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Plato’s Cyclical Argument for the Immortality of the Soul

Introduction Plato's Phaedo contains four different arguments for the immortality of the soul. The first of these, known as the "Cyclical Argument", occurs at 70c4-72e2. Its central claim is that the living come from the dead or, as J. Wolfe has concisely put it, that "every incarnation is a reincarnation".1 Thus the soul's existence is marked by a 'cycle' in which it alternates between coming-to-be united with and separated from some body. In turn, this claim is meant to support the idea that the soul does not perish with the body at the time of the person's death. The Cyclical Argument is commonly considered to be the weakest of all the arguments for the immortality of the soul that Plato ever gives -- whether in the Phaedo or elsewhere. Among its harshest critics, J. Wolfe held that, whether valid or invalid, it does not establish the immortality of the soul but at best "would succeed in proving bodily and only bodily survival!"2 Other critics, like C. J. F. Williams and D. Gallop, believe the argument to be question-begging on the ground that it unduly presupposes a distinction between living and existing.3 J. Barnes has claimed that the argument http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Archiv für Geschichte der Philosophie de Gruyter

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