In our Ancient Philosophy course, we have returned to the depth of depths, Hades itself.
We have journey like Odysseus through Plato’s Republic, traveled outside the cave, viewed the Sun, contemplated the Good, and now descended back to underworld to travel with Er, our mythical tour guide. The question arises, “If the soul is immortal, what is life after death like? In what manner does the soul go on living?” Without any knowledge on the matter, Socrates resorts to myth and weaves a most splendid tale.
While reading the Myth of Er, we are simultaneously reading the Apology of Socrates, where Socrates gives his final public address to the polis on his own death. He writes:
“You too, gentlemen of the jury, must look forward to death with confidence, and fix your minds on this one belief, which is certain–that nothing can harm a good man either in life or after death, and his fortunes are not a matter of indifference to the gods. This present experience of mine has not come about mechanically. I am quite clear that the time had come when it was better for me to die and be released from my distractions. That is why my sign never turned me back. For my own part I bear no grudge at all against those who condemned me and accused me, although it was not with this kind intention that they did so, but because they thought that they were hurting me; and that is culpable of them . . .Now it is time that we were going, I to die and you to live, but which of us has the happier prospect is unknown to anyone but God.”
Many of the ancient philosophers saw philosophy as fundamentally a meditation on and preparation for death. Several of our contemporary philosophers like Cornel West and Simon Critchley have emphasized this as well.
In the video below, Critchley reflects on what our religious traditions or philosophical traditions offer for appreciating our own death.