Plato’s Phaedo In Plato’s Phaedo, Socrates is explaining to his friends that the acquiring knowledge comes from a recollection of things from a previous life. Socrates uses this as a way to comfort his friends. Based on this, according to Socrates, if a human being can learn anything, they must have known something about what it is they are learning about. If a human being has known something without having been taught it (in this life), they must have learned it before their birth. If the soul existed prior to birth it stands to reason that it survives death, and thus Socrates’ friends have no cause for grief. This prior knowledge is triggered into consciousness by sensory input.
Plato is trying to work beyond a two-fold paradox. Namely, if a human being does not know something, they cannot learn it since they know nothing about it. If, on the other hand, a person knows it, they do not need to learn it. When Crito asks Socrates how he wishes to be buried when he dies, this is a mistake because it shows his lack of understanding. Crito’s lack of understanding lies in the fact the he doesn’t understand how the soul survives the body at death, and in fact Socrates will still in actuality be alive.
By making this mistake, according to Socrates, he Crito is harming the soul. If Crito were in understanding of this, he would not have asked Socrates about burying his body, because Socrates is not merely a body, but rather the body is a casing for the spirit and who he is. Socrates does not take Crito’s question seriously because to Socrates the body is not the basis of who he is. To Socrates, the fact that his body is going to die does not mean he will be dead.
In fact, his soul will go on, be born in a different body, and go back to learning what the soul seeks to know. Socrates wants Crito to know that he will not be burying him, but instead just his body. Socrates is justified in his response to Crito’s question because Crito’s question goes against everything that Socrates says and stands for. I think that Socrates is upset with Crito for being so ignorant. He shows this by laughing at Crito for his question. He also shows this by telling the others that Crito only sees him as the body he will be burying, rather that the person talking to them.
When it came time for Socrates to drink the poison, Crito again shows his lack of understanding by asking Socrates to wait awhile before taking it. Crito wants Socrates to try and enjoy the last bit of life that he can enjoy. Socrates again puts Crito in his place by saying that any human being would do this, but it is not right for Socrates. Socrates does not want to appear ridiculous for clinging to life when there is none left.
Overall Socrates is trying to tell human beings that life is nothing more than an opportunity for the soul to learn what it is in search for. The human body is nothing more than an instrument for the soul to use. A person should not fear or run from death, but rather look at it as a chance for the soul to move on to something else and to another chance to learn more based on what was already learned.