to swans ‘that sing all their life long, but most fully and beautifully (pleista kai kallista) when they perceive that they must die’ (84e5-85a1). The dream ordered Socrates to produce and practise mousikê, and in his practising philosophy on his last day in prison he did so. This is what forms the basis of Plato’s endeavour to rehabilitate and resuscitate Socrates as a major moral and political force in all his writings devoted to Socrates after Socrates’ death. In the Phaedo Plato enumerates a number of men who were present with Socrates in prison on his last day: Apollodorus, Critobulus, Crito, Hermogenes, Epigenes, Aeschines, Antisthenes, Ctesippus, Menexenus, ‘and some others’ from Athens, Phaedo from Elis, Simmias, Cebes, and Phaedondes from Thebes, Euclid and Terpsion from Megara (59b-c). Had Socrates’ actual behaviour been in discord with his vow made in his Defence, the vow that he would practise philosophy as long as he breathed, it would have been widely known. If Socrates spoke and behaved differently from the picture Plato presented of him in the Phaedo, if he did not speak and act in accordance with his previous life, how could Plato have chosen him to play in his dialogues the role of a protagonist of a perfect unity between one’s words and one’s actions? This question becomes especially poignant when we learn from Plato’s Seventh Letter that the imperative of establishing harmony between philosophy and the philosopher’s actions was a guiding principle that Plato himself endeavoured to live up to (328c-e). I cannot but agree with Burnet when he notes that the Phaedo professes to be nothing less than a faithful picture of Socrates: ‘We are certainly led to believe that it gives us a truthful record of the subjects on which Socrates discoursed on the last day of his life, and of his manner of treating them. No reader who made his first acquaintance with Socrates here could possibly suppose anything else.’(6) He adds that he cannot bring himself to believe that Plato falsified the story of Socrates’ last hours on earth by using him as a mere mouthpiece for novel doctrines of his own.(7) I have a special reason for agreeing with Burnet concerning this point. I studied Plato for some twenty years in the former Czechoslovakia in almost complete isolation from modern interpretations of Plato, and in my reading of the dialogue during that whole period it never occurred to me to doubt the essential veracity of Plato’s depiction of Socrates’ last day. Burnet argues that the narrative is put into the mouth of Phaedo of Elis, who was certainly still living when the Phaedo was written; he was a mere lad when Socrates died in 399 (Phaed. 89b3), yet he lived to found the philosophic school of Elis. He says that a similar consideration applies to Socrates’ chief interlocutors in Phaedo’s narrative, the two youngsters (tôn neaniskôn, 89a3) Simmias and Cebes, who too were certainly alive when the dialogue was published, and so were probably others of the company of friends present at Socrates’ deathbed. Burnet therefore refuses to believe that under these circumstances Plato could have conceived of the Phaedo simply as an ‘imaginary conversation’, but says that ‘if we choose to suppose that he [Plato] introduced into the Phaedo sayings and doings of Socrates which really belonged to other occasions, there is nothing to be said against that; for such concentration of characteristic traits in a single scene is quite legitimate in dramatic composition.’(8) Let me add that Phaedo undoubtedly narrated the story of Socrates’ last hours many times, and so did all the other friends who were with Socrates on his last day. And although Plato was not present in prison on Socrates’ last day, for he says so in the dialogue (59b10), we know that after Socrates’ death he went with other Socratics to Megara, to the home of Euclides (Diog. Laert. ii. 106, iii. 6). As Burnet notes, this information rests on the authority of Hermodorus, a disciple of Plato who wrote a book about him.(9) What would the friends have discussed there but what happened during Socrates’ last hours, glad that they had an avid listener in Plato, who missed being with them and with Socrates on that most memorable occasion? A philosophically highly complicated and demanding discourse would be remembered differently by each, as each would tend to reproduce it according to his own philosophic bias. Plato then had to use his philosophic insight into Socrates’ thought while drawing on and making sense of the narratives of Socrates’ friends and disciples who were there. Unfortunately, Burnet compromised his view on the Phaedo by claiming that the doctrine of Forms on which Socrates in the dialogue bases his proofs of the immortality of the soul was not originated by Plato, or even by Socrates, but was essentially Pythagorean.(10) This was refuted by W. D. Ross who showed that Aristotle viewed Plato as the author of the Theory of Forms, that is Ideas as Ross prefers to call Plato's essences. Aristotle’s account of the original conception of the Theory of Forms is of paramount importance concerning the question of the authenticity of Plato’s picture of Socrates in the Phaedo, so let us consider the relevant passages with Ross’ help. In Metaphysics A. 987a29-b9 Aristotle says:
‘After the systems we have named came the philosophy of Plato, which in most respects followed these thinkers [i.e. the Pythagoreans], but had peculiarities that distinguished it from the philosophy of the Italians. For, having in his youth first become familiar with Cratylus and with the Heraclitean doctrines (that all sensible things are ever in a state of flux and there is no knowledge about them), these views he held even in later years. Socrates, however, was busying himself with ethical matters and neglecting the world of nature as a whole but seeking the universal in these ethical matters, and fixed thought for the first time on definitions; Plato accepted his teachings, but held that the problem applied not to sensible things but to entities of another kind - for this reason, that the common definition could not be a definition of any sensible thing, as they were always changing. Things of this other sort, then, he called Ideas, and sensible things, he said, were all named after these, and in virtue of a relation to these.’
This account of Plato’s conception of the Theory of Forms in Metaphysics A on its own could be reconciled with Burnet’s claim that the theory was first formulated by the Pythagoreans and as such adopted by the historical Socrates, as Burnet believed. What is nevertheless decisive concerning Plato’s authorship of the theory is Aristotle’s account of the matter in Metaphysics M. In Metaphysics M. 1078b9-32 Aristotle says: ‘Now, regarding the Ideas, we must first examine the ideal theory itself, not connecting it in any way with the nature of numbers, but treating it in the form in which it was originally understood by those who first maintained the existence of the Ideas. The supporters of the ideal theory were led to it because on the question about the truth of things they accepted the Heraclitean sayings which describe all sensible things as ever passing away, so that if knowledge or thought is to have an object, there must be some other and permanent entities, apart from those which are sensible; for there could be no knowledge of things which were in a state of flux. But when Socrates was occupying himself with the excellences of character, and in connection with them became the first to raise the problem of universal definition ... Socrates did not make the universals or the definitions exist apart: they, however, gave them separate existence, and this was the kind of thing they called Ideas.’(11) Ross notes that in the M passage Plato is not named, but that the reference in both passages to the influence of Heracliteanism, as well as the identical way in which Socrates is introduced in both passages as the mediating influence, and the identity, but for the change of number, of the final statement in both these passages, show that ‘those who first maintained the existence of the Ideas’ in M means just Plato. Ross points out that Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics confirms that Aristotle viewed Plato as the author of the Theory of Forms, for he introduced his criticism of Plato’s Good with a remark that ‘such an inquiry is made an uphill one by the fact that the Forms have been introduced by friends of our own’ (1096a12).(12) For Aristotle could hardly have counted among ‘friends of his own’ Socrates, who died long before he himself was born. Ross is right when he says that Aristotle’s authority is decisive concerning ‘the question whether it was Socrates or Plato who first formulated the ideal theory’. And he is equally right when he adds that ‘this is compatible with accepting Socrates’ account in the Phaedo (96a-100a) of his mental history as substantially true. Aristotle does not tell us that Socrates was a mere moralist who had never had any interest in physical or metaphysical questions. What he says is that when [Ross’ italics] Socrates was interesting himself in ethical questions and not in nature as a whole, Plato took him as his master.’(13) This is a brilliant insight, but Ross’ emphasis on when has its relevance not only concerning Socrates, but as well concerning Plato as far as his conception of the Theory of Forms is concerned: Aristotle speaks of the impact of the philosophic activities of the living Socrates on the young Plato, not of the impact of a memory of Socrates on Plato’s mind some fifteen years after the death of Socrates as is implied by the modern developmental theories of Plato. What is of paramount importance for the correct understanding of Aristotle’s testimony is a close examination of the Greek text and with its interplay of the present participles and of the aorists in his description of the impact of Socrates’ philosophic activities on Plato. Socrates’ continuous philosophic activity, that is his preoccupation with ethics and his search for the universal in ethical matters, is described by present participles (Sôkratous ... pragmateuomenou ... zêtountos, 987b1-3) which stand in genitive absolute and as such describe the time framework during which and the conditions under which Plato accepted Socrates as his teacher and conceived of the Forms (‘When Socrates ... was busying himself with ... was seeking’). In contrast, Plato’s acceptance of Socrates as his teacher (ekeinon apodexamenos, 987b4) is expressed by the participle of aorist, for it was an instantaneous action, as was his conception of Forms (hupelaben, 987b5). It was Socrates’ arresting his mind on definitions and keeping it thus at a standstill (peri horismôn epistêsantos prôtou tên dianoian, 987b3-4, the aorist participle expresses the entrance into the state of being at a standstill in which Socrates' mind was fixed on definitions) when he contemplated ethical concepts (peri men ta êthika pragmateuomenou, b1-2; this was an ongoing process expressed by the present participle) that made Plato conceive of the Forms in an instant (hupelaben,the aorist), for such standing still was inexplicable in terms of the Heraclitean doctrine. Having thus described how Plato’s encounter with Socrates resulted in his conception of the Forms Aristotle once again refers to Socrates’ philosophic activities by taking recourse to the present participle, and emphasizing that in Plato’s eyes these activities were directed at other objects than sensible things (hôs peri heterôn touto gignomenon kai ou tôn aisthêtôn, 987b5-6). It is noteworthy that there is a perfect accord between Aristotle’s account of Plato’s encounter with Socrates and Diogenes’ account in his ‘Life of Plato’: ‘At first Plato studied philosophy as a follower of Heraclitus, but afterwards, when he was about to compete for the prize with a tragedy, having listened (akousas, the participle of aorist, which closely corresponds to Aristotle's apodexamenos) to Socrates in front of the theatre of Dionysus he burnt (katephlexe, aorist, which closely corresponds to Aristotle's hupelaben) his poems’ (iii. 5). It was the impact of this first philosophic encounter with Socrates that compelled Plato to conceive of entities exempt from the Heraclitean flux, that is of Forms. In the light of these testimonies, Socrates in his attempt to prove the immortality of soul in his last philosophic discourse took recourse to Plato’s theory of Forms; which means that on his final sojourn ‘in philosophy’ (en philosophiai, Phd. 59a3) he adopted the theory of his disciple in order to overcome the state of philosophic ignorance within which his thought was as if imprisoned until his final days. If we view the Phaedo in the light of Aristotle's testimony, we can accept Socrates' proofs of immortality based on the theory of Forms as historically true without causing thereby any detriment to Plato's originality as far as the conception of the theory itself is concerned. But in the Phaedo much else is said about Socrates, and although Ross is right when he says that Aristotle's testimony 'is compatible with accepting Socrates’ account in the Phaedo (96a-100a) of his mental history as substantially true', it is equally true that we can find nothing in Aristotle that corroborates its veracity, and if we are left with Plato alone concerning this point, there appears to be a seemingly insurmountable discrepancy between the Apology and the Phaedo. For in the Apology Socrates says that for many years he has been misrepresented as a wise man speculating about the things above the earth and under the earth, of which he understands nothing (19c4-5), and flatly denies ever discussing matters pertaining to the philosophy of nature (19c8; 19d8). But in the Phaedo Socrates says that in his youth he had a tremendous desire to learn that wisdom which is called philosophy of nature. He wanted to know the reasons for each thing, why each thing comes to be, why it perishes, and why it exists (96a9-10). He racked his brains over the diverse explanations offered by others: do living creatures develop whenever heat and cold give rise to putrefaction? Do we think with blood, air, or fire? Or is it the brain that provides the perceptions of hearing and seeing and smelling? Is it from sensory perceptions that memory and opinion arise, and is it from memory and opinion when they acquire stability that knowledge comes to be? (96b). He was an enquirer, but in the end he states that he found himself without any talent for this kind of enquiry (teleutôn houtôs emautôi edoxa pros tautên tên skepsin aphuês einai hôs ouden chrêma, 96c1-2). This discrepancy has often been used as a decisive argument for relegating the Phaedo as a whole to the realm of fiction. And indeed, this relegation would be difficult to counter at least as far as Socrates' autobiography in the Phaedo is concerned, if Socrates' account of his philosophy in the Apology consistently contradicted it. But in fact, the seemingly insurmountable discrepancy can be found within the Apology itself,if one reads it attentively. For when Meletus accuses Socrates of depriving the sun and the moon of their divine status by proclaiming the sun to be a stone and the moon earth, Socrates ridicules Meletus for mixing him up with Anaxagoras whose ‘books are full of such statements’ (26d). Socrates then sharply distances himself from Anaxagoras’ doctrines, which he rejects because of their absurdity (houtôs atopa onta, 26e2). How could Socrates reject Anaxagoras in this manner without having been acquainted with his books? His verdict on Anaxagoras in the Apology testifies that his professed ignorance was a result of his reflection on nature and on the philosophy of nature. Can it be believed that he had never discussed these matters with his friends and followers and that his response to Meletus in his Defence was the first occasion on which he expressed his opinion concerning them? Plato does not tell us how much insight into natural phenomena underlies Socrates’ criticism of Anaxagoras, but Xenophon provides us with valuable information on this matter. For in the Memorabilia he says that Socrates criticized Anaxagoras’ view that the sun was a stone glowing with fire (lithon diapuron). Socrates did so by pointing out that a stone in fire neither glows nor can withstand fire for long, whereas the sun shines most brightly the whole time (ton panta chronon), that men can look at fire without any difficulty, but cannot gaze steadily at the sun, that human skin gets dark when exposed to the rays of the sun, which is not so in the case of fire, that no vegetation can grow well without sunlight, whereas fire makes it wither (IV. vii. 7). Thus on Xenophon’s account Socrates was a better observer of the sun and other natural phenomena than Anaxagoras ‘who took the greatest pride in his explanation of the divine machinery’ (ho megiston phronêsas epi tôi tas tôn theôn mêchanas exêgeisthai, Mem. IV. vii. 6). So when Socrates begins his Defence by proclaiming that the jury will hear fromhim only the truth (pasan tên alêtheian, Ap. 17b8); does this then mean that in his Defence he was lying ‘to save his skin’?(14) Even a cursory glance at the Apology makes it abundantly clear that ‘saving his skin’ was not what concerned Socrates. If he lied, he did so for the sake of his friends and followers, to protect them against a witch hunt that was expected to follow his trial,(15) and both Plato and Xenophon agree that Socrates maintained that only a philosopher who knows the truth can be an accomplished liar.(16) But our conceding that Socrates did lie in his Defence in order to protect his friends would not solve the problem of Socrates' denial that he ever discussed nature with his friends and followers, for Xenophon’s Memorabilia present us with a similar difficulty without allowing us a recourse to the same explanation. As has been seen, according to Xenophon Socrates did discuss Anaxagoras’ views on nature, and yet Xenophon denies that Socrates discussed the nature of the universe (oude gar peri tês tôn pantôn phuseôs ... dielegeto skopôn, I. i. 11). The solution to the problem can be found in the concept of dialegesthai, that is of ‘discussion’, upon which the denial rests both in Plato’s Apology and in Xenophon’s Memorabilia. Xenophon speaks specifically of Socrates’ investigative discussions (dielegeto skopôn) from which the questions of the nature of the universe were excluded, not just of any kind of talking, and what these investigative discussions were we can learn best from Socrates’ mouth in Plato’s Phaedo. There Socrates says that after he had given up the study of nature he decided to take refuge in language itself and in it to investigate the truth about things (edoxe dê moi chrênai eis tous logous kataphugonta en ekeinois skopein tôn ontôn tên alêtheian, 99e4-6). When Socrates uses the term dialegesthai he means an investigative search for the truth about things that can be done by the reflective use of language, without recourse to the senses (65c-66a), that is by reflection on being (to on, 65c9) that could be thought but could not be derived from the senses (74a-75c). Admittedly, Socrates’ use of the term ‘discuss’ is very idiosyncratic, but Socrates did prepare the jurors for it, for he asked them not to be surprised if in defending himself he used the same kind of language (dia tôn autôn logôn, 17c7) that he used in his philosophic discussions (di' hônper eiôtha legein, 17c8); he asked them to view him as a stranger and excuse him for talking in the language which he had been used to (17d4-18a1). When he then makes his appeal to all those who have ever listened to his discussions (hosoi emou pôpote akêkoate dialegomenou, 19d2-3) exhorting them to testify against him if any one of them ever heard him discussing matters concerned with the philosophy of nature, be it in a few words or at length (ei pôpote ê mikron ê mega êkouse tis humôn emou peri tôn toioutôn dialegomenou, 19d4-5), he appeals both to his followers who knew what he was talking about and to his enemies not well acquainted with his use of language, who might be tempted to challenge the veracity of his claim, having heard him talking on Anaxagoras and other philosophers who speculated about the nature of the universe. He does so in the hope that his words would be challenged, and that thus the trial could be transformed into a profound philosophic discussion on this matter. But his enemies disappointed him, for they apparently knew him too well to dare challenging his words on any matter related to philosophy. Socrates' limitation of his philosophic discussions to the sphere of thought that transcended the world of sensory perception is well explained in his autobiographic digression in the Phaedo. For he says there that his looking at things with his eyes and trying to get hold of them with each of his senses, in which he was engaged in his youth, made him afraid that if he continued with this kind of investigation his soul would be completely blinded by them (99e2-4). As an example of the difficulties encountered in this kind of search Socrates gives the problem of how one and one become two, which he could not solve as long as he approached it by the method of natural philosophy. He would muse: Is it when two objects, which separated from each other are viewed each as one, are brought close together that they become two? But does not the dividing of one generate two as well? If ‘bringing together’ and ‘separating’ were the causes of ‘becoming two’, this would mean that opposite causes can have the same effect, which he could not accept (96e-97b). He therefore ceased to view processes and objects observable by senses as causes, but viewed them instead as processes and objects without which causes could not operate (98c-99b). He then took recourse to a different kind of cause (tês aitias to eidos ho pepragmateumai, 100b4), with the help of which he could solve such problems as that of how objects become two: it is neither the bringing together of objects, nor the dividing and bringing them apart, but it is their participation in duality (tês duados metaschesis, 101c5) that makes them two. And thus he proceeded concerning all such problems; in each case it is the participation of a thing in its proper being (metaschon tês idias ousias, 101c3) that is the cause of its being what it is. To give an example, if there are different beautiful objects, the cause of their being beautiful is their participation in beauty itself, and so with everything else (100c4-6). This kind of cause enabled him to find safe answers to any problems that could be solved within the framework of discussion (100d8-e3), but not the problems of causation in nature; this notion of cause he based on a hypothesis that beautiful itself by itself, and good, and all the rest are something (hupothemenos einai ti kalon auto kath' hauto kai agathon ... kai t’alla panta, 100b5-7), but this ‘something’ lacked the clarity of Plato’s Forms. It was the contemplation of these entities in the fullness of their being, contemplation undisturbed by the senses, that Socrates craved and that he hoped fully to attain after death. And although he emphasized again and again that the contemplation of these entities within the framework of his philosophic discussions was far from the perfection that he hoped to attain after death, it was this imperfect contemplation of being, that is of truth, which was the source of the happiness he experienced throughout his life and on his last day (58e3). The historical veracity of the Phaedo can be now corroborated by further considerations. Plato's enumeration of a number of distinguished followers of Socrates who were present when he died in itself entitles us to surmise that Socrates’ last philosophic discourse was well remembered and much talked about. This conjecture is supported by Xenophon who says in the last book of his Memorabilia that ‘it is agreed that no person in human memory bore their death more nobly than Socrates’ (homologeitai gar oudena pô tôn mnêmoneuomenôn anthrôpôn kallion thanaton enenkein), and that during the thirty days he spent in prison after the trial ‘he continued to live exactly as before, as all his intimate acquaintances could clearly see’ (kai ton chronon touton hapasi tois sunêthesi phaneros egeneto ouden alloioteron diabious ê ton emprosthen chronon, IV. viii. 2). This can mean only one thing: Socrates spent his time in prison in philosophic discussions with his friends. In Plato's dialogue, Phaedo says that on the last day as on the preceding days he and others visited Socrates in prison and spent the day with him (59d): ‘we were occupied with philosophy, as usual’ (en philosophiai hêmôn ontôn hôsper eiôthemen, 59a3). Both Xenophon and Plato agree that the last day’s discourse was nevertheless something quite special. Xenophon says that throughout his whole life Socrates was admired for his cheerfulness and serenity, and the more so on his last day. He asks: ‘How, then, could a man die more nobly (kallion)? Or what death could be nobler than the death most nobly faced? What death more blessed (eudaimonesteros) than the noblest (tou kallistou)?’ (IV. viii. 3) In Plato’s dialogue Phaedo emphasizes the blessedness that Socrates radiated on that day: ‘I could hardly believe that I was present at the death of a friend, and therefore I did not pity him; he died so fearlessly, and his words and bearing were so noble and gracious, that to me he appeared blessed (eudaimôn, 58e)’. Though the account of both Plato and Xenophon agree that those who were present viewed Socrates’ last philosophic discourse as an extraordinary event crowning an extraordinary life, Xenophon tells us nothing concerning the content of Socrates' last day discussions, and so it may be argued that his testimony is useless concerning the question of the historicity of Plato's account of Socrates’ last hours.And yet, this argument can be countered by a question: 'If Socrates' last philosophic discourse radiated cheerfulness and serenity, what else did he discuss but the questions of death and of the immortality of the soul?' This question acquires its proper force if we consider it against the background of the attempt of Socrates' friends to arrange Socrates' escape from prison, which was to be attempted as Socrates' days in prison drew to a close, with his death impending, as Plato reports on it in the Crito. This attempt, rejected by Socrates, shows the deep rooted apprehension of death that Socrates' best and closest friends and followers shared. Plato does not name himself in the Crito among those who prepared the escape plan, but his own anxiety concerning this point comes dramatically to the fore in the Apology. For after Socrates has been found guilty and the question of the penalty arose, in a desperate attempt to prevent a death sentence Plato, Crito, his son Critoboulos, and Apollodoros offered to pay thirty minae, hoping that the jurors might accept this sum of money as a sufficient penalty. If Socrates was to spend his last day in philosophic discussion with his friends in an atmosphere of cheerfulness and serenity, he had to focus the discussion on the happy prospect of life after death, proving to them that this prospect was very real. In my view there is a direct witness who supports this account of Socrates' last hours. For Diogenes reports that Antisthenes,(17) when he was asked what was the height of human bliss, answered ‘To die happy’ (Diog. Laert. vi. 5); in giving this answer, he was pointing to Socrates' last hours. And when he maintained that 'those who would fain be immortal (tous boulomenous athanatous einai) must live piously and justly' (dein eusebôs kai dikaiôs zên, ibid.), he drew on Socrates’ last-day discourse on immortality, for this is the main thrust of Socrates’ arguments: only the soul of a man who lives piously and justly can escape from the chain of incarnations and thus of deaths (Phd. 67c-d, 80e, 83a-e). Antisthenes' testimony can be further corroborated and elucidated by the testimony of Isocrates. In Against the Sophists, that is the pamphlet with which Isocrates opened his school of rhetoric and which must have been published only a few years after Socrates’ death, Isocrates criticizes contemporary philosophers for promising their students knowledge of what they should do in life, which would ascertain their happiness (dia tautês tês epistêmês eudaimones genêsontai, 3-4). There can be little doubt that Isocrates aims his criticism at Socrates’ disciples, for as we know from Aristotle, it was Socrates who identified virtue with knowledge (E.N. 1144b28-30). But according to Plato’s Apology, Socrates at the trial solemnly denied that he possessed the knowledge in question, ironically contrasting himself to Evenus who was offering such knowledge for the modest sum of five minae (20b-c). When Isocrates further in his pamphlet criticizes philosophers for their offering students complete virtue and happiness (sumpasan de tên aretên kai tên eudaimonian, 4) for a trifling gain (mikrou de kerdous oregomenoi monon ouk athanatous hupischnountai tous sunontas poiêsein, 3-4), he echoes Socrates’ words from his Defence. So how did it happen that Socrates’ followers a few years after Socrates’ death professed to have and dispense knowledge that guaranteed happiness? I can see only one explanation of this fact: Socrates’ emphasis on his ignorance upon which he founded his Defence was not his last word in philosophy. Xenophon, Antisthenes, and Isocrates in their very different ways thus corroborate the historicity of the main event that according to Plato's Phaedo took place on Socrates' last day: Socrates overcame the philosophic ignorance within the framework of which all of his previous philosophical discussions had taken place. If we take this event into consideration, we can solve the riddle of Socrates’ very last words, which Plato reported in the Phaedo: ‘Crito, we owe a cock to Asclepius, please pay the debt, and do not neglect it’ (118a7-8, tr. David Gallop). Asclepius was a hero and god of healing, and so most scholars agree that Socrates in his last words expressed his thanks for some kind of healing, but they differ in their opinion on what kind of healing Socrates referred to. In the Oxford edition of the dialogue David Gallop says in his note ad loc. that the offering of a cock to Asclepius is sometimes interpreted to be for healing Socrates of the sickness of human life. Gallop rejects this view, finding it incompatible with the 90e2-91a1 passage, in which Socrates urges his friends to strive manfully and with the help of sound philosophic discourse to become healthy for the sake of their whole future life. Gallop suggests that it is simpler to take the words as referring to an actual debt, incurred in some connection unknown. He explains away Socrates’ ‘we owe’ by claiming that Socrates might refer to himself in plural, for which he refers to 116d4. But this reference is highly problematic, as I shall show by focusing attention on the circumstances within which Socrates at 116d4 takes recourse to the first person plural. At 116b the prison guard enters the prison cell to announce that it is time for Socrates to die. He says ‘you know the message I’ve come to bring: good-bye (chaire), then, and try to bear the inevitable as easily as you can (hôs raista, 116d1).’ Socrates replies: ‘Good-bye (chaire) to you too, and we too shall do so.’ (116d3-4). The problem lies in the translation of the Greek chaire, for chairein means ‘to rejoice’, ‘to fare well’, and as such it is used both as a greeting at meeting someone, esp. in the morning, and as a greeting at leave-taking, where it can be translated as ‘good-bye’. The prison guard undoubtedly uses the word chaire as the obligatory ‘good-bye’, but when Socrates replies ‘You too chaire’, he gives the word chaire its proper meaning. He means ‘You too be well’ (or ‘rejoice’), for he adds ‘and we too shall do so’ (kai hêmeis tauta poiêsomen, 116d3-4), where tauta poiêsomen – ‘we too shall do so’ – means in the given context 'we shall be well, and try to bear the inevitable as easily as we can'. In speaking thus Socrates speaks on behalf of himself and of his friends. The whole discourse in the Phaedo is about Socrates’ welcoming death as a joyful event, as the beginning of an incomparably better life, and about his enabling his friends to participate in his happiness by sharing his thoughts and his philosophic arguments, for philosophy is the right preparation for death (61b8, 115b9-10). The philosophic discourse in which they all took part gave Socrates the confidence that he and his friends would fare well and bear the inevitable as well as possible. Socrates’ ‘we’ in his answer to the jailor and the ‘we’ in his last words are indeed closely linked; Socrates' 'we' refers both to himself and to his friends.(18) A quarter of a century separates Gallop’s Oxford edition of the Phaedo from his contribution to thePlatonic Symposium devoted to this dialogue in 1999 in Prague. In Prague, presumably after much thought, Gallop offered his listeners a different interpretation of Socrates’ last words, taking Socrates’ ‘we’ as referring to the company of Socrates’ friends, not merely to Socrates. In doing so he maintained that as a result of Socrates’ inquiry into the truth about the soul ‘the emotions of pity and fear have been transmuted into a confident, and even joyful, acceptance of Socrates’ end. The conversation has restored the company - and by extension its readers - to a state of spiritual health, for which “we owe a cock to Asclepius”.’(19) This is a step in the right direction, but I have a difficulty with Gallop’s specification of the ‘illness’ from which the company has been healed. For on Phaedo’s account, when Socrates drank the hemlock, his friends, who until then had been fairly well able to restrain their tears, could do so no longer: ‘Apollodorus, who even earlier had been continuously in tears, now burst forth into such a storm of weeping and grieving, that he made everyone present break down except Socrates himself' (117d3-6). Socrates reproved them: ‘What a way to behave, my strange friends! Why, it was mainly for this reason that I sent women away, so that they shouldn’t make this sort of trouble; in fact, I’ve heard one should die in silence. Come now, calm yourself and have strength' (117d7-e2, tr. Gallop). Ashamed, Socrates’ friends stopped crying (117e3-4). Did Socrates want his friends to offer a cock to Asclepius because his sharp rebuke had worked? Even if this were the case, the difficulty concerning Socrates’ ‘we’ would remain unsolved, for now Socrates would be excluded from his ‘we’, for he neither burst into tears when drinking the hemlock, nor suffered from emotional disturbance at any earlier stage in the dialogue. If the healing for which Socrates and his friends owed a cock to Asclepius refers to an illness that had manifested itself within the framework of the discourse that took place on Socrates’ last day then it must refer to an illness from which both Socrates and his friends suffered, and from which they were delivered in the course of the discussion. The illness that they shared was their philosophic ignorance concerning the soul and its immortality, as becomes clear when Socrates says ‘that we’re not yet sound ourselves’ (hoti hêmeis oupô hugiôs echomen, 90e2). The seriousness of Socrates’ illness will become clear to us if we recall the Apology in which Socrates publicly avowed that he suffered from ignorance (all' ou gar epistamai, Pl. Ap. 20c3), considering himself nevertheless free from the worst form of it, that is of thinking that he knew what in fact he did not know (21d); (20) of this ignorance he tried to liberate his interlocutors, especially his fellow citizens and his friends (29d-30a).(21) But the message to Evenus with which Socrates introduced his last day inquiry in the Phaedo indicates that at that stage of the discourse he had not succeeded in fully liberating himself even from this worst kind of ignorance. For he urged Evenus to follow him as quickly as possible (61b-62a) as if he already knew that the soul was immortal. And although we may assume that the certainty with which Socrates pronounced his message to Evenus was the result of much thought devoted to the subject during the thirty days Socrates spent in prison face to face with approaching death, Simmias’ and Cebes’ questioning of this certainty showed that it was not grounded in knowledge. For at the beginning of his inquiry into the immortality of the soul Socrates appears to believe that the similarity of the invisible soul to the invisible true being as such guarantees the immortality of the soul (61c-69e). But for Cebes and Simmias this is not enough; they require a proof that the soul survives the body (70a-b). Socrates’ search for it shows that he does not have a satisfactory proof to hand at this stage. The inadequacy of Socrates’ initial proofs of immortality comes to light when Simmias grants Socrates that in contrast to the body, the soul is invisible, incorporeal, very beautiful and divine, but that all these attributes do not guarantee its immortality, and Cebes grants him that the soul existed prior to its embodiment, and may have undergone numerous reincarnations, and yet insists that all this does not prove that one day the soul may not recover from its death, especially since it suffers toil (ponei, 88a8) in each of its incarnations (85b10-88b8). Phaedo says that these objections of Simmias and Cebes disturbed the assembled friends of Socrates very deeply, for they made them ‘doubtful not only about the arguments already put forward but also about points yet to be raised, for fear that we were incompetent judges of anything, or even that these things might be inherently doubtful’ (88c4-7). Of this state Phaedo speaks as their illness, and he says that Socrates acutely sensed it and then healed them well (eu hêmas iasato, 89a5). In the course of this treatment Socrates admitted that he himself had not been fully cured of the illness: ‘let’s not admit into our soul the thought that there’s probably nothing sound in arguments (hôs tôn logôn kinduneuei ouden hugies einai); but let’s far rather admit that we’re not yet sound ourselves’ (hoti hêmeis oupô hugiôs echomen, 90e1-2).(22) That Socrates considers himself not yet sound becomes clear when he adds: ‘but we must strive manfully to become sound (alla andristeon kai prothumêteon hugiôs echein) - you and the others for the sake of your whole future life, but I because of death itself’ (90e3-91a1).(23) Socrates’ being ‘not yet sound himself’ is underlined by the fact that his initial attempt at proving the immortality of the soul is implicitly negated by his final proof. For the first proof was based on the principle that whatever has an opposite comes to be only from its opposite, and back again, in perpetual reciprocity, revolving as if in a circle. Being dead is opposite to being alive; that which is dead comes to be from that which is living and that which is living from that which is dead. When Socrates makes the argument he avoids saying that ‘living souls come into being from dead souls’ (70c-72d), but when he recapitulates it at 77c9-d4 he says ‘if the soul does have previous existence, and if when it enters upon living and being born, it must come from no other source than death and being dead, surely it must also exist after it has died, given that it has to be born again’ (tr. Gallop). But in Socrates’ final argument it is maintained that the soul is inseparable from the Form of Life (105d3-4) and can therefore never suffer death (Oukoun psuchê ou dechetai thanaton, 105e4).(24) Cebes was convinced by the necessary connection between the soul and the Form of Life, which Socrates established in his last argument (107a2-3), but Simmias confessed that although he too had no ground for doubt concerning the soundness of Socrates’ final argument (oud' autos echô eti hopêi apistô ek ge tôn legomenôn, 107a8-9), he still was not free of all doubt, for which he blamed human weakness (tên anthrôpinên astheneian, 107b1). But Socrates assured Simmias and all his friends that the initial, fundamental hypotheses (tas ge hupotheseis tas prôtas, 107b5), from which the proof of immortality followed were trustworthy (pistai), and that if they thoroughly analysed them (ean autas hikanôs dielête, 107b7) and followed the argument (akolouthêsete tôi logôi, 107b7) as far as is humanly possible, they would seek no further (ouden zêtêsete peraiterô, 107b9). Then he pointed out what difference the proof made concerning their care for their souls: ‘if the soul is indeed immortal (eiper hê psuchê athanatos, 107c2), then it needs care not only for the sake of this time that encompasses what we call “to live”, but for the sake of all time; and now the danger would surely seem awful, if anyone is going to neglect it. For if death were a separation from everything, it would be a great gain for the wicked, when they died, to be separated at once from the body and from their own wickedness along with the soul; but since it is evidently immortal (epeidê athanatos phainetai ousa, 107c8), there can be no other escape from evil or salvation for it, except to become as good and as wise as possible (plên tou hôs beltistên te kai phronimôtatên genesthai, 107d1-2).’ And so the final instruction with which Socrates addressed his friends was that they should take care for themselves, which meant that they should live in accordance with their present and previous discussions, as if following in footsteps (hôsper kat' ichnê, 115b9) marked by them. Having finally attained the state of certainty that distinguishes knowledge from mere opinion, Socrates' discourses with his friends and followers offered a proper guidance for every true philosopher and retrospectively fully justified the exhortation that Socrates had addressed to Evenus at the beginning of his discourse on the immortality of the soul. Socrates’ trust in the power of logos, that is of questions and answers, of discourse and of arguments was vindicated at least in his own eyes. He believed that he delivered himself and his friends from ignorance concerning matters of the greatest importance for every human being; he and his friends were cured, they owed a cock to Asclepius. Plato’s two early dialogues, the Charmides and the Hippias Minor, testify to it that the historical Socrates saw ignorance as the illness of the soul from which he endeavoured to be cured with the help of philosophy. In the Charmides Socrates tells a story about a Thracian physician whom he met when serving with the army. The physician insisted that one ought not to attempt to cure the body without curing (iasthai, 156e1) the soul first, for all good and evil in the body originates in the soul; the cure of the soul is effected by discourse that engenders healthy mind (sôphrosunên) in the soul (156d4-157b1). In the course of the dialogue ‘healthy mind’ is identified with self-knowledge (165b4), with knowledge of all knowledge (166e5-6), and thus with knowledge that would be our unerring guide in life, if we possessed it (171d). It is against this ideal of knowledge that Socrates finds himself ignorant. In the Hippias Minor Socrates speaks of his changing views concerning voluntary wrongdoing (planômai peri tauta, 372d8) as caused by his ignorance (dia to mê eidenai, 372e1). Of this state of his soul he speaks as the illness (katêbolê, 372e1) of which he wants his soul to be cured (iasasthai tên psuchên mou, 372e7). Admitting that he was ignorant (phainomai ouden eidôs, 372b6-7), Socrates said that the only thing that saved him from being utterly contemptible was his not being ashamed to learn (ou gar aischunomai manthanôn, 372c3). If we view the Phaedo against the background of these two dialogues, Socrates stands out as a man who throughout his life tried to reach the certainty of knowledge concerning the soul, good and evil, virtue and vice, until he finally achieved his goal to his own satisfaction on his last day. Let me add to these testimonies the testimony of Phaedo himself. Emperor Julian says in one of his letters (25) that Phaedo of Elis ‘thought that there is nothing that cannot be cured by philosophy (enomizen ouden aniaton einai têi philosophiai), and that by it all men can be purified from all their modes of life, their habits, desires, and simply from everything of the sort’ (445A). If Julian’s reference were limited to these words, it probably would have been taken by scholars as a reference to Plato’s Phaedo, but even as such it would testify to the fact that the ancients were well aware of the curative aspects of Socrates’ discourse on the immortality of the soul. But Julian continues: ‘If philosophy were of assistance only to those who are of good natural disposition (tois eu pephukosi) and well brought up (kai kalôs tethrammenois) there would be nothing marvellous about her, but if she can lead up to the light (anagei pros to phôs) people who are in such a state (kai tous houtô diakeimenous), she seems to me to be exceptionally wonderful.’ The words ‘people who are in such a state’ clearly refer to the historical Phaedo who as a young man was enslaved and was driven by his master to prostitution.( Julian alludes to this when he introduces his reference to Phaedo: ‘You have heard of the Phaedo of Elis and you know the story concerning him’. According to Diogenes Laertius Phaedo wrote two undoubtedly genuine dialogues, Zopyrus and Simon; of these two dialogues K. v. Fritz attributes to the former Phaedo’s words quoted by Julian.(27)
Fritz does so on the basis of the story about Socrates and Zopyrus, which Cicero preserved as follows: ‘As consistency is the characteristic of knowledge, mental disorder is the characteristic of error. Moreover men who are said to be naturally irascible or pitiful or envious or anything of the kind, have an unhealthy constitution of the soul, yet all the same are curable, as is said to be Socrates’ case. Zopyrus, who claimed to discern every man’s nature from his appearance, accused Socrates in company of a number of vices which he enumerated, and when he was ridiculed by the rest who said they failed to recognize such vices in Socrates, Socrates himself came to his rescue by saying that he was naturally inclined to the vices named, but had cast them out of him by the help of reason.’(28) Although Cicero does not refer to the source from which he derived the story, Wilamowitz is undoubtedly right in ascribing it to the Zopyrus of Phaedo, and Fritz is equally right in linking Julian’s reference to Phaedo’s views to Cicero's story about Socrates and Zopyrus and thus to Phaedo's dialogue. If this is correct, then we begin to understand why Plato chose Phaedo as the narrator in the dialogue depicting Socrates’ last hours. In his last discourse and in his last words Socrates emphasized the healing power of philosophy, and next to Socrates Phaedo became the best living example of its wonderful effects.