I promised that there would be other threads besides a discussion of Plato's Laws.
Here's another stray observation on the Phaedo (which comes out of an informal reading group I've formed with Eric Maurer). Stray but interesting, I think.
Here's the Greek text:
ou)kou=n, h)= d' o(/j, kai\ su\ a)\n tw=n sautou= kthma/twn ei)/ ti au)to\ e(auto\ a)pokteinu/oi, mh\ shmh/nanto/j sou o(/ti bou/lei au)to\ teqna/nai, xalepai/noij a)\n au)tw=| kai/, ei)/ tina e)/xoij timwri/an, timwroi=o a)/n;
pa/nu g', e)/fh.
i)/swj toi/nun tau/th| ou)k a)/logon mh\ pro/teron au(to\n a)pokteinu/nai dei=n, pri\n a)na/gkhn tina\ qeo\j e)pipe/myh|, w(/sper kai\ th\n nu=n h(mi=n parou=san.
This is Jowett's translation, slightly revised (which I select because it's easily downloadable):
“Well then,” said he, “if one of your possessions should kill itself, without your indicating that you wished it to die, would you be angry with it and punish it if you could?”
“Certainly,” he replied.
“Then perhaps from this point of view it is not unreasonable to say that a man must not kill himself until god sends some necessity upon him, such as has now come upon me.”
My question is: What is this necessity that Socrates is referring to?
Rowe in his commentary takes it to be the executioner's command. Rowe objects that Socrates' condition is singular; one could hardly find other cases like that:
w(/sper kai\ ktl. ['such as has now'] ...implies a reference to 'other, unspecified, examples'...But the only sense in which S. is or will be 'killing himself' is that he will willingly take the cup of poison from the prison warden and drink it; it is hard to think of other cases where quite so strong a 'necessity' would be in question.I think this misses the point entirely.
These lines take place in the context of a discussion in which the question is implicitly posed, whether Socrates has in effect committed suicide by not putting up an effective defense at his trial and not escaping from prison when he had the chance. Socrates' reply, in effect, is that although a person may not licitly kill himself, he may act in ways that, he foresees, will result in his death, if to act otherwise would be to do something wrong.
When one is faced with a choice between doing something wrong and dying, then one is under a necessity to die (on pain of doing wrong), and that very necessity is, as it were, a sign from god, that he now wishes one's death.