August 13, 2013

Filled Under: ,

ANALYSIS - Plato and the Myth of Er

Plato explains that in the Myth of  Er, Er gives an account of his  experience in the afterlife. This story correlates to a complex  argument about the relationship  between free will and determinism (fate).

Er describes two openings  in the earth side by side, and two  corresponding openings in the sky above. A set of judges directs those souls who are deemed  moral towards one of the  openings in the sky, and those deemed to be immoral towards  one of the openings in the earth.

From each remaining opening  emerge either souls caked in  grime and dust (from the earth) or  clean souls (from the sky). These souls are returning from a long  journey and meeting again in this  middle place of judgment.

Following this is a journey to another place in which each soul  (having emerged from either opening) is given a choice by  Lady Lachesis, daughter of Necessity and who represents the  past, as to what kind of life they wish to lead next. Every kind of  human and animal life is offered, including every possible  combination of wealth, poverty, sickness, health etc.

Er goes onto explain that those who came out of the heavens  demonstrated a general trend to not make careful and considered decisions and thereby more often  than not chose non-virtuous lives. It is important to note that this is proposed as a trend and not as a law of nature. The souls who hurry their decisions may just as likely make a good choice rather than a bad choice.

Here a difference between moral behavior based on habituation and moral behavior based on philosophy becomes distinct.

Those souls who emerged from  the earth had a deeper  understanding of suffering and so were able to cope with difficult decisions and situations. A soul is  therefore conditioned by experience. However, there is an eternal regress argument here as it is the moral or immoral actions undertaken in life that determine  the judgment passed on that soul  in the afterlife, determining that  souls experience in the afterlife  and there-by the conditioning and  influence over future choices.

Here we can see that human choices can at once be  conditioned and free.

The presence of a sequence of  metaphysical causes is  expressed as a cycle of reincarnation. This cycle is eternal and so plays the role of having a broad influence over life. It could be described as a set of constraints.

In this system, our actions are our own free choice, but the consequences of those actions fit into a causal framework. This is not a strong view of free will as it seems that any individuals actions may at  once be free, and also a fated reaction to the actions of another  (spurred into being via a cause).

What is possible in the future remains indefinite and the truth or  falsity of a possibility relies on the consequence of the inclination of our free will (which is why a representative of both necessity and the past presides over  choice). Therefore there are an infinite number of possible futures.

The emphasis on choice in spite of habitation and conditioning tells that people are responsible for their lives, albeit  this is a weak view of freewill.

In other words, man is susceptible to  conditioning, though through  philosophical rigor may take full  moral responsibility for the life he leads.


The articles posted on HellasFrappe are for entertainment and education purposes only. The views expressed here are solely those of the contributing author and do not necessarily reflect the views of HellasFrappe. Our blog believes in free speech and does not warrant the content on this site. You use the information at your own risk.