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EASIER SAID THAN DONE: SOCRATIC COURAGE AND THE FEAR OF DEATH

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Abstract:

Plato's Laches, the dialogue devoted to the discovery of courage, is generally considered a failure, as the interlocutors' various definitions ultimately prove insufficient. Laches, however, notes that a definition of this kind can only be assessed by considering whether the speaker's words and deeds are in harmony. In fact he goes one step further, and admits that deeds are far more persuasive than words. He therefore declares that he is willing to let Socrates, whose deeds on the battlefield speak volumes, say whatever he pleases. Although himself content to deal with words, Socrates is well aware that, as far as others are concerned, Laches is right. During his defence, for example, Socrates proposes to convince the jury that he is not afraid of death by offering them 'great proofs'; not words, but what they value, namely deeds. On his final day, having undergone a lengthy and complex attempt to persuade his friends that death is nothing to be afraid of, Socrates leaves them with a deed attuned to his word, and thus becomes, in Nietzsche's words, 'the emblem . . . above the entrance gate of science'.

Keywords: Laches; Phaedo; Plato; Socrates; courage; death; deeds; fear; psychology; words

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Political Science, Tufts University, Eaton Hall, Medford, MA 02155, USA., Email: ioannis.evrigenis@tufts.edu

Publication date: January 1, 2007

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