The Cyclical Argument

pnome

Senior Member
Thread starter #1


First off, this is not an argument for or against the existence of God. Only for the existence of an immortal soul. It is an "a priori" argument of course but humor me.

It is an argument presented in Plato's Phaedo. A dialog between Socrates and one of his mourners named Cebes, before he drinks hemlock for his death sentence by the Athenians.

Blatant copy and paste from:
http://philosophyfaculty.ucsd.edu/faculty/rickless/Rickless/PHIL100_files/Phaedo.pdf

Cyclical Argument (70b-72a)
1. Those that have an opposite come to be from their opposite.
2. Being alive is the opposite of being dead.
So, 3. Living creatures come to be from the dead. (1,2)
4. If X comes to be from Y, then there is a process of becoming from Y to X.
So, 5. There is a process of becoming from being dead to being alive. (3,4)
6. If there is a process of becoming from being dead to being alive, it must be
the process of the dead coming to life.
7. If the dead come to life, then (the souls of) the dead are somewhere.
So, C. (The souls of) the dead are somewhere. (5,6,7)
This is just a summary of course. You can read the whole section here:
http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus:text:1999.01.0170:text=Phaedo:section=70b

Starts on section 70b goes to 72a

What do you think? (believers are welcome to give their thoughts as well)
 

atlashunter

Senior Member
#2
Dang pnome that makes my noggin hurt. The first questions that came to mind for me are, how are we defining soul, and what creatures does this apply to?

If the soul is the the information and processes housed in our brain, our thoughts, emotions, memories, personality, etc and those are dependent on the underlying physical medium of the brain then that information is permanently lost when that physical medium stops working and breaks down. The physical elements that made you might be integrated into a new life and in that sense brought back to life but the information that made you "you" isn't somewhere, it's destroyed. It's like the RAM in a computer. As long as it is maintains power and is running the information it houses in a physical medium is maintained. Shut it off and those states are no longer maintained so the information dissipates into nothingness.
 
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#3
I think it leaves out the nil case.
 

pnome

Senior Member
Thread starter #4
Dang pnome that makes my noggin hurt. The first questions that came to mind for me are, how are we defining soul, and what creatures does this apply to?
"living" creatures. I don't think he makes a distinction.

If the soul is the the information and processes housed in our brain, our thoughts, emotions, memories, personality, etc and those are dependent on the underlying physical medium of the brain then that information is permanently lost when that physical medium stops working and breaks down. The physical elements that made you might be integrated into a new life and in that sense brought back to life but the information that made you "you" isn't somewhere, it's destroyed. It's like the RAM in a computer. As long as it is maintains power and is running the information it houses in a physical medium is maintained. Shut it off and those states are no longer maintained so the information dissipates into nothingness.
This leads into Socrates' very next argument...
Argument from Recollection (73c-76d)
1. If X recollects Y at time T, then X knew Y before T.
2. If X senses Y at T and X knows Y at T and X thinks of Z at T and Y is not
identical to Z and knowledge of Y is not identical to knowledge of Z, then X
recollects Z at T.
3. The Equal is equal and not unequal.
4. Sensible equal things (e.g., equal sticks) are both equal and unequal.
So, 5. The Equal is not identical to any sensible equal thing. (3,4)
6. When we sense (sensible) equal things, we know these equal things and we also
know the Equal.
7. When we know something we also think of it.
8. If X is not identical to Y, then knowledge of X is not identical to knowledge of
Y.
9. We sense (sensible) equal things right after birth.
So, 10. We know (sensible) equal things right after birth. (6,9)
So, 11. We think of the Equal right after birth. (6,7,9)
So, 12. Knowledge of any sensible equal thing is not identical to knowledge of the
Equal. (5,8)
So, 13. We recollect the Equal right after birth. (2,5,9,10,11,12)
So, 14. We knew the Equal before right after birth. (1,13)
15. We did not know the Equal at birth.
So, 16. We knew the Equal before birth. (14,15)
17. If we knew something before birth, we (i.e., our souls) existed before we
were born.
So, 18. Our souls existed before we were born. (16,17)

This is a little more complex, but basically his point is that because we have knowledge of things we were not taught (like instincts) that information must come from somewhere and thus our souls must have existed before we were born in order for us to learn that information.
 
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