Those who study philosophy study to die

Having resolved to accept his sentence, Socrates spends the last day of his life in discussion with his friends. To help resolve their fears about death, he explains that far from fleeing death, the goal of philosophy , and so the goal of the true philosopher is, in fact, death.

For the philosopher, the body, with its never ending physical and emotional desires is as an impediment in the search for the truth.

When then does the soul light on the truth – for when it attempts to consider anything in conjunction with the body it is plain that it is then led astray by it … must it not, then, be by reasoning, if at all, that any of the things that really are become known to it.

The answer for Socrates is clear, the important things, truth, justice and beauty are all the things that we can’t see. We can’t see them because the body (with its desires) is an impediment and a distraction, so the aim of philosophy is to separate soul from body as much as possible.

Of course, this leads neatly to the conclusion that death is not a thing to be feared, because what is death after all than the ultimate purification of the soul by separating it completely from the body in the most final means possible.

“Those who study philosophy”, says Socrates, “study to die”. Of course, this is making one huge assumption, namely that death is not the end and that the soul is immortal. If anything other were to be shown to be true, a warm, living, capricious body, with all its associated ills and desires (that same body that prevents us from seeing the world as it really is), suddenly wouldn’t seem such a bad thing to have.

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