That is true.
In matters of this sort philosophers, above all other men, may be
observed in every sort of way to dissever the soul from the body.
That is true.
Whereas, Simmias, the rest of the world are of opinion that a life
which has no bodily pleasures and no part in them is not worth having;
but that he who thinks nothing of bodily pleasures is almost as though
he were dead.
That is quite true.
What again shall we say of the actual acquirement of knowledge?-is
the body, if invited to share in the inquiry, a hinderer or a helper?
I mean to say, have sight and hearing any truth in them? Are they
not, as the poets are always telling us, inaccurate witnesses? and
yet, if even they are inaccurate and indistinct, what is to be said
of the other senses?-for you will allow that they are the best of
Certainly, he replied.
Then when does the soul attain truth?-for in attempting to consider
anything in company with the body she is obviously deceived.
Yes, that is true.
Then must not existence be revealed to her in thought, if at all?
And thought is best when the mind is gathered into herself and none
of these things trouble her-neither sounds nor sights nor pain nor
any pleasure-when she has as little as possible to do with the body,
and has no bodily sense or feeling, but is aspiring after being?
That is true.
And in this the philosopher dishonors the body; his soul runs away
from the body and desires to be alone and by herself?
That is true.
Well, but there is another thing, Simmias: Is there or is there not
an absolute justice?
Assuredly there is.
And an absolute beauty and absolute good?
But did you ever behold any of them with your eyes?
Or did you ever reach them with any other bodily sense? (and I speak
not of these alone, but of absolute greatness, and health, and strength,
and of the essence or true nature of everything). Has the reality
of them ever been perceived by you through the bodily organs? or rather,
is not the nearest approach to the knowledge of their several natures
made by him who so orders his intellectual vision as to have the most
exact conception of the essence of that which he considers?
And he attains to the knowledge of them in their highest purity who
goes to each of them with the mind alone, not allowing when in the
act of thought the intrusion or introduction of sight or any other
sense in the company of reason, but with the very light of the mind
in her clearness penetrates into the very fight of truth in each;
he has got rid, as far as he can, of eyes and ears and of the whole
body, which he conceives of only as a disturbing element, hindering
the soul from the acquisition of knowledge when in company with her-is
not this the sort of man who, if ever man did, is likely to attain
the knowledge of existence?
And when they consider all this, must not true philosophers make a
reflection, of which they will speak to one another in such words
as these: We have found, they will say, a path of speculation which
seems to bring us and the argument to the conclusion that while we
are in the body, and while the soul is mingled with this mass of evil,
our desire will not be satisfied, and our desire is of the truth.
For the body is a source of endless trouble to us by reason of the
mere requirement of food; and also is liable to diseases which overtake
and impede us in the search after truth: and by filling us so full
of loves, and lusts, and fears, and fancies, and idols, and every
sort of folly, prevents our ever having, as people say, so much as
a thought. For whence come wars, and fightings, and factions? whence
but from the body and the lusts of the body? For wars are occasioned
by the love of money, and money has to be acquired for the sake and
in the service of the body; and in consequence of all these things
the time which ought to be given to philosophy is lost. Moreover,
if there is time and an inclination toward philosophy, yet the body
introduces a turmoil and confusion and fear into the course of speculation,
and hinders us from seeing the truth: and all experience shows that
if we would have pure knowledge of anything we must be quit of the
body, and the soul in herself must behold all things in themselves:
then I suppose that we shall attain that which we desire, and of which
we say that we are lovers, and that is wisdom, not while we live,
but after death, as the argument shows; for if while in company with
the body the soul cannot have pure knowledge, one of two things seems
to follow-either knowledge is not to be attained at all, or, if at
all, after death. For then, and not till then, the soul will be in
herself alone and without the body. In this present life, I reckon
that we make the nearest approach to knowledge when we have the least
possible concern or interest in the body, and are not saturated with
the bodily nature, but remain pure until the hour when God himself
is pleased to release us. And then the foolishness of the body will
be cleared away and we shall be pure and hold converse with other
pure souls, and know of ourselves the clear light everywhere; and
this is surely the light of truth. For no impure thing is allowed
to approach the pure. These are the sort of words, Simmias, which
the true lovers of wisdom cannot help saying to one another, and thinking.
You will agree with me in that?
But if this is true, O my friend, then there is great hope that, going
whither I go, I shall there be satisfied with that which has been
the chief concern of you and me in our past lives. And now that the
hour of departure is appointed to me, this is the hope with which
I depart, and not I only, but every man who believes that he has his
Certainly, replied Simmias.
And what is purification but the separation of the soul from the body,
as I was saying before; the habit of the soul gathering and collecting
herself into herself, out of all the courses of the body; the dwelling
in her own place alone, as in another life, so also in this, as far
as she can; the release of the soul from the chains of the body?
Very true, he said.
And what is that which is termed death, but this very separation and
release of the soul from the body?
To be sure, he said.
And the true philosophers, and they only, study and are eager to release
the soul. Is not the separation and release of the soul from the body
their especial study?
That is true.
And as I was saying at first, there would be a ridiculous contradiction
in men studying to live as nearly as they can in a state of death,
and yet repining when death comes.
Then, Simmias, as the true philosophers are ever studying death, to
them, of all men, death is the least terrible. Look at the matter
in this way: how inconsistent of them to have been always enemies
of the body, and wanting to have the soul alone, and when this is
granted to them, to be trembling and repining; instead of rejoicing
at their departing to that place where, when they arrive, they hope
to gain that which in life they loved (and this was wisdom), and at
the same time to be rid of the company of their enemy. Many a man
has been willing to go to the world below in the hope of seeing there
an earthly love, or wife, or son, and conversing with them. And will
he who is a true lover of wisdom, and is persuaded in like manner
that only in the world below he can worthily enjoy her, still repine
at death? Will he not depart with joy? Surely he will, my friend,
if he be a true philosopher. For he will have a firm conviction that
there only, and nowhere else, he can find wisdom in her purity. And
if this be true, he would be very absurd, as I was saying, if he were
to fear death.
He would, indeed, replied Simmias.
And when you see a man who is repining at the approach of death, is
not his reluctance a sufficient proof that he is not a lover of wisdom,
but a lover of the body, and probably at the same time a lover of
either money or power, or both?
That is very true, he replied.
There is a virtue, Simmias, which is named courage. Is not that a
special attribute of the philosopher?
Again, there is temperance. Is not the calm, and control, and disdain
of the passions which even the many call temperance, a quality belonging
only to those who despise the body and live in philosophy?
That is not to be denied.
For the courage and temperance of other men, if you will consider
them, are really a contradiction.
How is that, Socrates?
Well, he said, you are aware that death is regarded by men in general
as a great evil.
That is true, he said.
And do not courageous men endure death because they are afraid of
yet greater evils?
That is true.
Then all but the philosophers are courageous only from fear, and because
they are afraid; and yet that a man should be courageous from fear,
and because he is a coward, is surely a strange thing.
And are not the temperate exactly in the same case? They are temperate
because they are intemperate-which may seem to be a contradiction,
but is nevertheless the sort of thing which happens with this foolish
temperance. For there are pleasures which they must have, and are
afraid of losing; and therefore they abstain from one class of pleasures
because they are overcome by another: and whereas intemperance is
defined as “being under the dominion of pleasure,” they overcome only
because they are overcome by pleasure. And that is what I mean by
saying that they are temperate through intemperance.
That appears to be true.
Yet the exchange of one fear or pleasure or pain for another fear
or pleasure or pain, which are measured like coins, the greater with
the less, is not the exchange of virtue. O my dear Simmias, is there
not one true coin for which all things ought to exchange?-and that
is wisdom; and only in exchange for this, and in company with this,
is anything truly bought or sold, whether courage or temperance or
justice. And is not all true virtue the companion of wisdom, no matter
what fears or pleasures or other similar goods or evils may or may
not attend her? But the virtue which is made up of these goods, when
they are severed from wisdom and exchanged with one another, is a
shadow of virtue only, nor is there any freedom or health or truth
in her; but in the true exchange there is a purging away of all these
things, and temperance, and justice, and courage, and wisdom herself
are a purgation of them. And I conceive that the founders of the mysteries
had a real meaning and were not mere triflers when they intimated
in a figure long ago that he who passes unsanctified and uninitiated
into the world below will live in a slough, but that he who arrives
there after initiation and purification will dwell with the gods.
For “many,” as they say in the mysteries, “are the thyrsus bearers,
but few are the mystics,”-meaning, as I interpret the words, the true
philosophers. In the number of whom I have been seeking, according
to my ability, to find a place during my whole life; whether I have
sought in a right way or not, and whether I have succeeded or not,
I shall truly know in a little while, if God will, when I myself arrive
in the other world: that is my belief. And now, Simmias and Cebes,
I have answered those who charge me with not grieving or repining
at parting from you and my masters in this world; and I am right in
not repining, for I believe that I shall find other masters and friends
who are as good in the world below. But all men cannot believe this,
and I shall be glad if my words have any more success with you than
with the judges of the Athenians.
Cebes answered: I agree, Socrates, in the greater part of what you
say. But in what relates to the soul, men are apt to be incredulous;
they fear that when she leaves the body her place may be nowhere,
and that on the very day of death she may be destroyed and perish-immediately
on her release from the body, issuing forth like smoke or air and
vanishing away into nothingness. For if she could only hold together
and be herself after she was released from the evils of the body,
there would be good reason to hope, Socrates, that what you say is
true. But much persuasion and many arguments are required in order
to prove that when the man is dead the soul yet exists, and has any
force of intelligence.
True, Cebes, said Socrates; and shall I suggest that we talk a little
of the probabilities of these things?
I am sure, said Cebes, that I should gready like to know your opinion
I reckon, said Socrates, that no one who heard me now, not even if
he were one of my old enemies, the comic poets, could accuse me of
idle talking about matters in which I have no concern. Let us, then,
if you please, proceed with the inquiry.
Whether the souls of men after death are or are not in the world below,
is a question which may be argued in this manner: The ancient doctrine
of which I have been speaking affirms that they go from this into
the other world, and return hither, and are born from the dead. Now
if this be true, and the living come from the dead, then our souls
must be in the other world, for if not, how could they be born again?
And this would be conclusive, if there were any real evidence that
the living are only born from the dead; but if there is no evidence
of this, then other arguments will have to be adduced.
That is very true, replied Cebes.
Then let us consider this question, not in relation to man only, but
in relation to animals generally, and to plants, and to everything
of which there is generation, and the proof will be easier. Are not
all things which have opposites generated out of their opposites?
I mean such things as good and evil, just and unjust-and there are
innumerable other opposites which are generated out of opposites.
And I want to show that this holds universally of all opposites; I
mean to say, for example, that anything which becomes greater must
become greater after being less.
And that which becomes less must have been once greater and then become
And the weaker is generated from the stronger, and the swifter from
And the worse is from the better, and the more just is from the more
And is this true of all opposites? and are we convinced that all of
them are generated out of opposites?
And in this universal opposition of all things, are there not also
two intermediate processes which are ever going on, from one to the
other, and back again; where there is a greater and a less there is
also an intermediate process of increase and diminution, and that
which grows is said to wax, and that which decays to wane?
Yes, he said.
And there are many other processes, such as division and composition,
cooling and heating, which equally involve a passage into and out
of one another. And this holds of all opposites, even though not always
expressed in words-they are generated out of one another, and there
is a passing or process from one to the other of them?
Very true, he replied.
Well, and is there not an opposite of life, as sleep is the opposite
True, he said.
And what is that?
Death, he answered.
And these, then, are generated, if they are opposites, the one from
the other, and have there their two intermediate processes also?
Now, said Socrates, I will analyze one of the two pairs of opposites
which I have mentioned to you, and also its intermediate processes,
and you shall analyze the other to me. The state of sleep is opposed
to the state of waking, and out of sleeping waking is generated, and
out of waking, sleeping, and the process of generation is in the one
case falling asleep, and in the other waking up. Are you agreed about
Then suppose that you analyze life and death to me in the same manner.
Is not death opposed to life?
And they are generated one from the other?
What is generated from life?
And what from death?
I can only say in answer-life.
Then the living, whether things or persons, Cebes, are generated from
That is clear, he replied.
Then the inference is, that our souls are in the world below?
That is true.
And one of the two processes or generations is visible-for surely
the act of dying is visible?
Surely, he said.
And may not the other be inferred as the complement of nature, who
is not to be supposed to go on one leg only? And if not, a corresponding
process of generation in death must also be assigned to her?
Certainly, he replied.
And what is that process?
And revival, if there be such a thing, is the birth of the dead into
the world of the living?
Then there is a new way in which we arrive at the inference that the
living come from the dead, just as the dead come from the living;
and if this is true, then the souls of the dead must be in some place
out of which they come again. And this, as I think, has been satisfactorily
Yes, Socrates, he said; all this seems to flow necessarily out of
our previous admissions.
And that these admissions are not unfair, Cebes, he said, may be shown,
as I think, in this way: If generation were in a straight line only,
and there were no compensation or circle in nature, no turn or return
into one another, then you know that all things would at last have
the same form and pass into the same state, and there would be no
more generation of them.
What do you mean? he said.
A simple thing enough, which I will illustrate by the case of sleep,
he replied. You know that if there were no compensation of sleeping
and waking, the story of the sleeping Endymion would in the end have
no meaning, because all other things would be asleep, too, and he
would not be thought of. Or if there were composition only, and no
division of substances, then the chaos of Anaxagoras would come again.
And in like manner, my dear Cebes, if all things which partook of
life were to die, and after they were dead remained in the form of
death, and did not come to life again, all would at last die, and
nothing would be alive-how could this be otherwise? For if the living
spring from any others who are not the dead, and they die, must not
all things at last be swallowed up in death?
There is no escape from that, Socrates, said Cebes; and I think that
what you say is entirely true.
Yes, he said, Cebes, I entirely think so, too; and we are not walking
in a vain imagination; but I am confident in the belief that there
truly is such a thing as living again, and that the living spring
from the dead, and that the souls of the dead are in existence, and
that the good souls have a better portion than the evil.
Cebes added: Your favorite doctrine, Socrates, that knowledge is simply
recollection, if true, also necessarily implies a previous time in
which we learned that which we now recollect. But this would be impossible
unless our soul was in some place before existing in the human form;
here, then, is another argument of the soul’s immortality.
But tell me, Cebes, said Simmias, interposing, what proofs are given
of this doctrine of recollection? I am not very sure at this moment
that I remember them.
One excellent proof, said Cebes, is afforded by questions. If you
put a question to a person in a right way, he will give a true answer
of himself; but how could he do this unless there were knowledge and
right reason already in him? And this is most clearly shown when he
is taken to a diagram or to anything of that sort.
But if, said Socrates, you are still incredulous, Simmias, I would
ask you whether you may not agree with me when you look at the matter
in another way; I mean, if you are still incredulous as to whether
knowledge is recollection.
Incredulous, I am not, said Simmias; but I want to have this doctrine
of recollection brought to my own recollection, and, from what Cebes
has said, I am beginning to recollect and be convinced; but I should
still like to hear what more you have to say.