Phaedo is the final part of Plato's (427-347 BCE) trilogy about the trial and death of his teacher, Socrates (469-399 BCE), and is preceded by the Apology and Crito . The Apology is a riveting account of Socrates' defense against the charges, his reaction to the verdict, and then his reaction to the sentence. Crito is a moving account of his reaction to an opportunity to escape his sentence. (I've written reviews for these in GR, if you're curious.) In this dialogue Plato has a young friend of Socrates, Phaedo, recount to acquaintances what happened in the final hours of Socrates' life, surrounded by friends and family and philosophizing up until the final draught of poison. Potentially, Phaedo could have been at least as moving as Crito . However, in my view this potential was wasted in a most regrettable manner. Once again, as in Crito , Plato was not present at the event described. Though the conversation in Crito had to be, either partially or wholly, Plato's invention, it stayed true to the reports made about Socrates' manner and thought by Plato himself and other authors, such as Xenophon. But in this dialogue Socrates is largely Plato's sock puppet in a rather transparent and, to my mind, unacceptable manner. This ventriloquism even strikes me as disrespectful.By all other reports, including Plato's, Socrates refused metaphysical and physical speculation, preferring instead to occupy himself and his collaborators (as he claimed to see them) with ethics and politics. But in this dialogue Plato has Socrates waxing eloquent about Plato's metaphysical speculations concerning ideal forms. Moreover, in the Apology , written relatively soon after Socrates' death, when Socrates speaks about death he considers only two options: (1) complete annihilation and (2) the standard ancient Greek view of all the dead gathered together in Hades, a bleak and somber place where family and old friends can be together eternally, if not joyfully. But in this dialogue Plato has Socrates "proving" the immortality of the soul and talking about souls of the dead returning in the newly born. Also damaging to the credibility of Phaedo is the fact that the chain of "certainly", "true", "of course", blah blah, responses of Socrates' listeners to Plato's words is more than just faintly ridiculous ( Crito is not entirely free of this). What a shame.So, is there something positive to say about this dialogue? Well, if you are interested in Plato's body-and-pleasure-rejecting idealism, his views on ideal forms, the immortality of the soul, as well as why death is a good thing for a philosopher - most of which became sources of Christian theology - then all these find what is said to be their clearest expression in Phaedo . Plato: But you don't think any of those things are positive.Me: TruePlato: Even an unfortunate like yourself can recognize something positive to be said about my work.Me: Certainly.Plato (waits with brows raised and arms crossed)Me: ---Plato: Well?Me: OK, but it wasn't the tedious sophistry concerning the existence of degrees of the soul.Plato: Surely.Me: And it wasn't the total rubbish about all knowledge being the recollection of an earlier, noncorporeal contact with ideals.Plato: Quite so.Me: My ears have always had a kind of wistful predisposition to perk up at your idea that the souls of the dead are recycled in the newly born. But I know you need that to get your crazy theory of knowledge to work.Plato: Very true.Me (eying Plato warily): I suppose I must put my cards on the table.Plato: That is quite true.Me: You should have cut everything between Crito passing along the message from the prison attendant and the stroking of Phaedo's hair. You could have saved that rubbish and put it in someone else's mouth in another dialogue. Then the Christians could still have gotten what they wanted and the spotlight in this dialogue could have been focused on Socrates' calm nobility during his last day on Earth, which is where it should have been.Plato: What you say has a wonderful truth in it, Steve.Me: Thanks for the props, man. And give me a buzz if you need some help with the next one.(Re-read in Benjamin Jowett's translation.)Forgotten surprise to stow away for later: Socrates is said in this dialogue to have written poetry in prison! And, once again, this was done at the behest of a vision in a dream.