The Society for Ancient Greek Philosophy Newsletter

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I propose to ask, what is the meaning of the thesis that the soul is a harmonia, and then to examine Socrates' arguments against Simmias. The word 'harmonia' may have different shades of meaning (I distinguish at least four), and the arguments must vary accordingly.

I conclude that the arguments of the Phaedo are not decisive against any version of the harmonia thesis. Their main importance lies in making explicit the incompatibility of physical determinism with a view of the non-physical soul as an autonomous agent, but this is far from showing that the deterministic thesis is false.


C. C. W. Taylor presented “The Arguments in the Phaedo Concerning the Thesis that the Soul is a Harmonia” at the meeting of the Society for Ancient Greek Philosophy with the Eastern Division of the American Philosophical Association in 1970. It was published in John P. Anton & Anthony Preus, eds.1983. Essays in Ancient Greek Philosophy, vol. 2. SUNY, 217-231, and reprinted in Pleasure, Mind, and Soul: Selected Papers in Ancient Philosophy, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 2008, 73-90.

C. C. W. Taylor is Emeritus at Corpus Christi College, Oxford. A list of his publications is available online at Oxford Scholarship Online.