October 11, 2000
Socrates Vs. Gilgamesh
Socrates’ view of death in the Phaedo, Crito, and Apology is complex. His argument tries to prove that philosophers, of all people, are in the best state to die or will be in the best state after life because of the life they lead. Socrates’ views are sharply contrasted in The Epic of Gilgamesh. In fact, he would probably say that Gilgamesh had not lived the proper kind of life and his views of life, and death would lead to an unsettled existence in the afterlife. Socrates’ view of death, from his opinions on the act of dying, the state of the soul after death, and the fear of death, differs from that of The Epic of Gilgamesh to the extent that Socrates would refute every belief about death presented in The Epic of Gilgamesh.
Socrates believes the act of dying to be a separation of the soul from the body. The soul is that which attains knowledge, and the body is that which experiences senses and emotions. In Gilgamesh there is no distinction between the body and soul. In the Phaedo, before Socrates drinks the poison Crito questions him as to how he would like to be buried to which Socrates replies, “I do not convince Crito that I am this Socrates talki
is no other than to think oneself wise when one is not . Gilgamesh does not see things this way. The only mention of an afterlife is in Enkidu"tms dream but he does not expand on what he believes it to be like or if it is something that is truly there. It can be presumed that Gilgamesh and Enkidu do not believe that death will lead to such a serene place as Socrates describes by looking at their view of death. Enkidu"tms death is the consequence of insulting the Gods. In the Apology, Socrates states that "To fear death . By this Socrates means that after death what is left is merely the body and that the self is in the soul, which is no longer part of the body. Some religious people do not fear death when their time has come, but the majorities are afraid to die. No one knows whether death may not be the greatest of all blessings for a man, yet men fear it as if it were the greatest of all evils" (Plato 34). Later in Phaedo, he asserts that "Any man whom you see resenting death was not a lover of wisdom but a lover of the body, and also a lover of wealth or honors, either or both" (Plato 105). Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc, 1981. In the Phaedo, Socrates explains how the soul exists in the afterlife through the use of two main theories, the theory of opposites and the theory of recollection. It is important to note that he also draws a connection between the soul and wisdom as a rationalization for his belief in an afterlife, saying, "When the soul investigates by itself it passes into the realm of what is pure, ever existing, immortal and unchanging .