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Fr. 376

August 23, 2013

Socrates then examines the manner in which these opposites interact if they are present in an object. Socrates uses the example of fire and snow. These cannot strictly be considered opposites, yet their natures are such that they cannot reside concurrently in an object. “Hot snow” and “cold fire” are oxymoronic and, thus, precisely that which Socrates’ model labels impossible; the ontological processes at work preclude the concurrence of an object’s constituent property with that constituent property’s opposite. This stipulation of the argument also appears quite reasonable. Consider a situation in which the integer three becomes four. Three does not retain its nature as an odd integer after it becomes four; the property of evenness forces that of oddness to withdraw from the integer and simultaneously forces the shift from three to four. Thus, three and four are effectively opposites in virtue of their constituent properties, i.e. oddness and evenness.

Socrates concludes the final argument by extending the analogy to soul. Socrates begins by posing the question to Cebes: “So whenever soul takes possession of a body, it always brings living with it?” Upon Cebes’ affirmation, Socrates exploits the entity/constituent property model introduced above; soul is clearly an entity to which the property “living” belongs. Hence, the effective opposite of the soul is “death.” Socrates now remarks that if the soul does not admit of death, it is un-dying. According to Socrates, that which is un-dying must also be imperishable, as the strict sense of un-dying precludes death (i.e. perishing). Therefore, when confronted with death, the presence of “life” (qua opposed constituent property) in the soul necessitates that the soul withdraw, incapable as it is of perishing.

Socrates’ conclusion caps an argument for an ontology that is both highly reasonable and persuasive in its appeal to common sense and experience. Given the assumptions from which Socrates sets out, certain individuals might object to those items granted by Cebes (i.e. the plausibility of the soul’s existence before and after death). Those individuals amenable to these caveats will most likely, however, find the argument to be both convincing and valid; for those who are not convinced, Socrates offers no further argumentation.

Most importantly, the final argument improves on the argument from the affinity of souls and Forms in two important ways. First, it relies less upon suppositions closely related to the conclusion than does the final argument. Whereas the final argument examines logical and ontological relations and arrives at a conclusion concerning the soul, the argument from affinity exploits certain of our intuitions about the soul (e.g. its being invisible, incomposite, more closely related to the divine) that are closely linked to its conclusions (the soul is immortal, it participates in the divine, etc.). The usage of these intuitions as premises beg the question. The second manner in which the final argument differs from that of affinity parallels the first: that is, the argument from affinity relies more heavily upon the interlocutor’s acceptance of the Platonic ontological hierarchy in making its case than does the final argument. Specifically, the existence of a paradigm case or exemplar of every instantiated quality proves contentious2. In light of this, the lesser influence3 of the Platonic ontological hierarchy in the final argument enables the argument to engage an individual’s intuitions about the ordering of the world, rather than requiring adherence to an explicitly present model developed externally.


2 Of note, Aristotle advanced this very consideration.

3 This contrast is made with certain qualifications; Socrates does, of course, make use of the Forms in discussing the non-concurrence of opposed qualities and in elucidating the difference between accident and essence.

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