Before his death, Socrates tells Cebes about his introduction to philosophy and how his interests evolved. He recounts his early interest in natural science due to a curiosity to know the causes of everything, why it exists, why it came into existence, and why it perishes. After countless inquiry Socrates realized that he was not suited for this type of examination of “the causes”. He came to this conclusion because this method challenged what he thought he knew. He states, “I do not any longer persuade myself that I know why anything comes to be” (97b) as a result of his intense examinations. He demonstrated this by declaring that he doesn’t even know the cause of why a two-cubit length is longer than one cubit. Hopeful for some solution he considers the theory of Anaxagoras, which says mind is the cause of it all. He investigates this idea only to be disappointed upon reading the many faults backing the idea. Socrates’s search for the causes left him without any decent lead and without any teacher to follow. He decided to pursue the answers on his own and to lead his investigation with discussion to avoid getting in trouble with his senses or actions. Thus, he found his method to search for the causes.
I enjoyed this section of Phaedo because it was interesting to read about how such a renowned philosopher as Socrates arrived at his inquiry. It’s fascinating to see how he originally fed off of the ideas of other philosophers before he decided that he disagreed, and created a new perspective.