© 2011, Ben Brewer
This paper begins with an examination of the notoriously shoddy proofs for the immortality of the soul that Socrates presents in the Phaedo. I first turn to Hans-Georg Gadamer’s account of the proofs (as historically situated between science and myth), and then, using evidence from the Phaedo itself and a wide sampling of the dialogues, reframe the proofs as a metaphor for the self. With the discussion thus redirected, I look at Jacques Derrida’s “Plato’s Pharmacy” in order to begin to the discussion about the implications of the failed proofs for a new understanding of the Platonic subject (as a subject whose description is always-already failed because of the confines of language). Finally, I apply Slavoj Žižek’s critique of Derrida in order to achieve a more nuanced, radical, and complete understanding of the subject being presented in the Phaedo—a subject whose incompleteness (“failure”) is constitutive and ontological, rather than linguistic and epistemological.
Brewer, Ben (2011) "The Failing of the Self or the Self of Failing? Gadamer, Derrida, žižek, and the 'Phaedo'," Res Cogitans: Vol. 2: Iss. 1, Article 20.