Question: What is Socrates’ argument that no harm can come to a good man?” Do you agree?
“Yet the deeply exciting thing about human beings is that
when the individual is free he chooses as the good life the process of becoming.” ~ Carl Rogers
Socrates, according to his own logic, dispels the fear of death and harm as basis for his argument that, “I am certain that nothing can harm a good man either in life or after death” (pg. 9). Following his conviction Socrates informs his jurors that death cannot harm him based on three strong ideas. They include: death as nothing to feared, the telling silence of his conscience and the existence and eternal nature of the soul. This paper will provide examples of the aforementioned ideas and explain his meaning of “good” as in “good man” and “harm” within the context of Socrates time and his philosophies, and conclude with an opinion on the generalizability of his argument.
The first of Socrates ideas concerns death. Then, as now, death was something uncertain and to be feared. The prospect of pain and suffering, of annihilation and the loss of being alive and in the world, scares most people and to be afraid would certainly be a form of harm. Socrates dispels these fears by saying that death (for a good man) is naught but one of two things. Firstly, death is either a long period of “annihilation” (pg.8) much like a long, refreshing sleep without dreams, and what could one possibly fear from that? Or, he goes on to say that it is a “migration of the soul” (pg.9) from this world to the next. The next world will be a reward, a type of heaven in modern terms and that he for one, would be quite happy to spend eternity conversing with the like of Homer or Odysseus, and with perhaps a bit of glee, unjustly accused like himself (pg.9). It is quite clear that Socrates has no qualms about what will follow his death. He will either enjoy a long eternal sleep or long and satisfying conversations with old friends. He omitted the third possibility of going to Hades, since logically and in accordance with his firm belief in his own goodness, he would not find himself there anyway.
His second idea that we will examine is his absolute belief in the veracity of his personal daemon and that it never spoke up when it came time for him to decide whether or not to fight his charges. He says that his daemon would have opposed him if death was an evil (pg. 8). Socrates’ daemon, or “prophetic voice” (pg.8) as he called it would be what we refer to in today’s terms as his conscience. Socrates seems to have a remarkably developed conscience so much so that he would go into deep trances when he was communing with it. He explains that it would speak up even over “quite trivial things” (pg. 8) and so it most certainly would have held him back from going to death if it was not the right and moral thing to do. So convinced was he of the power of his conscience to guide him in doing the right thing, and despite...