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Plato and Descartes on the Soul - Essay Example

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Plato and Descartes on the Soul

” to which the former replied, “No, by God, I haven’t. Are you really in the position to assert that?” (Lorenz), is also the modern man’s rebuttal. There perhaps can never be an end to the discussion of the topic until one soul will come and show us all where we could have been wrong and where we could have been right in our arguments about it. As the soul is not a physical being that we can say where it is while we know its existence or can we tell where it has gone or what happens to it when we know its demise. However, although the issue has never been quite resolved, enlightenment on the issue have been initiated by such great philosophers like Plato and Descartes whose thoughts would be the main sources of this paper, seeing where they meet and where they contrast. Plato is the well known student of Socrates who carried with him most of his mentor’s philosophies and brought them to the existence it enjoys until this day. The son of wealthy Athenians, he sought education from well known philosophers during his time and has learned a great deal from them, taking his education seriously. He had been a good student, looking to the benefits of education rather than squandering their wealth in the pursuits of young men his age when he was seriously following his teachers. Rene Descartes on the other hand is not just a French Philosopher but also a Scientist, Psychologist and Mathematician who is popularly known for his Cartesian system. He also known for his philosophy of ‘cogito ergo sum’ meaning, ‘I reflect, therefore I am’ meaning. This, he uses to support his stand in the existence of the soul whether in the body or after the destruction of the body. Having been influenced by the early Greek philosophers who believed that a person is not just a body but has a soul, both Plato and Descartes believed the same notion, yielding to the idea that the soul is immoral in contrast to what some Greeks held like Glaucon. While Glaucon believed that the soul is like breath or smoke that can be extinguished during death, Plato most agreed to his mentor, Socrates, when it comes to the understanding of the soul. In Phaedo, Plato displayed his conversations with Socrates which expressed the two philosophers’ agreements and disagreements. They argue that the soul is immortal because it is life and is life in itself as fire is heat and is heat by itself. Descartes on the other hand does not offer much to his belief about the immortality of the soul but probably has adopted the general notion that truly, the soul is eternal and he approached his philosophy with the help of Science. During his time, the pineal gland was a subject for study among philosophers and scientists and he held it as the seat of interaction of the soul and body but not the abode of the soul (Lokhorst). The pineal gland, to him is th place where all thoughts are formed ( He believed that the brain is different from the soul and made a distinct separation among the body, soul and brain. The body an brain are to simply mechanistic, taking for example the animals who do not have souls, act mechanically in response to the circumstances in their surroundings. Human beings on the other hand differentiated from the animals through their souls because even if they have bodies and brains like the animals, they have sense perceptions and physical passions. He further explains that though these passions are expressed through the body, the awareness of the actions lies in the soul. Similarly or more on the contrary, for Plato, the soul distinguishes animate from inanimate. He claims that it is what makes a body, living, breathing and moving (Lorenz). Plato then considers animals and plants to ...Show more


The issue of the soul has always been a center of interest not only to the early philosopher but still is controversial until this time because as Glaucon had been surprised by Socrates’ statement, “Haven’t your realized that our soul is immortal and never destroyed?”…
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Plato and Descartes on the Soul essay example
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