DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-N011-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved May 11, 2021, from

2. Death as separation of body from soul

In the Phaedo, Plato has Socrates say:

Is it [death] not the separation of soul and body? And to be dead is the completion of this; when the soul exists in herself, and is released from the body and the body is released from the soul, what is this but death?

(Phaedo [Jowett, 1937 vol. 1]: 447)

These remarks suggest a view about the nature of death:

  • (D2) x dies at t =df. x’s soul separates from x’s body at t

This is problematic, one problem being that (D2) entails that if a thing is to die, it must have a soul. Yet many find it hard to believe that plants (which clearly can die) have souls. Similarly, many find it hard to believe that every living cell has a soul, and yet cells can die.

Many philosophers accept a materialist conception of people. They think that people are material objects – their bodies. Materialists of this sort think that people have no souls. Unless they want to say that people never die, (D2) is clearly unacceptable to such materialists (see Materialism).

Citing this article:
Feldman, Fred. Death as separation of body from soul. Death, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-N011-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2021 Routledge.

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