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If the soul is immortal, Socrates points out, our actions in this life will have consequences that will last forever. As a result, it is of the utmost importance to care for one's soul and live properly. Socrates recounts a myth of the afterlife to illustrate this point.
After death, we are all brought to a place of judgment, from whence we are led by a guide to the other world. Those who have lived an evil life, attached to the flesh, will have to be forcibly dragged away from this life to their proper place, whereas those who have done good will happily be led to their destination.
Socrates explains his belief that the earth is spherical, in the middle of the heavens, and in perfect equilibrium. The earth is also incredibly vast, and the known world is but one of many hollow places in the earth where water and mist and air have gathered. The true surface of the earth, far above us, is a pure ether. We are like creatures living at the bottom of the sea who assume they are on the surface of the earth and that the sea is the sky. If they were brought out into the open air, they would see how much more pure and beautiful the real world is than their murky, corroded aquatic world. Similarly, we are wrong to think that we are on the true surface of the earth or that the sky is the true heavens: these are just the dregs of a far more pure and beautiful earth of which we are mostly unaware.
The true earth, viewed from above, is a sight to behold. It is marked by bright colors, some different from any colors we know. The plants are also pure and beautiful, and the mountains are smooth and made entirely out of rubies, emeralds, and other precious stones, as well as stones more precious than any of which we know. Gold, silver, and other precious metals are also to be found everywhere.
The people who live here are surrounded by air and ether, and are superior in every way: their senses are more acute and their intellect sharper. Their temples are inhabited by the gods themselves, whom they speak to directly. They also see the sun and moon and stars as they really are, possessing a true understanding of the heavens.
All the hollow regions of the earth are connected by great subterranean rivers of water, fire, and mud, which flow between the several regions. One of the cavities in the earth is so large and so deep that it pierces right through to the other side of the earth. This cavity, often referred to as Tartarus, is where all the rivers flow together and where they flow forth from again. The greatest of these rivers is Oceanus, the ocean that surrounds the world The great underworld rivers of Acheron, Pyriphlegethon, and Cocytus also flow to and from Tartarus.
In the commentary, the phrasing: 'Heraclitus [...] maintains that everything is in constant flux and that the only constant in the universe is change' is misleading. While purposeful for the Phaedo since this may very well have been Plato's interpretation of Heraclitus, it is not necessarily correct from an objective point of view. While Heraclitus probably held that 'you can not step into the same river twice', 'Πάντα ῥεῖ' or 'everything floats' (by extension, everything is in a flux), was probably added by his disciple Cratylus,... Read more→
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