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phaedo   


the setting of the sun?

Then tell me, Socrates, why is suicide held not to be right? as I

have certainly heard Philolaus affirm when he was staying with us at

Thebes: and there are others who say the same, although none of them

has ever made me understand him.

But do your best, replied Socrates, and the day may come when you

will understand. I suppose that you wonder why, as most things which

are evil may be accidentally good, this is to be the only exception

(for may not death, too, be better than life in some cases?), and why,

when a man is better dead, he is not permitted to be his own

benefactor, but must wait for the hand of another.

By Jupiter! yes, indeed, said Cebes, laughing, and speaking in his

native Doric.

I admit the appearance of inconsistency, replied Socrates, but there

may not be any real inconsistency after all in this. There is a

doctrine uttered in secret that man is a prisoner who has no right

to open the door of his prison and run away; this is a great mystery

which I do not quite understand. Yet I, too, believe that the gods are

our guardians, and that we are a possession of theirs. Do you not

agree?

Yes, I agree to that, said Cebes.

And if one of your own possessions, an ox or an ass, for example

took the liberty of putting himself out of the way when you had

given no intimation of your wish that he should die, would you not

be angry with him, and would you not punish him if you could?

Certainly, replied Cebes.

Then there may be reason in saying that a man should wait, and not

take his own life until God summons him, as he is now summoning me.

Yes, Socrates, said Cebes, there is surely reason in that. And yet

how can you reconcile this seemingly true belief that God is our

guardian and we his possessions, with that willingness to die which we

were attributing to the philosopher? That the wisest of men should

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