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Plato's Theory of Recollection: Bogus or Brilliant?

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"Plato's Theory of Recollection: Bogus or Brilliant?"

Can it be proven that the human soul is immortal? This is the question that Plato attempts to answer in his book, Phaedo, and it serves as the unifying theme of the work. This issue is significant because the author suggests that the knowledge that man possesses is not learned. Instead, it is innately present in human beings and is recalled once it is somehow triggered within us. Plato argues that knowledge is a reflection of all of the pure and true things that the soul experienced during the period of time in which the soul has no contact with the body. He refers to this concept as The Theory of Recollection. In order to accurately depict this theory as he sees it, Plato takes his reader on a journey back in time to the death of his beloved mentor, Socrates. Upon his death bed, Socrates answers questions posed about the soul and its immortality. The purpose of this paper is two-fold. It will, first, serve to elaborate Plato's (by means of Socrates) ideas on the soul in order for the reader to obtain a clearer understanding of The Theory of Recollection. Following this, a voice will be given to my own perspective in which I will attempt to disprove Plato's theory. In doing so, I will address the following: Plato's idea that the senses are flawed, the recollection of the so called "divine" things (knowledge) as it relates to the soul's immortality, and finally, the idea that all knowledge must be acquired through recollection.

Let us begin by shedding light on the author's view of the soul as it relates to the body. According to Plato, the body is the soul's prison, for it confines and limits the soul to only the things in which the senses can grasp. One might pose the question: What is the harm in yielding to the senses? Plato would respond to this question by saying that the senses project an unrealistic picture of reality because the objects of the senses are ever-changing. They are unstable. So how, then, is it possible to rely on them for the truth? Socrates' words to Simmias help to further explain Plato's perspective when he says, "And it reasons best, presumably, whenever none of these things bothers it, neither hearing nor sight nor pain, nor any pleasure either, but whenever, having the least possible communion and contact with it, it strives for reality" (1). Plato believes that the only way to ensure that what we perceive as reality is indeed reality is to transport our souls beyond the senses to a place where we are free to reason...a place where the senses do not distort our perception. This place is death. It is only in death that the soul is able to obtain maximal truth because it is no longer limited by the senses which are an extension of the body. In order to solidify this argument regarding the soul's immortality, Plato proposes



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