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"Phaedo" 104-105: Is the Soul a Form? Author(s): Jerome Schiller Source: Phronesis, Vol. 12, No. 1 (1967), pp.

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Phaedo 104-IO.

Is theSoula Form?

his Plato's Phaedo, R. Hackforth notes that the confusions of the

final argument for the immortality of the soul in the Phaedo are deepened by a change in Plato's conception of the 'logical status' of the soul from 'soul as form to soul as possessor of form' in the course of the argument, probably at 105E10.1 D. Keyt, in a recent article in Phronesis, adapts Hackforth's view to his aim of locating the fallacies in the final argument by commenting that even if Plato does not take the soul to be an immanent form in the argument, he does treat it as if it were one.2 Although Keyt does not accuse Plato of equivocating on 'soul' in the course of the argument, one of the two fallacies he attributes to him stems from Plato's treating the soul as if it were a form. I should like to defend Plato from both these criticisms by showing that he never treats the soul as an immanent form in the course of the argument. The most important evidence that both Hackforth and Keyt cite for their view is the parallelism of the statements at 104 D 1-7 and 105 D 3-5. Here are these crucial passages: A. 104D1-7 J , o K6f3q, A, -TBs et-n av,

'Ap' o`v, u

a O6-av &vayx%'sL , x%-rciaT p'vov ot ,,,ot\, v

] &L

TqV COU 1Ocav

Lu-ro a?LV, aO'CBxO'L evocv[ou [O?CV2VC 9Ooa yap


&p-cL aeyopev.



Uo, ou

5TL a av 1T Tv 'pLcov 37ou & X& oZd pLTT0L. Ztvov pLav sLVOCa


B. 105D3-5
V T &sLW ? 9?Xn OTL&v ocur&apoc zxrc-azxm
el -A



's.VO cpOuaX





Let us first review the context in which these statements appear. The discussants have agreed that a safe principle to be followed in fixing the cause of anything's having a certain quality is to cite the presence of a form in the thing (100 C -101 D); that neither the form in nature

R. Hackforth, Plato's Phaedo (Cambridge, 1955), 165. D. Keyt, 'The Fallacies in Phaedo 102a-107b,' Phronesis VIII (1963), 169.


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(the absolute form) nor the form in things (the immanent form) will admit its opposite and become other than what it was, but sooner would depart or perish (102B-103B); that there are things, such as snow and fire, which, though not the forms cold and heat, behave just like these forms when the opposites of the forms approach: they either depart or perish (103C-103E); that this is true of other things, for instance, the number three (which will not admit the form even) and two (which will not admit the form odd) (103 E - 104 C). Socrates then poses the question, What sort of things are these? and A is the answer. Between A and B, in addition to a summary of points made previously, we have the observation that we can now name such things as causes of the presence of a certain quality in something: thus fire (and not the old, 'safe' heat) can be cited as the cause of something's being hot, or fever (and not illness) the cause of someone's being ill (104 D 105 C). B is then presented as an elaboration of an instance of the principle just developed: the soul is (parallel to fire) that which causes the body in which it is to be alive (parallel to its being hot). The immortality of the soul is then established by recalling the earlier admission that things, such as three, which are associated with particular forms, such as odd, cannot admit the opposite of those forms. And just as what cannot admit the even and has no part in the so the soul, which does not admit death, even is 'uneven' (aCvxpTLov), is 'immortal' (&Oavaoov) (105 D - 105 E). (Then Socrates goes on to prove that if it is immortal, it is imperishable [105E-107A], but we are not concerned with this phase of his argument.) Does Plato view the soul, up to 105 E at least, as an immanent form? The soul is introduced as being parallel to certain things - snow, fire, and three - each of which, while being so intimately associated with a form that it cannot exist without that form, is never really called a form, and, commonsensically, should not be taken as other than a concrete thing. Two points, however, seem to shatter this simple answer: one of these 'things,' at least, does seem to be identified as a form in the course of the argument, namely, three at 104D5-6 ( V 'EpOv 'L); moreover, this form is said to occupy (xorOCay-n) TPv something, just as the soul is said to occupy (xc-aXa-) the body at 105 D3. Hackforth develops his argument in this fashion: In 103 C 10 - 105 B 4, he claims, Plato is extending to other entities the principle of exclusion of opposites established earlier. These other entities are forms such as 'twoness' and 'fieriness'. Though not themselves opposites, they 51

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exclude forms which are opposites. Hackforth defends his interpretation of these other entities being forms (and not things) in these at least, whatever be the case elsewords: "Here [104E10-105A1] where..., -To-sup is conceived as a form, fieriness, not as a particular fire; not merely because it is mentioned in the same breath with a &uc, but also because the whole paragraph in which it occurs is concerned not with things but with forms... Plato defines [these forms] by reference to the things which they come to 'occupy' (104 D1, 6): and that he should do so is quite natural, since the form which he has in mind - the form to which all the illustrations of his principles point - is soul, which occupies a body, and 'brings up' into that body the form of an opposite, viz. the form 'aliveness' (life) ."3 In commenting later on his interpretation of the soul as a form, he notes: Only if soul is regarded as a form "can what is now asserted of soul be a corollary, or deduction, or application - whatever one chooses to call it - of the elaborate argument about the exclusion of opposite forms: provided, that is, that I have been right in regarding that argument as concerned with forms... And if any doubt still lingers in in 105 D 3 is, the reader's mind, surely the use of the word XoaraGZ-n despite Burnet's note, conclusive; to my mind, at all events, it is inconceivable that it could mean there anything other than what it meant at 104 D 1, namely the occupation of a subject by an immanent form."4 In light of this last statement, Archer-Hind's comment on araCaxB at 105 D 3 is perplexing: "It is to be noted that the usage of xa-nxa-j& here is different from that in 104 D. The soul does not occupy the body in the sense in which IpL&' occupies -pta: the triad is the cause why three are three, the soul is not the cause why body is body, but the cause why it is alive. The difference lies in this: the triad is the idea of three; the soul which quickens the body is not the idea of soul, but a particular soul, just as the fever is a particular fever."5 How shall we decide between these readings? We might suspect Archer-Hind of sacrificing the parallelism of the passages because he is convinced - on evidence external to the argument - that there cannot be an 'idea of soul,' but only particular souls. But he cannot be guilty of such prejudice, for he goes on, in this very note, to claim that the argument commits Plato to an idea of soul - though this is a
4 5

op. cit., 156. Hackforth, op. cit., 162. R. D. Archer-Hind, The Phaedo of Plato (2nd ed. London, 1894), 115-116.


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'metaphysical monstrosity' - which supplies the idea of life to particular souls, which in turn bear this idea to bodies. Even though this idea of soul is not mentioned in the argument, he claims that it is necessitated by 'the elaborate parallel' and supported by other passages from early Plato.6 I believe that three features of this argument conclusively support Archer-Hind's reading that the soul functions here as a particular thing, not as an immanent form. First, if Hackforth is correct, Plato has not only equivocated on 'soul,' but he would also be forced to accept the absurd implication that the body is immortal. Second, the shift in xovraX necessitated by Archer-Hind's interpretation does not spoil the argument, but fits naturally into its development. Third, a study of the locutions Plato uses for 'three' undermines Hackforth's reading. Hackforth translates 104 D5-7 of passage A above (olaOo... 7rept-ToZq) in this way: "You know presumably that anything occupied by the character of three must be not only three but also odd."7 Plato continues (104D9-10): 'E7r.L 'rO' oLtQov 8", Y04LEV, I EVOCVT'C lBea ?XCSLVy) as '7OUO Tfn {UopqPn cxv

Here Hackforth translates: "Well, what we maintain is that such a thing can never be visited by the character that is opposite to the form which brings that about."8 The second passage clearly indicates that the thing occupied by the character of three (ro toLoitov)can never admit of evenness. Now if xoc-&aX-n were being used in a perfectly parallel fashion here and at 105 D3, as Hackforth maintains, the thing occupied in that passage (the body) could never be visited by the character that is opposite to the form which brings life about (death): in other words, Plato would have shown that the body cannot admit of death, that is, that the body is immortal. Three considerations show that the shift in the use of xot&aXj from 104 D to 105 D is a natural and expected one. First, the use of xovc(X&a at 105 D3 may be viewed as reminding the reader of a previous part of the argument and not necessarily as asserting any parallels with its previous use. It is certainly clear that Plato is pressing the parallel

Archer-Hind, op. cit., 116. 7Hackforth, op. cit., 152. 8 Idem.


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between the soul and three. Thus at 104E1 ff. he claims successively that the even never visits three (O86no'Te i"s), that three has no part (o`4otpa) in the even, and that it is thus uneven (iv0ap'ro4).At 105 D lOff. he notes that the soul will never admit (ou'[.o$no'r 8r6-iqto)death, that we now (v5v) agree to call that which does not admit the even, the uneven (v6p4rtov); so we should call the soul immortal (iOOvourov). But between these two passages Plato introduces his extension of the causal principle (105B-C). The later use of xmrx-Zn may thusi be justified as welding together two parts of the argument. It preserves the continuity by being 'a simple military metaphor' which 'implies no metaphysical theory.'9 A second reason for thinking the shift in the use of xoo&a/yrto be an easy one lies in the translation of 104D1-3. Alternatetranslationsof this part of passage A above (TAp'o'v... -uvO4;) demand very different degrees of parallelism in the two uses. Contrast Hackforth's translation with Tredennick's: Hackforth: "Must they not be those which compel the object which they come to occupy to have not only its own character, but also the character of a certain opposite, which it will never lose?"10 Tredennick: "Well, then, Cebes, would this describe them - that they are things which are compelled by some form which takes possession of them to assume not only its own form but invariably also that of some other form which is an opposite?"11 No doubt Hackforth's translation conforms well to the Greek, but things can be said for Tredennick's rendering which perhaps overweigh this. First, it makes the reference of X in D 1 consistent with that in D5 as 'things occupied.' Secondly, it obviates Burnet's note on the in the reference to the shift from the plural (1) to the singular (octu'ro5) is (Of this note course also obviated in Hackforth's occupying things.'2 translation with ai&ro5 being taken as referring to the thing occupied.13)
9John Burnet, Plato's Phaedo (Oxford, 1911), 123. 10 Hackforth, op. cit., 151.
11 Hugh Tredennick, 'Phaedo,' in Last Days of Socrates, reprinted in E. Hamilton and H. Cairns, eds. CollectedDialogues of Plato (New York, 1961), 86. 3 Burnet, op. cit., 119-120. 13 Tredennick's or Burnet's translation of uT-rO in which it refers to the occupying form - "forces the thing occupied to assume the form of the occupier" when coupled with Hackforth's interpretation of the parallels of 104 I) and 105 D, may appear to lead to an even greater paradox than that of the body's immortality, namely, the paradox that the body is really a soul. Thus, following the lead of 103E3 and 104A2 where things other than forms are said to receive names of forms, it might be argued that the object occupied wouild lhave to


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As Burnet notes, 'the pronouns are a little puzzling' in this passage ;14 perhaps in such a situation the advantages of Tredennick's translation outweigh those of Hackforth's. If we do adopt Tredennick's reading, there seems to be less demand at 104 D and 105 D. The 'things' for parallelism in the use of xcetaCXq which behave like opposites are things occupied by forms and not forms which actively occupy. Thus it is an object occupied by the form of three, and not the threeness which occupies it, which, not accepting the opposite of the form that accompanies threeness, is said to be uneven (104E). The stress on these things which passively receive their properties de-emphasizes xcnaz-p in its first appearance, while paving the way for a soul which is immortal, just as three is uneven. But though the way is prepared for an easy transition to the different use of xo&aXy, one further step is required: to associate these objects, hitherto characterized primarily in a passive fashion, with some sort of activity. The transition is accomplished by making these things into causes. Thus, according to the new, refined answer to the causal question, it is not heat which makes a body hot, but fire; not illness which makes a body ill, but fever. But this observation will not convince anyone who takes the fire or fever of 105 C to be forms, and not to be examples of things occupied. I suggest that Plato shows, in another difficult passage, 105 A 3-5, that the latter is the more plausible interpretation. As we have seen above, such things as three do not admit the opposite of the form accompanying their occupying form. Until 104 E 10 these things are not characterized as engaging in any activity further than this refusal to admit forms. At 104E7-105A1, however, they not only do not admit (axeLroc) the opposite, but they bring forward (Ernpepet) the opposite they contain against the intruding form, as three brings forth oddness against the even, two brings forth evenness, and fire, heat. In his next breath, Plato elaborates their
receive the name of the occupying form, so that, assuming the parallelism of the two passages, the body would have to be named 'soul' in conformance with its occupying form. But there are two reasons for not pressing this paradox. First, the reference of is not at all clear. Second, even if Tredennick's translation is correct, muTro5 Plato need not be taken as saying that the thing occupied must receive the name of the occupying form as its substantial name, but only as an attribute. Thus heat causes an object to be hot, not to be heat; life causes it to be alive, not life; so soul would cause body to be besouled, perhaps, and not soul. 14Burnet, op. cit., 119.


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activity in another direction: not only will opposites not admit opposites, but (105A3-5): O tL &VOCVTLOV xalt ?XE6VO, &V SX'LVW, p' OTC XV OC'r6 t. aur k7r!typpf
TO ?7rvppOV V TVO Lc7p[LSVOU V EVLXV87OT p S7tOt ?e a'XCaOC

Fowler translates this passage thus: "nothing which brings an opposite to that which it approaches will ever admit in itself the oppositeness of that which is brought."'5 Note the important shift here. The context clearly indicates that the 'things' being discussed are the same entities (such as three) which were first characterized as not admitting opposites, and then were said to bring forth an opposite against an approaching opposite. Now they are said to bring an opposite to someThough Plato proceeds thing which they approach (Xcp' 6-r xv cc&r6 t. to sum up his argument at 105 A8ff. by noting that these objects will not admit (ou taerxL) opposites, he almost immediately utilizes their newly acquired activity in his refined theory of causes. He does not say explicitly that fire and fever cause bodies to be hot and ill by bringing an opposite to them, but this mechanism becomes obvious in his parallel treatment of the soul. Just before the passage we have called B above, Plato establishes that it is the soul which always causes the body in which it is to be alive. He then relates cause and activity in these words (in Hackforth's translation) B: "Then soul always brings life along with it to anything that it occupies.'"16 This sentence seems simply to relate 105A3-5 to the soIl. In 105A3-5 something is said to bring something opposite (ea7rp6pn -n Spvaw'tov)to what it approaches (sup' oa ocv&'CU-6 ). Here the soul The brings life ("xze cppouao Ccov) to what it occupies (xartas). of the second military overtones of & c 1 are caught in the xoavraaX?n passage. The use of xcxra'C^n at 105 D 3 in a fashion not perfectlv

Translation, Vol. 1 (London, 1914), 361. Hackforth translates the passage thus: "if any form brings up one of two opposites into that which it itself enters, that form itself will never admit the character opposite to the one brought up." (Hackforth, op. cit., 152-153) Fowler's 'oppositeness' is a bit clumsy, but Hackforth's 'form' is clearly not indicated in the Greek, and prejudices the discussion. Fowler's translation seems also preferable to Tredennick's, which underemphasizes the thing's activity. (See Tredennick, op. cit., 86.) 16 Hackforth, op. cit., 159. 17 See Hackforth, op. cit., 152 n. 4; Burnet, op. cit., 121.
16 H. N. Fowler, Plato with an English


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parallel to its earlier use at 104 D is thus natural and required by the development of the argument."8 The third support for Archer-Hind's interpretation is Plato's mode of referring to numbers in 104-105. We saw above that Hackforth feels that this mode of reference actually supports his interpretation: thus a reason for thinking that rO7Up is a form at lOSA1 is "that it is mentioned in the same breath with n aua&.'.But I think Hackforth is mistaken. The most noteworthy feature here is Plato's studied indifference to the locutions by which he refers to numbers. Thus he explains, at 104A7ff., that n rpr.&4,and half of numbers in general (o %uavUq 'o0 &pLO0,oii&7rtCo) are odd though not identical to the odd, 'and in the same way' (xc' cx i') r'c 3o and all the other series of numbers
o a-TLZoq ro5 OpLOV?o5) are even, (OC7=a o -TpOG MU

though not identical to

evenness. But if 'pL&4 r and Ta& 36o are equaUy parts of the number series, so similarly, we might expect, would be TL0C'pLoC and n 8uG. Indeed, Plato's easy moves from r-' tptL to n 'pLacq at 104C1-5 and 104E3-5, which indicate no obvious change in his reference, support this view. In light of this situation Hackforth's notes at 104C2 and 104E3 can only be misleading. At 104C2 he writes "-o& -cpLa is not of course three things, but (as is evident from the immediate substitution of
'rptoc in C5)



at 104E3,

"here again


meaning of ro-c rpca is determined by the substitution of - rpLmq in ES."20 I would certainly agree with Hackforth, as against ArcherHind, for instance, that ra' tpLoc at 104E1, does not refer to three things.21 But I cannot accept his implication that it thus must refer to 'threeness.' It seems plausible, in this argument at least, to see it as referring to the number three, which is different both from things (which it occupies) and threeness (which occupies it). Plato explicitly refers to threeness only once in the argument ( '&v TpLWV Be'a at 104 D5-6) in stating that this form occupies 'things' in such a way
18 Hackforth himself notes the importance of 105 A3-5 as an amplification of the earlier argument (Hackforth, op. cit., 152 n.). But he reads it as an explanation of the &vayxaCe,tof 104 D 1-3 to the effect that the form wlich possesses things carries an accompanying form and will not allow either itself or the thing it occupies to admit the opposite of this accompanying form. But I believe that my interpretation better prepares us for the causal account to come. 19 Hackforth, op. cit., 151 n. 20 Hackforth, op. cit., 152 n. 21 Archer-Hind, op. cit., 113 n.


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that they must be odd as well as three. The things possessed, which - n trp6xq have no part in the even and are uneven, are the r& ptoac of 104E1-5, that is, the number three. The use of the alternate forms and TrcX for the number rpLto Tpcq p three seems to support this intermediate status between forms and things. I do not wish to comment further on this suggestion, either to try to clarify the nature of such 'intermediates' or to argue for their appearance in other Platonic writings. I want merely to emphasize rv rptv 'am and thus change what their seeming difference from seems to be a support for Hackforth's position to a support for our

In conclusion, the paradoxical consequence of Hackforth's interpretation, the plausibility of the new use of xovmaxn at 105D3, and the evidence of Plato's references to numbers in 104-105 force us to accept Archer-Hind's interpretation that the soul is construed as a thing in this argument, and not as a form as claimed by Hackforth and Keyt.23 We might have to agree with Archer-Hind that the argument implies the existence of that metaphysical monstrosity, an idea of soul. But such an idea is never used in this argumenit. And thus we can at least free Plato from the logical monstrosity of equivocation which Hackforth claims he commits. Washington University, St. Loutis, Missouri
The parallel between the number three (uneven) and soul (immortal) which assures the support has been developed above. Keyt seems also to rely too heavily on 104 D5-6 as setting the tone for all references to three (Keyt, op. cit., 168 n.). 23 I should perhaps note that Archer-Hind offers a translation of 104 D 1-3 close to Hackforth's. I find, however, that this makes the transition between the two uses of xor&axn more difficuilt to accept.


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