Four Levels of Phaedo (Plato):

This story ‘Phaedo’ can be interpreted through the philosophical things said by Socrates like the soul is immortal and there is life after death,

1. Literal Comprehension

The story starts when Echecrates asks Phaedo about the things that happened during the time of execution of their teacher and friend Socrates in Athens’ tradition of keeping the city pure during the time of their tradition.

Phaedo explains how everyone used to meet in front of the courthouse before the break of dawn and then spend their whole day with Socrates in the prison. One day the news about the ship is heard that it has already returned so it was the day of Socrates’ execution.

On the day when Crito asks Socrates for the direction, he just tells him to take care of himself and when again asks about how he’d like to be buried says that the person that they’ll be burying wouldn’t be him. It’ll only be his body, his soul would have already flown away. Socrates goes to another room and takes a bath then he gives some directions and advice to his wife and children.

Later, an officer comes and tells him how different Socrates is than anyone who has been here before and he knows Socrates will not be angry with him & yell at him for giving him the poison. When Socrates asks for poison, he is advised by Crito to take it at the midnight but Socrates replies that there’s no need to prolong death. A few hours wouldn’t really matter.

He takes the poison; hemlock then walks a little as ordered so the poison will do its job. Slowly and steadily the poison starts to take control of his body beginning with the feet and moving upwards. At that time all of his friends start to weep. Then, Socrates himself pacifies them saying that one must meet one’s end in a tranquil frame of mind. His very last words were, “Crito, we ought to offer a cock to Asclepius. See to it, and don’t forget.”

This is how the bracest, wisest and most upright man of that time came to an end.

2. Interpretation

This story ‘Phaedo’ can be interpreted through the philosophical things said by Socrates. This story is trying to tell us that the soul is immortal and there is life after death, too.

Firstly, just because the physical body has come to its end means that the soul will also die because one’s soul is immortal. Secondly, the soul is immortal because there is life after death, our soul will move from this life to another.

Similarly, this story is also trying to tell us to accept our death happily. Since we all have to face it, so face it happily.

3. Critical Thinking

Socrates’ words are really pleasing to read in this story ‘Phaedo’ and we get to know why he’s said to be a school without a building, but still, I have few questions.

  • Does a soul really exist?
  • Does the afterlife really happen?
  • Do Gods really exist? Is there any healing god in this world?
  • How could Athen’s government be so cruel? Cannot someone express their opinion?
  • And doesn’t saying that we’ll have to accept death anyway, why not now seem encouraging people towards early death?

4. Assimilation

The story taught me an important lesson that I should face death bravely and I should always stand for the sake of truth and justice. While reading the story, I remembered our martyrs: Sukra Raj Dharma Bhakta, Gangalal, and Dasharath Chand. They choose brave death rather than cowardice life. They all died for the sake of democracy and humanity. Like Socrates, they did not care for their personal needs and just thought for others.