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Broderick Lemke

2 September 2015
PHIL 120
Reading Reaction I
Flaws with Socrates Argument on Death
In Platos Apology, Socrates lists the two possibilities he sees for what happens after

death, and comes to the conclusion that death is a blessing. However, both of his arguments for

why each possibility is a blessing have flaws, and thus his statement that death is a blessing

cannot be proven for certain. I will list the first possibility and its flaws, followed by the second

possibility and its flaws.

Socrates states that the first possibility of death is that the dead are in an eternal slumber

and have no perceptions. Because of this, he states that death would be similar to a night without

dreams. He asserts that nights without dreams are more desirable than nights filled with dreams

because upon waking one feels instantly refreshed, and it seems as if the night has passed in an

instant. He carries this assertion to say that all of eternity would seem like the passing of a single

night without dreams, and therefore would be desirable. However, I argue that Socratess

argument does not account for the fact that the reason that nights without dreams are enjoyable

are because of feeling instantly refreshed when waking up, and one does not wake from death. I

would argue that while one sleeps they are not aware of the night passing around them, but are

only aware of it once they wake. Therefore a person would not feel refreshed or be able to

appreciate the time passing while dead, and the time could only be seen as neutral, desirable or

undesirable. In addition, if this possibility is true, dying an untimely death would deprive a

person of possible earthly pleasantries which they have the possibility of experiencing before an

eternity of neutrality. One could argue that a person could also experience unpleasant aspects of
life such as imprisonment or torture if they were to live, and would be better off in a neutral state

of death. However, if a person has the possibility of having a pleasurable experience, even if

only a small one such as hearing birds sing at dawn, it is still an additional experience they

would be unable to appreciate in death. These possible pleasurable experiences would still

benefit a person, and give them a larger total of pleasurable experiences in life, which being alive

is the only way to achieve this higher total of pleasure.

Socrates second perceived possibility for death is a relocation of the soul to another

place. He believes in the Roman gods, and says that a person who is just in life will be judged

accordingly and will be given the company of many great men, with whom they can join in

eternal conversation, which Socrates judges to be pleasurable. However, we can come to the

conclusion that his view of the afterlife is unlikely because of modern advancements. Earlier in

his defense, Socrates mentions that he believes the sun and moon to be gods (26e). However, it is

known today through science that the sun and moon are not gods, and instead are gas and rock.

Because aspects of his religion have been proven to be untrue, I argue that Socrates assumption

made about the possible afterlife are not certain as he believed, and are in fact unlikely. If

someone were to prove that Socrates view of afterlife existed, there would still be a flaw in his

argument, because one would have to be certain that they would be judged and sent to a

pleasurable afterlife. People are not perfect beings and make mistakes, and if there are gods we

cannot be certain which behaviors and/or thoughts could be disapproved of, and could lead to an

afterlife that is not pleasurable. One could argue that the gods lay out guidelines for their

followers that can be followed through texts and oracles. If there are gods who lay out their

complete guidelines, and one has lived their entire life according to them with the promise of a

pleasurable afterlife and the god follows through on the promise, then the afterlife will be
pleasurable. However, those conditions would need to be proven for a person to be sure that their

afterlife would be pleasurable, and that death is a blessing. In addition, if one could provide

proof for a similar afterlife in which a just person would be rewarded with pleasurable amenities

and company, his argument would still stand true, even though it is not the same belief system

that he carried.

Finally, Socrates does not account for other possibilities after death such as reincarnation,

or other religious interpretations of the afterlife. One would need to account for these

possibilities as well to make a final judgement on whether death can be a blessing. However with

the flaws I have found in Socrates two possibilities, I can say that death is not a certain blessing

as he describes, rather it is likely that death is either neutral and should be avoided as one could

still gain pleasurable experiences if alive, or the is the possibility of an unpleasant afterlife that

one should wish to avoid.