Sunday, 31 August 2014

Plato, Meno - on the immortality of the soul


Socrates
I can; for I have heard from wise men and women who told of things divine that—

Meno
What was it they said ?

Socrates
Something true, as I thought, and admirable.

Meno
What was it? And who were the speakers?

Socrates
They were certain priests and priestesses who have studied so as to be able to give a reasoned account of their ministry; and Pindar also [81b] and many another poet of heavenly gifts. As to their words, they are these: mark now, if you judge them to be true. They say that the soul of man is immortal, and at one time comes to an end, which is called dying, and at another is born again, but never perishes. Consequently one ought to live all one's life in the utmost holiness.

“For from whomsoever Persephone shall accept requital for ancient wrong, the souls of these she restores in the ninth year to the upper sun again; from them arise” “glorious kings and men of splendid might and surpassing wisdom, and for all remaining time are they called holy heroes amongst mankind.” Pind. Fr. 133 Bergk

Seeing then that the soul is immortal and has been born many times, and has beheld all things both in this world and in the nether realms, she has acquired knowledge of all and everything; so that it is no wonder that she should be able to recollect all that she knew before about virtue and other things. For as [81d] all nature is akin, and the soul has learned all things, there is no reason why we should not, by remembering but one single thing—an act which men call learning—discover everything else, if we have courage and faint not in the search; since, it would seem, research and learning are wholly recollection. So we must not hearken to that captious argument: it would make us idle, and is pleasing only to the indolent ear, whereas the other makes us energetic [81e] and inquiring. Putting my trust in its truth, I am ready to inquire with you into the nature of virtue.

Plato, Meno 81a-e