The Society for Ancient Greek Philosophy Newsletter

Document Type


Publication Date



The hope Socrates invokes during his defence becomes a statement to be tested and corroborated, and thus a catalyst for discovery rather than a valueless rejection of all arguments, beliefs or in Socratic terms “hopes.” In his prison cell Socrates tests the propositions in the Apology that death may be a good and in the Phaedo these arguments affirm Socrates’ hope, making it the more valuable belief. Thus since no man willing chooses evil, a valueless not knowing, over the good, the value-laden hope regardless of not-knowing, Socrates commits himself to the “great perhaps” of the immortality of the soul. Yet, like the swans who sing most beautifully prior to their death so too the philosopher applies his famous method of self-refutation and examines a claim to wisdom, which just so happens to be his own, with more skill and eloquence than ever before, compelling his listeners to examine and accept the hopeful but inexhaustible premise that his death is a good.


Danielle Layne presented “Ceaselessly Testing the Good of Death” to the Society at its meeting with the Eastern Division in Boston in 2010.

For information about the author see: