Notes on Socrates (2006)
The idea that all things which have opposites are generated out of their opposites can be seen as universally true. It is logical to believe one cannot fully grasp what good is if they have not experienced evil, as following the argument shows that good is generated from evil. This seems universally true for all; good and evil is not culturally based, but rather, universally generated.
The problem seems to lie in what we know and what we do not know. For example, we universally should recognise what black and white is, and we see them as opposites. However, because something is black does not mean you automatically know what white is. Socrates would say here that it doesn’t matter about knowing; the simple fact is that black has come into existence because of white.
But the problem here is, if we have only seen white before, and not black, and have no knowledge of black, then how do we know black is the true opposite of white? Who has said that black is the opposite of white?
If we cannot easily identify what opposite goes with what, we have problems trying to see what things generated from what. If someone hasn’t ever laid eyes on white, but knows black, and when asked the opposite of black fails to know white, how can we fully know that white is generated from black, if it isn’t universally common knowledge. If something is not universally common knowledge, does that make it incapable of being universally true? Because of these problems, I don’t think Socrates’ general principle is universally true.
Socrates: Because the living came from the dead, there is a place where the dead is kept. This place seems to be where the souls are stored, and thus continues to accept the soul’s immortality; going through stages of rebirth.
Looking at Socrates’ argument, we can see the conversation following the pattern of affirmation, with Cebes replying “Yes” and “True” often. This may disguise the fact that the conclusion may not be valid.
Shortly after Socrates describes such things as opposites, and mentions that life and death are counterparts, he mentions that our souls are in the world "below":
“Then the inference is, that our souls are in the world below?”
This is then agreed by Cebes. The problem is, Socrates here is assuming the very fact that souls exist. The two components; life and death, alone do not hint in any way the existence of a soul.
Socrates seems to imply that the soul is in someplace where the dead are, and are sent back into the living world through a body when needed. In actual fact, a soul may not be linked with dying at all, it may be totally separate from it. If this is so, then the soul has no right to be contributed to the argument of life and death.
From this, including the soul into his argument leans towards more of his subjectivity by wanting to prove something from little objective evidence.
The conversation continues:
“What is generated from life?.. Death. And what from death? ….Life”
As the dead are generated from the living and the living are generated from the dead, this means that people currently alive have been previously dead and bought back to life. If this is true, then why don’t we look the same as we did in the previous life? Socrates would argue that it is different appearance, but same soul. But if this is true, how come we cannot remember any previous lives with this current soul?
Furthermore, the idea that the dead are generated from the living, and the living being generated from the dead has problems. The former makes sense, that these living beings die. But the latter; that living beings are so because of the dead, may be hard to ascertain. In terms of a scientific sense this is true; I would not be here if it wasn’t for my ancestors being alive (of whom are now dead). Socrates does not come from this scientific angle, instead he says that living beings today have come from souls that did lead another life, but died. This has evidential problems, as it seems improbable to actually experiment and test. Just because life and death are opposite counterparts does not imply that current beings came from souls of a previous life. I think because of these slight but significant errors, Socrates has not successfully proved his conclusion, for the reason that it cannot be proved.