I can not help but wonder what must have been Socrates' opinion of the human soul.
On the one hand I am told that 'the Greeks' (and thus, I assume, Socrates and his followers too) took ψυχή which is generally translated as soul, to be the "breath of life" that bestows the body with animation in the first place. And this animation of a body is not the first but rather just another iteration of the selfsame immortal soul animating a new body.
On the other hand, this reflects badly on the merits of the soul: Socrates takes a rather derisive stance against the body and its desires; after all, for him, value lies in the realm of the ideal and eternal, not in the indulgence in base bodily desires.
It appears, then, that the immortal soul so conceived is a bit of a juvenile hedonistic bully who forces body after body to suffer their material lives so it can derive pleasure from the corporeal acts to which those bodies enable it. One gets an almost pathological view of the soul here.
But this view seems irreconcilable with Socrates' assertion that "the true philosopher" should be concerned not at all with his bodily aspects but only with his soul because only through the soul he gains access to the eternal and ideal.
The best solution which I can find to this dilemma is that Socrates does indeed take the soul as a kind of juvenile entity which is maturing with each and every incarnation so it can finally break the cycle, animate no new body and instead attain a nirvanic state of content with the mental ideal. The contradiction doesn't go away, though: The soul is then somehow both an immature and imperfect process striving after both bodily and mental satisfaction but also somehow an instance of already ideal perfection present within it, because without the soul, we would have no access to the ideal.
What do I miss here?
: E.g. Cottingham, J., Western Philsophy: An Anthology (2008)
: Phaedo for example.
: Also Phaedo