Separation of Body and Soul in Plato’s Phaedo: An Unprecedented Ontological Operation in the Affinity Argument

  • Gabriele CornelliEmail author
Part of the Philosophical Studies Series book series (PSSP, volume 139)


The paper aims to address the problem of the separation of body and soul in Plato’s Phaedo, in search of both its ontological features and moral consequences. Apart from the normal approach and use of dialogue as a literary and philosophical milestone for all body-soul dualisms in the history of philosophy, I believe two different ways of understanding this separation are outlined in the dialogue. The first one would indicate a moral separation, regarding what a philosopher should take care of: philosophers are supposed to mind the soul and not the body. A different way to address this separation between body and soul is the one I would like to consider as an ontological separation: the soul is so independent from the body that is declared to survive after its death. In a way, the dualistic ontology of individuals forcefully follows the bodily engagement of a chameleon-like soul in its wandering, both epistemological and moral, through the sensible world.


Ontology History of philosophy Ethics Psychology Dualism Plato Phaedo Affinity argument Separation Somatization Incarnation Body Soul Chameleon-like Immortality of the soul 


  1. Apolloni, D. (1996). Plato’s affinity argument for the immortality of the soul. Journal of the History of Philosophy, 34(1), 5–32.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bostock, D. (1986). Plato’s Phaedo. Oxford, UK: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
  3. Broadie, S. (2001). Soul and body in Plato and descartes. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, 101(2), 295–308.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Casertano, G. (2015). Platone. Il Fedone. Dramma etico in tre atti. Napoli, Italy: Paolo Loffredo.Google Scholar
  5. Carone, G. R. (2005) Mind and body. In Archiv für Geschichte der Philosophie, Volume 87 issue 3
  6. Dorter, K. (1976). The Phaedo’s final argument. Canadian Journal of Philosophy, 6(Sup1), 165–180.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Dixsaut, M. (1985). Le naturel philosophe: Essai sur les dialogues de Platon (Collection d’études anciennes). Paris: Les Belles lettres.Google Scholar
  8. Elton, M. (1997). The role of the affinity argument in the Phaedo. Phronesis, 42(3), 313–316.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Frede, D. (1978). The final proof of the immortality of the soul in Plato’s Phaedo 102a – 107a. Phronesis, 23(1), 27–41.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Frede, D. (1999). Platons “Phaidon”: Der Traum von der Unsterblichkeit der Seele(Werkinterpretationen). Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft.Google Scholar
  11. Fronterotta, F. (2007). Carone on the mind-body problem in late Plato. Archiv Für Geschichte Der Philosophie, 89(2), 231–236.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Fierro, M. A. (2013). Alma encarnada-cuerpo amante en el Fedón de Platón. In L. Benítez Gorbet & A. Velázquez Zaragoza (Eds.), Tras las huellas de Platón y el platonismo en la filosofía moderna. De su simiente griega a la ilustración (pp. 7–42). México, DF: Editorial Torres Asociados.Google Scholar
  13. Gertz, S. R. P. (2011). Death and immortality in late neoplatonism: Studies on the ancient commentaries on Plato’s Phaedo. Leiden, Netherlands: Brill.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Johannsen, T. (2000). Body, soul and tripartion in Plato’s Timaeus. Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy, XIX, 87–111.Google Scholar
  15. Ostenfeld, E. (1987). Ancient Greek psychology: And the modern mind-body debate. Aarhus: Aarhus University Press.Google Scholar
  16. Pakaluk, M. (2003). Degrees of separation in the Phaedo. Phronesis, 48(2), 89–115.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Pitteloud, L. (2017). La séparation dans la métaphysique de Platon. Sankt Augustin, Germany: Plato International Studies, Academia Verlag.Google Scholar
  18. Rowe, C. (1993). Plato. Phaedo. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  19. Scott, D. (1987). Platonic Anamnesis Revisited. Classical Quaterly 37(2):346–366.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Trabattoni, F. (2011). Platone. Fedone. Milano, Italy: Einaudi.Google Scholar
  21. Woolf, R. (2004). The Practice of a Philosopher. In Oxford studies in ancient philosophy (Vol. XXVI, pp. 100–120). Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Archai UNESCO ChairUniversity of BrasiliaBrasiliaBrazil

Personalised recommendations