Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Plato's Four Arguments for the Immortality of the Soul from the Phaedo part 2

2- Argument from the Theory of recollection
Definition of recollection: If we question someone in a certain way so as that they are lead to give a correct answer to a problem that they previously did not understand, or a correct understanding of a diagram they did not understand, this would indicate that the person had prior knowledge but had forgotten it and required that there memory be stimulated (For a full development of this concept, see Plato’s Meno).
If someone is reminded of something, then they must have known it previously. Recollection is arriving at knowledge in a particular way. Ex. Lovers see an object belonging o loved one and remember lover. Objects not seen in a while, that we had forgotten. Recollection may be caused by similar or dissimilar objects (one can see an object of Simmias or a portrait of Simmias and be reminded of Simmias)

Forms or Ideas (Eidos)
Along with recollection, we need to understand the nature of knowledge, and to this end we need to introduce the notion of forms (or ideas, in Greek: eidos).
To understand that nature of a form, let us admit that there is such a thing as equality (absolute equality, not the relative equality of two sticks, for example).
We can then observe that from seeing two equal sticks we are reminded of the idea of equality which exists separate from the sticks.
Whether the two sticks are similar or dissimilar does not matter as long as they remind you of the idea of equality. They do not have to be perfectly equal to remind one of equality.
We can then infer that we must have had previous knowledge, a previous understanding of equality, to understand the nature of seeing equals things striving after equality and falling short.

Sensation and Cognitive Theory
Note that it is through the senses that we perceive equality in sensible objects; therefore we must have acquired knowledge before using our senses; and since we acquire the sense faculties at birth, then we must have acquired this knowledge prior to our birth.
We can therefore infer that we must have acquired knowledge of all absolute standards before and at our birth.
And so we are born knowing and continue to know all our lives; we retain the knowledge we possess; and forgetting is loss of knowledge.
Therefore if we had knowledge prior to birth and lose it at birth and recover it after birth by exercizing our senses on objects, then this process is recollection.
Furthermore, since it is possible to be reminded of something we had forgotten by seeing an object (through association), then seeing is a kind of recollection.
So if someone us unable to explain something, it means that they do not possess that knowledge, then they need to recollect it, having forgotten it. When had they known it? If not in this life, then it must have been prior to that.

Hence souls had a previous existence, independent of bodies, and were possessed of intelligence, so we can infer that they must have had knowledge that embodiment has caused them to forget, therefore freedom from body gives them greater knowledge.
In conclusion, if there are absolute realities such as Beauty and Goodness and it is to them we refer to recollect, as copies refer to original patterns, then all objects of sensible perception can stimulate recollection.
Moreover, if these absolute realities exist, then so do our souls before our birth; if one of the two notions is impossible, so is the other.