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Observations placeholder

Socrates - Plato Phaedo - Reincarnation and Materialists



Type of Spiritual Experience


This is not philosophy, but it is quite fun.  Note that Socrates does not develop his normal argument on this either and calls it a 'belief'.

Materialists reincarnate as animals- note that animals in his day were not treated at all well, particulalry asses.

It wouldn't work as an argument these days, as a friend of mine once said - I want to be reincarnated as your dog.

A description of the experience

Plato – Phaedo

“Observe,” he went on, “that when a man dies, the visible part of him, the body, which lies in the visible world and which we call the corpse, ...is naturally subject to dissolution and decomposition, ..... Is not that true?”


 “Then if [the immortal soul] is in such a condition, it goes away into that which is like itself, into the invisible, divine, immortal, and wise, and when it arrives there it is happy, freed from error and folly and fear and fierce loves and all the other human ills, and as the initiated say, lives in truth through all after time with the gods. Is this our belief, Cebes, or not?”

“Assuredly,” said Cebes.

“But, I think, [81b] if when it departs from the body it is defiled and impure, because it was always with the body and cared for it and loved it and was fascinated by it and its desires and pleasures, so that it thought nothing was true except the corporeal, which one can touch and see and drink and eat and employ in the pleasures of love, and if it is accustomed to hate and fear and avoid that which is shadowy and invisible to the eyes but is intelligible and tangible to philosophy—do you think a soul in this condition [81c] will depart pure and uncontaminated?”

“By no means,” said he.

“But it will be interpenetrated, I suppose, with the corporeal which intercourse and communion with the body have made a part of its nature because the body has been its constant companion and the object of its care?”


“And, my friend, we must believe that the corporeal is burdensome and heavy and earthly and visible. And such a soul is weighed down by this and is dragged back into the visible world, through fear of the invisible and of the other world, and so, [81d] as they say, it flits about the monuments and the tombs, where shadowy shapes of souls have been seen, figures of those souls which were not set free in purity but retain something of the visible; and this is why they are seen.”

“That is likely, Socrates.”

“It is likely, Cebes. And it is likely that those are not the souls of the good, but those of the base, which are compelled to flit about such places as a punishment for their former evil mode of life. And they flit about [81e] until through the desire of the corporeal which clings to them they are again imprisoned in a body. And they are likely to be imprisoned in natures which correspond to the practices of their former life.”

“What natures do you mean, Socrates?”

“I mean, for example, that those who have indulged in gluttony and violence and drunkenness, and have taken no pains to avoid them, are likely to pass into the bodies of asses and other beasts of that sort.

“Then,” said he, “the happiest of those, and those who go to the best place, are those who have practiced, [82b] by nature and habit, without philosophy or reason, the social and civil virtues which are called moderation and justice?”

“How are these happiest?”

“Don't you see? Is it not likely that they pass again into some such social and gentle species as that of bees or of wasps or ants, or into the human race again, and that worthy men spring from them?”

The source of the experience


Concepts, symbols and science items


Science Items

Activities and commonsteps