Philosophy is a vast field. It examines and probes many different fields. Virtue, morality, immortality, death and the difference between the psyche (soul) and the soma (body) are just a few of the many different topics which can be covered under the umbrella of philosophy. Philosophers are supposed to be experts on all these subjects. The have well thought out opinions and they are very learned people.
Among the most revered philosophers of all time was Socrates. Living around the 5th century B.C. Socrates was among the first philosophers who weren’t a sophist, meaning that he never felt that he was wise for he was always in the pursuit of knowledge. Unfortunately, Socrates was put to death late in his life. One of his best students, Plato, however, recorded what had occurred on that last day of Socrates' life. On that last day of his life, Socrates made a quite powerful claim. He claimed that philosophy was merely practice for getting used to death and dying.
At first, the connection between philosophy and death is not clear. However, as we unravel Socrates' argument backing up his claim, the statement makes a lot of sense. In order for Philosophers to examine their world accurately and learn the truth accurately, they must remove themselves of all distractions. These not only include physical distractions, but they include mental distractions and bodily distractions as well. Philosophers must get used to viewing and examining the world without any senses.
Senses merely hinder and obscure the truth. Sight for example can be fooled easily with optical illusions which occur normally in nature. Sound can be very distracting as well when a philosopher is trying to concentrate. All of these cloud the judgment and must therefore be detached from the soul. Socrates argues that philosophers must view the world around them with their souls in order to accurately learn about it. However, by detaching their souls from all bodily functions, philosophers may as well be in an induced state of death. In mortem, the soul wanders free and there are no bodily hindrances.
Socrates also believed that philosophers look upon death with good cheer and hope. This I find hard to believe because if this were true, the philosopher would not be able to love life and without the love of life, there is no life to examine and learn about. It is understandable however from another point of view to understand why the philosopher would look forward to death with good cheer. Once the philosopher is dead, his soul is free to roam around without hindrances forever and all the worlds secrets shall be revealed to him. In fact, Socrates' sees his death as a liberation from the shackles of life for his last wish was for Crito to sacrifice a rooster to Asclepius. This god was normally given sacrifices to free the sickly from the grips of a virus or illness. Perhaps Socrates saw the body as a sickness that fed upon the soul. If this were the case, then indeed Socrates would be happy to leave the bonds of life, for then he could have an eternity to seek out his answers, all without the diversions and distractions of a body.
Socrates believed that it was this search that was important, even more so than the answers themselves. Socrates believed that the journey toward the answers is where most of the learning takes place and it is this journey that truly integrates the answers as part of your very own being. - Phaedo
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