© 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.

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