Socrates Views on Body and Soul

By | August 29, 2019

Therefore, Socrates distinguishes clearly that the soul and the body are responsible for different mental states to the extent that the body can develop different mental states, whereas the soul remains unaffected by these mental states and does not interfere in the process of the formation of different mental states. In all probability, Socrates attributes different mental states to the body to stress the superiority of the soul, which remains untouched by emotions and different mental states, while the body is vulnerable to the impact of strong emotions and different mental states. Therefore, the soul turns out to be something immortal and superior, while the body is mortal and inferior.

At the same time, the soul is not narrowly intellectual: it too has desires, even passionate ones, such as the non-philosophical soul’s love [erôs] of the corporeal and pleasures as well, such as the pleasures of learning (Long & Sedley, 155). Moreover, the soul’s functions are, as we have seen already, not restricted to grasping and appreciating truth, but prominently include regulating and controlling the body and its affections, such as beliefs and pleasures, desires and fears, no doubt in light of suitable judgments, arrived at, or anyhow supported and controlled, by reasoning (Bremmer, 222). In such a way, the soul performs the controlling function. At this point, Socrates again stresses the superiority of the soul over the body. In fact, according to Socrates, it turns out that the body is vulnerable to basic emotions and actions, whereas the soul controls the body and prevents it from falling into fallacy and inadequate behavior. However, the difference is significant enough and the struggle between the body and the soul carries on. As a result, humans are in the permanent struggle between their body and their soul, for the body generates different mental states, while the soul restricts them and imposes its control and impact on the body. In this regard, the soul has the power over the body because it is the soul that gives life to the body.

Thus, taking into account all above mentioned it is important to place emphasis on the fact that Socrates distinguishes clearly the soul and the body. He puts the soul into an advantageous position compared to the body because the soul brings life to the body. In addition, the soul controls the body, which may have different mental states, which are not good for humans. Even though the soul also has its desires but they are still superior to those of the body and the difference between the soul and the body defined by Socrates reveals the superiority of the soul and the inferiority of the body.

Works Cited:

Bremmer, J. The Early Greek Concept of the Soul, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1983.

Long, A. A. & D. N. Sedley, (eds.) The Hellenistic Philosophers, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987.

Plato. Phaedo. New York: Penguin Classics, 2009.