Was Socrates of the belief that knowledge was attainable after death?

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I've begun reading The Phaedo, wherein Socrates argues against the case of suicide. He begins by assuming that since we as men are possessions of the gods, they would be angered were one of their possessions to kill themselves without them having given the possession any sign that they wished it to die, and that having the ability to do so, they would inflict punishment upon the possession as a result.

And so, presupposing that it would be just to inflict punishment upon the possessions i.e men, i asked myself whether the loss of time to acquire knowledge, provided by being alive, would not be enough, as I have thus far more or less believed that when having faced death we must contend with the knowledge attained throughout our life, and not more. And so when Socrates only presents the issue of angering the gods in committing suicide, and not the loss of capacity to attain knowledge, something which he holds essential, I arrived at the title question:

Is it possible to discover, develop and ultimately gain new knowledge after death?

Dario

Posted 2015-12-29T20:45:49.450

Reputation: 43

Is there any chance you could indicate what you have been reading that's made this an interesting or important problem in your study of philosophy? – Joseph Weissman – 2015-12-29T21:05:19.903

I've begun reading The Phaedo, wherein Socrates argues against the case of suicide. He begins by assuming that since we as men are possessions of the gods, they would be angered were one of their possessions to kill themselves without them having given the possession any sign that they wished it to die, and that having the ability to do so, they would inflict punishment upon the possession as a result. – Dario – 2015-12-29T21:48:29.720

And so, presupposing that it would be just to inflict punishment upon the possessions i.e men, i asked myself whether the loss of time to acquire knowledge, provided by being alive, would not be enough, as I have thus far more or less believed that when having faced death we must contend with the knowledge attained throughout our life.

And so when Socrates only presents the issue of angering the gods in committing suicide, and not the loss of capacity to attain knowledge, something which he holds essential, I arrived at the title question. – Dario – 2015-12-29T21:48:48.120

Are there any further works you could suggest that elaborate upon his view on the matter? – Dario – 2015-12-29T21:48:51.343

1I have pulled in some of the discussion here into the question, but it might still be advisable to try to refine and motivate this a bit further (grounding your interpretation in specific passages of the Phaedo would really go a long way) – Joseph Weissman – 2015-12-29T22:37:10.470

Is it reasonable to paraphrase a conclusion: if it were possible to gain knowledge after death, Socrates would have considered it good to kill onesself against the gods' will because there was a loophole to let him continue acquiring knowledge on the other side? – Cort Ammon – 2015-12-29T23:56:17.930

@CortAmmon well, Socrates was still of the belief that, 'I [Socrates] should go first to other wise and good gods, and then to men who have died and are better than men are here.' And so it would be fair to presume unwillingness on his part to anger his masters, his gods by taking his own life, as he then traverses into a realm which he is to share with those he just upset. I'm unsure whether or not that was indeed a question you were asking but if so I hope I helped develop it. – Dario – 2016-01-06T17:04:16.267

@JosephWeissman Thank you for the help, I'm still quite new here – Dario – 2016-01-06T17:04:44.037

Answers

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The answer lies in the Phaedo, not much after the passage on suicide, to which you referred. The issue of suicide arises in the context of the question, put to Socrates, why he seemed to favor death, rather than struggling to avoid it. And a part of his answer was, that the knowledge which the philosopher seeks all his life, seems to await him after death. Because the body is mainly an obstruction to true knowledge. Knowledge is, then, not merely possible after death. It seems to be more possible after death than during life. At least so for someone, like a philosopher, who has been preparing himself during life...

It has been proved to us by experience that if we would have pure knowledge of anything we must be quit of the body—the soul in herself must behold things in themselves: and then we shall attain the wisdom which we desire, and of which we say that we are lovers, not while we live, but after death; for if while in company with the body, the soul cannot have pure knowledge, one of two things follows—either knowledge is not to be attained at all, or, if at all, after death. For then, and not till then, the soul will be parted from the body and exist in herself alone.

Ram Tobolski

Posted 2015-12-29T20:45:49.450

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