After the almost poetic heights Socrates reaches in this account, he displays the equanimity of the truly philosophical inquirer when Simmias and Cebes still have serious doubts that he encourages them to broach. Simmias’s objection presupposes the Pythagorean concept of the soul as a sort of harmony or attunement of the elements of the body, obtaining when these are in proper tension or proportion. By analogy to his previous arguments, Socrates would have to argue that the harmony of a lyre—which harmony is also invisible, perfect, and divine—could survive the destruction of the instrument. However, the absurdity of this suggests the absurdity of the belief that the soul exists when the body is destroyed. Cebes adds that while the soul may survive several deaths and reincarnations, it is possible that it finally wears out as does a body that has survived several coats.
These objections seem so cogent to the audience, just now persuaded by Socrates’ train of thought, that a despair of the success of any argument whatever sets in. However, Socrates warns his friends of the dangers of misology; just as one may become a misanthropist by overconfidence in people, followed by disillusionment, so may one learn to distrust all argument by accepting conclusions hastily and without sufficient attention to logic, only to discover their falsity later. However, instead of adopting a cynically skeptical position that no arguments are valid, no truths about reality discoverable, one should think that the difficulty is one’s lack of ability, which can be improved by further effort. It is fallacious to attribute the invalidity of one’s own thinking to reason itself, and folly thus to forfeit the very possibility of learning the truth.
Socrates then proceeds to answer Simmias’s objection by showing that it is inconsistent with previous and present admissions. Harmony or attunement is not prior to the elements organized or tuned, but the soul has been shown to exist prior to the body. Simmias cannot hold, therefore, both that knowledge is recollection and that the soul is harmony. Furthermore, harmony occurs in degrees; an instrument may be more or less in tune. However, people do not think that souls are more or less souls either in themselves or relative to others. Again, if the soul were a harmony, it could contain no vice, which is inharmonious, and consequently all souls would be equally good, which of course is absurd. Finally, if soul were a harmony of bodily elements, it would be dependent on them, but as a matter of fact, the soul, especially the wise one, acts as a governor of the body and hence is sometimes out of harmony with it.
To meet Cebes’s objection that the soul may eventually deteriorate...