What fate awaited Socrates, Plato and Aristotle?

Since I began studying for Examination Religion for the state exams in the summer, I had the pleasure of reading about three great, Greek philosophers Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. They seemed to have been virtuous men who revolutionized the way mankind looks at the world, with the philosophy of Plato and Aristotle influencing the philosophy of St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas respectively (whom I knew beforehand by name but given a better understanding of their thought). Now, my actual question is, would these men have been deserving of heaven or they are confined to a certain form of limbo? Please discuss, and if there are any Church documents that may link directly to the cases of these men or other men/women like them, please let me know.

Thank you. :thumbsup:

simple answer

we have no idea, in my own personal opinion they are in heaven.

One more note, limbo is no longer widely held by those in the Church, you will find many Thomists who believe in it, but I believe we are moving away from that understanding. There are some who will say the Church has rejected limbo, but I’m not to sure if we really did, just made it clear it isn’t the teaching of the Church.

A longer explanation of above

I believe in God’s infinite mercy and wisdom he saves those who through no fault of their own cannot be baptized, how this happens I have no idea. While sure their original sin isn’t forgiven, God isn’t bound to the sacraments but we are. I believe that God does give the grace to those who, through no fault of their own, died before Baptism (blood, desire, or sacramental.) Again to put it simply, we can only be saved by baptism, but God can save outside of baptism. (I believe he can and has saved those who were never baptized, AKA Jews, Native Americans, babies in the womb, etc.)

In Dantes Inferno Virgil along with Homer and probably by exstension those philosophers or maybe they are in fact mentioned I don’t know its been 6 years since I read Inferno but there is the Limbo of the virtous pagans those who lead good lives but were not of the faith.

Of course that’s a book written by a disgruntled Catholic poet but that’s probably the closest you will ever get to a mention of those writers or philosphers.

No one knows just like no one for a hundred percent knows of Hitler or Sadam Husein are in hell its very likely but the Church can never declare it at least not publicly.

I have heard of Catholic Excorcism cases where a demon either pretended to be Judas or a person was in fact possesed by the spirit of Judas Iscariot and that might at least on a private level confirm some people in hell and then again maybe not because demons lie unless of course the spirit reveals its name as a human spirit.

So far I have never heard of people being possesed by the damned spirits of Greek philosophers.

Basically no one knows.

Didn’t Aristotle believe certain people were meant to be slaves?

That belief alone would not preclude a person from entering Heaven. While we know that not to be true, the society they lived in had no conception of human dignity and worth. As such, he wouldn’t necessarily be culpable for not holding to the dignity of all people.

To the OP,

We cannot know where those men wound up. I personally believe those men are in Heaven. While they were Pagans, and I’m sure they held some very non-Christian beliefs, I believe that each of them sought out God to the greatest extent their knowledge allowed them. They sought Truth through philosophy, and in that earnest search they approached God, whether they knew it or not.

Aye, the question I asked was bit out of the range people could probably answer as in all regards, we do not really know the fate of all these men but we can only hope that they have attained heaven by means of the virtues they aspired to through philosophy and the way in which they earnestly searched for truth and wisdom. :thumbsup:


St. Justin Martyr (c. 150 AD): “We have been taught that Christ is the first-begotten of God, and we have declared him to be the Logos of which all mankind partakes [John 1:9]. Those, therefore, who lived according to reason [Greek, logos] were really Christians, even though they were thought to be atheists, such as, among the Greeks, Socrates, Heraclitus, and others like them. . . . Those who lived before Christ but did not live according to reason [logos] were wicked men, and enemies of Christ, and murderers of those who did live according to reason [logos], whereas those who lived then or who live now according to reason [logos]are Christians. Such as these can be confident and unafraid” 2.10:" Christ… was and is the Logos who is in everyone, and foretold through the prophets the things that were to come, and taught these things in person after becoming like to us in feeling."

Clement of Alexandria (Stromata 7.17, 1.5) “Before the coming of the Lord, philosophy was necessary for justification to the Greeks; now it is useful for piety . … for it brought the Greeks to Christ as the law did the Hebrews.”


Dantes Inferno is fiction.

With the exception of the saints, nobody knows who is in Heaven and who isn’t.


I would speculate the same thing that happened to everybody who died before the death and resurrection of Christ.

Notionally, I think that means that they resided in limbo until Christ descended to the dead at which point they were judged according to their acceptance of Him and how they responded to their conscience in light of whatever understanding of moral truth they possessed during their earthly lives.

So basically the same thing that will happen to all human beings.

The outcome of that judgement is beyond our knowing except in the exceptional circumstance of the formal canonization process.


My personal opinion was that they were with the patriarchs in the limbo of the fathers. They had no reason to not go to heaven, because they were trying in earnest to reach the truth, which could only be revealed in its fullness.

It’s just a thought experiment though, I have no reason to believe they went either way.

A bit off topic, but Christianity doesn’t view slavery as an intrinsic evil, which is why Paul only suggested his slave friend to be freed as a brother in Christ, rather than outright condemn his owner for enslaving him.

We think all slavery is what is depicted about early America, when the majority of its existence it’s been more or less part of the class system.

And for further effect, a very awesome congregation in the Catholic Church fashion themselves as ‘Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary’. Because who wouldn’t want to be a slave to that most gorgeous heart!

To say it’s mere fiction is doing it disservice. I mean, it is. But in terms of contemplating truth and life, it’s probably better to say that the Divine Comedy isn’t Sacred Scripture.

That piece of work is the mind of a Catholic genius. It’s affectionately known as the Summa Theologiae ‘in verse’, and it definitely reads like it.

St. Justin Martyr says that those before Christ who followed reason (the Logos) were Christians (Christ is the divine Logos)–he even gives Socrates as an example!

Chapter 46. The Word in the world before Christ
But lest some should, without reason, and for the perversion of what we teach, maintain that we say that Christ was born one hundred and fifty years ago under Cyrenius, and subsequently, in the time of Pontius Pilate, taught what we say He taught; and should cry out against us as though all men who were born before Him were irresponsible — let us anticipate and solve the difficulty. We have been taught that Christ is the first-born of God, and we have declared above that He is the Word of whom every race of men were partakers; and those who lived reasonably are Christians, even though they have been thought atheists; as, among the Greeks, Socrates and Heraclitus, and men like them; and among the barbarians, Abraham, and Ananias, and Azarias, and Misael, and Elias, and many others whose actions and names we now decline to recount, because we know it would be tedious. So that even they who lived before Christ, and lived without reason, were wicked and hostile to Christ, and slew those who lived reasonably. But who, through the power of the Word, according to the will of God the Father and Lord of all, He was born of a virgin as a man, and was named Jesus, and was crucified, and died, and rose again, and ascended into heaven, an intelligent man will be able to comprehend from what has been already so largely said. And we, since the proof of this subject is less needful now, will pass for the present to the proof of those things which are urgent.

This is speculative, but it doesn’t seem to me that Socrates, Plato or Aristotle would have assented to Catholic teachings. For starters, they were each ardent polytheists, and their ideas about the Gods would commit them to seeing Biblical descriptions of YHWH as mythical and allegorical. But, Socrates in particular did not seem to have the sort of mind that would ever have been satisfied with a dogmatic system.

To say nothing of the fact that the description of Hell in the “Inferno” has shaped Western thought ever since, with many believing that it’s virtually Catholic teaching.

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