Really Important, Hard to Understand

CW: Suicide

Plato, Phaedo 62a-b

“ ‘But you need to show some eagerness,’ he said, ‘since you may hear something soon. Perhaps it will seem shocking to you that this thing alone of all others is simple—when nothing else typically is—that it is sometimes and for some people better to die than to live. In addition, for some of the for whom it is better to be dead, it might seem equally shocking that it is not holy for them to do this good for themselves but they need to wait for some other benefactor to do it.’

Kebês laughed quietly and added in his own dialect, ‘As Zeus is my witness…’

Socrates said, “Well, it certainly would seem to be illogical, in this phrasing, but it nevertheless retains some kind of logic. The story which is told in the mystery narratives about these things—that we humans are in some kind of a cage and it is not right for us to free ourselves from it and run away—this story seems super important yet not easy to understand. Yet, this does seem to me to be well put: there are gods who care about us and human beings are one of their possessions. Doesn’t that seem to you to be the case?’ “

Ἀλλὰ προθυμεῖσθαι χρή, ἔφη· τάχα γὰρ ἂν καὶ ἀκούσαις. ἴσως μέντοι θαυμαστόν σοι φανεῖται εἰ τοῦτο μόνον τῶν ἄλλων ἁπάντων ἁπλοῦν ἐστιν, καὶ οὐδέποτε τυγχάνει τῷ ἀνθρώπῳ, ὥσπερ καὶ τἆλλα, ἔστιν ὅτε καὶ οἷς βέλτιον τεθνάναι ἢ ζῆν, | οἷς δὲ βέλτιον τεθνάναι, θαυμαστὸν ἴσως σοι φαίνεται εἰ τούτοις τοῖς ἀνθρώποις μὴ ὅσιον αὐτοὺς ἑαυτοὺς εὖ ποιεῖν, ἀλλὰ ἄλλον δεῖ περιμένειν εὐεργέτην.

Καὶ ὁ Κέβης ἠρέμα ἐπιγελάσας, Ἴττω Ζεύς, ἔφη, τῇ αὑτοῦ φωνῇ εἰπών.

Καὶ γὰρ ἂν δόξειεν, ἔφη ὁ Σωκράτης, οὕτω γ’ εἶναι ἄλογον· οὐ μέντοι ἀλλ’ ἴσως γ’ ἔχει τινὰ λόγον. ὁ μὲν οὖν ἐν ἀπορρήτοις λεγόμενος περὶ αὐτῶν λόγος, ὡς ἔν τινι φρουρᾷ ἐσμεν οἱ ἄνθρωποι καὶ οὐ δεῖ δὴ ἑαυτὸν ἐκ ταύτης | λύειν οὐδ’ ἀποδιδράσκειν, μέγας τέ τίς μοι φαίνεται καὶ οὐ ῥᾴδιος διιδεῖν· οὐ μέντοι ἀλλὰ τόδε γέ μοι δοκεῖ, ὦ Κέβης, εὖ λέγεσθαι, τὸ θεοὺς εἶναι ἡμῶν τοὺς ἐπιμελουμένους καὶ ἡμᾶς τοὺς ἀνθρώπους ἓν τῶν κτημάτων τοῖς θεοῖς εἶναι. ἢ σοὶ οὐ δοκεῖ οὕτως;

N.B. The extreme philosophical position about the philosopher and suicide was taken by the Cyrenaic school

If you or someone you know feel alone, uncertain, depressed or for any reason cannot find enough joy and hope to think life is worth it, please reach out to someone. The suicide prevention hotline has a website, a phone number (1-800-273-8255), and a chat line. And if we can help you find some tether to the continuity of human experience through the Classics or a word, please don’t hesitate to ask.

File:David - The Death of Socrates.jpg
Jacques-Louis David, The Death of Socrates

Leave a Reply