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Passions in Poetry

Socrates and Soul

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rwood
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since 02-29-2000
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0 posted 01-07-2007 02:50 PM       View Profile for rwood   Email rwood   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for rwood


There's been a lot of soul talk lately, and it brought  Socrates to mind.

Socrates believed in the "cultivation of the soul" or the perfection of it.

but he was an Agnostic? Not really clear on that.

Do Agnostics believe in the soul, but profess not to know where the soul goes?

I'm confused.

"Soul," can be termed in so many different ways, I wonder which applies when even trying to understand Socrates philosophical views.

Such as soul sisters, or the Mother of Soul--Aretha Franklin.

Brad
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1 posted 01-08-2007 04:15 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

For the moment, I don't want to talk about what I think Socrates meant (or rather what Plato meant speaking through the character Socrates -- Socrates never wrote anything.).

Let's try 5 quick definitions of the soul:

1. synonym for self or others like yourself.(Actually, this is trickier than that for you could call any use like this as a synodoche.)

2. Another word for the best parts of you.

3. An immutable, eternal center, the non-physical part that goes somewhere after you die.

4. The perfect seed (form) of you that degenerates through time.

5. The fully realized self that happens at the end of time. (Aristotle).

I don't have any problems with 1 or 2. I don't understand 3, 4, or 5. I don't understand how one can cultivate something that is already perfect nor do I understand the idea of a perfect, static self. 5 is kind of like 1, I guess, but who decides what a fully realized self is?

But my real problem with soul is that people tend to use it without having a clear definition in their head so that it ends up meaning something like, "something important".
Stephanos
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2 posted 01-08-2007 06:30 PM       View Profile for Stephanos   Email Stephanos   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Stephanos's Home Page   View IP for Stephanos

quote:
But my real problem with soul is that people tend to use it without having a clear definition in their head so that it ends up meaning something like, "something important".


Only problem is that if someone insistently talks about "something important" which has no basis in reality whatever, you count them as psychotic.  And yet many sane intelligent people speak of a soul with true conviction.  That ought to give you pause at least.  


I guess in many ways it's like love or honor.  You know they exist, and most people connect with these in a meaningful way.  And yet nobody, for the life of them, can really nail it down with any precision.  I'm not sure that degree of precision is necessary however.


Stephen.  
jbouder
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3 posted 01-08-2007 08:17 PM       View Profile for jbouder   Email jbouder   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for jbouder

rwood:

I think Socrates/Plato might have been agnostic as to the Greek pantheon of gods as it was presented in his day, but Plato's Dialogues seem to show he did believe in a God or gods who could be reached through the practice of good philosophy.

A good source for Socrates'/Plato's  thoughts on the soul can be found in Phaedo (not to be confused with Phaedrus, which is a Dialogue on love and rhetoric - I'll use "Plato" for the rest of my reply per Brad's correct point).  If you get a good translation, it is a pretty easy read.  Really interesting stuff, in my opinion.

To your post, I believe Plato's view's most resemble Brad's #3, but I'm not so sure Aristotle's didn't have some attribute's of #3 and #5.  Brad, perhaps you wouldn't be confused by the apparent need to cultivate something that is already perfect if you understood Plato's views on the compound nature of the body and soul.  Plato taught that the body and soul are a compound of the corporeal and incorporeal, the dissoluble and indissoluble.  When the body dies, it decays and the soul remains after the compound is broken, but is not necessarily completely freed from the body's influence.  His views on reincarnation, I think, illustrate how he saw our Earthly baggage as dead-weight that prevents the soul from having the requisite purity to ascend to the gods.  When the body dies, and the soul does not ascend to the gods, it returns to Earth in forms consistent with that soul's human nature.  The only way to escape this cycle, according to Plato, was through reason ... only philosophers ("lovers of knowledge") who attain a pure state (freedom from the controlling influences of pleasure and fear) can reach the gods.

I think you would probably find plenty of agnostics that are willing to accept the possibility that there is something of us ... our essence or something of our person ... that survives death (Brad & rwood, this is the definition I prefer).  A true agnostic will either tell you that he/she doesn't know for sure that the soul exists or that you cannot know for certain that the soul exists.

Ask a theist and you might receive 20 different answers (isn't that right, Stephen?).

As for me ... I think that souls probably exist and the fact they exist is probably important, but what the soul is comprised of and the attributes souls possess are more matters of curiosity than of any immediate practical importance.

rwood, many thanks for posting a thread the brings the classics into the discussion.

Jim

rwood
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4 posted 01-08-2007 08:45 PM       View Profile for rwood   Email rwood   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for rwood

Brad~ That's what's clouding my ability, because for me the soul is a matter of the heart and the head. The applications are endless. I may never have a grasp, but I'm trying, and some of your examples make more sense when applied to Socrates thoughts.

Since he's quoted, as we know, he could simply be slated Agnostic for convenience or slipped into such over time, couldn't find any dispute and was interested in their views too.

Stephen~ Yep, I border on psychotic sometimes, depending the subject, guilty here. I think you have an idea. Let's not discuss the degrees of that matter

Love and honor...great examples.

rwood
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5 posted 01-08-2007 10:02 PM       View Profile for rwood   Email rwood   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for rwood

Hey Jim, you're welcome and thank you, thank you, thank you.

"The only way to escape this cycle, according to Plato, was through reason ... only philosophers ("lovers of knowledge") who attain a pure state (freedom from the controlling influences of pleasure and fear) can reach the gods."

Makes sense.

"but what the soul is comprised of and the attributes souls possess are more matters of curiosity than of any immediate practical importance."

I should think that way, but my heart gets in the way, for here I am feeling for a man who was executed for his beliefs or the corruption of others, and I wondered what happened to the soul he was trying to cultivate. I know, I'm strange. But here's where I let go...

"an oracle of the gods had pronounced him the wisest of all people, because he knew how little he knew."

I'm at peace with it. Ha.
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