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Tripartite Soul Theory overview

Tripartite Theory of Soul
Plato's Republic, Socrates, Pythagoras' philosophy
and much more ...

…can we possibly refuse to admit that there exist in each of us the same generic parts and characteristics as are found in the state? For I presume the state has not received them from any other source. It would be ridiculous to imagine that the presence of the spirited element in cities is not to be traced to individuals, wherever this character is imputed to the people, as it is to the natives of Thrace, and Scythia, and generally speaking, of the northern countries; or the love of knowledge, which would be chiefly attributed to our own country; or the love of riches, which people would especially connect with the Phoenicians and the Egyptians.
Tripartite Soul Theory related dialogue attributed to Socrates in Plato's - The Republic, Book 4.

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The stunningly insight~full Playwright and Poet, William Shakespeare, has something worthwhile to contribute to this review of notable authorities that effectively endorse a Tripartite presentation to Human Nature:
There's neither honesty, manhood, nor good-fellowship in thee.
William Shakespeare: Henry IV (Pt 1), Act I, Scene II

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This content of this page is being presented in order to offer a brief familiarisation with the support being offered by several well-regarded authorities to the Tripartite presentation of Human Nature which is set out here and there in Plato's most important work - The Republic.


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If the truth is told it is Philosophy (Pythagoras and Socrates / Plato's tripartite theory of the soul) rather than Religion, Science or Literature that is generally seen as having the strongest tradition of endorsing a Tripartite Soul theory of Human Nature. That being said full suggestion of a "tripartite presentation" to "Existential" Human Being can also be found in science-based studies in Psychology and in the works of such highly-regarded men-of-letters as William Shakespeare and Ralph Waldo Emerson.


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Pythagoras

Pythagoras lived in even earlier times of Ancient Greece than Socrates or Plato. Nevertheless he advanced a similar Tripartite view of human nature to that suggested in Socratic Dialogues in Plato's widely influential works.

  the life of man seemed to him to resemble the festival which was celebrated with most magnificent games before a concourse collected from the whole of Greece; for at this festival some men whose bodies had been trained sought to win the glorious distinction of a crown, others were attracted by the prospect of making gain by buying or selling, whilst there was on the other hand a certain class, and that quite the best class of free-born men, who looked neither for applause nor gain, but came for the sake of the spectacle and closely watched what was done and how it was done. So also we, as though we had come from some city to a kind of crowded festival, leaving in like fashion another life and nature of being, entered upon this life, and some were slaves of ambition, some of money; there were a special few who, counting all else as nothing, ardently contemplated the nature of things. These men he would call "lovers of wisdom" (for that is the meaning of the word philosopher); …
Cicero, Tusculan Disputations, V, Loeb Classical Library. P. 433


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Ralph Waldo Emerson

In all districts of all lands, in all the classes of communities thousands of minds are intently occupied, the merchant in his compting house, the mechanist over his plans, the statesman at his map, his treaty, & his tariff, the scholar in the skilful history & eloquence of antiquity, each stung to the quick with the desire of exalting himself to a hasty & yet unfound height above the level of his peers. Each is absorbed in the prospect of good accruing to himself but each is no less contributing to the utmost of his ability to fix & adorn human civilization.
In William H. Gilman (ed.) The Journals and Miscellaneous Notebooks of Ralph Waldo Emerson, vol II, 1822-1826, 305



It is one of those fables which out of an unknown antiquity convey an unlooked-for wisdom, that the gods, in the beginning, divided Man into men, that he might be more helpful to himself; just as the hand was divided into fingers, the better to answer its end.
The old fable covers a doctrine ever new and sublime; that there is One Man,--present to all particular men only partially, or through one faculty; and that you must take the whole society to find the whole man. Man is not a farmer, or a professor, or an engineer, but he is all. Man is priest, and scholar, and statesman, and producer, and soldier. In the divided or social state these functions are parcelled out to individuals, each of whom aims to do his stint of the joint work, whilst each other performs his. The fable implies that the individual, to possess himself, must sometimes return from his own labor to embrace all the other laborers. But, unfortunately, this original unit, this fountain of power, has been so distributed to multitudes, has been so minutely subdivided and peddled out, that it is spilled into drops, and cannot be gathered.
Ralph Waldo Emerson - (from his ~ The American Scholar address)


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Christianity and FOUR MORE World Religions

Teachings can be identified in the texts of such World Religions as Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and Sikhism which can be seen as being accepting of a "Tripartism" to existential Human Being.

This can surely be taken as tending to contribute significant justification to an acceptance that highly important truths are to be associated with Tripartite Soul Theory.

An highly important Christian teaching - The Parable of the Sower - will now be considered:


The Parable of the Sower

The Parable of the Sower is, perhaps, the most "Enlightenment-related" teaching of Jesus!!!
   Again Jesus began to teach by the lake. The crowd that gathered around him was so large that he got into a boat and sat in it out on the lake, while all the people were along the shore at the water's edge. He taught them many things by parables, and in his teaching said: "Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, some multiplying thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times."

Then Jesus said, "Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear." ...

... Then Jesus said to them, "Don't you understand this parable? How then will you understand any parable? The farmer sows the word. Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them. Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop - some thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times what was sown.
He said to them, "Do you bring in a lamp to put it under a bowl or a bed? Instead, don't you put it on its stand? For whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open. If anyone has ears to hear, let them hear."
Jesus' teaching ~ as set out in St Mark's Gospel, Chapter 4

The Parable of the Sower actually features in three of the four, primary, "Canonical" Gospels, (i.e. of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John), - such that it is possible to attempt to derive deeper meaning by presenting the following alternative ending ~
"But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.
No one lights a lamp and hides it in a clay jar or puts it under a bed. Instead, they put it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light. For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open."
Jesus' teaching ~ as set out in St Luke's Gospel, Chapter 8

This "Parable of the Sower" could be said to suggest that Enlightenment does not appear to be Intellectual but may principally arise from keeping to spiritual teachings!!!

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A yet more important Christian Teaching - the Sermon on the Mount - can be shown to similarly offer implicit support to a recognition of Existential Tripartism. Teachings can also be found in Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and Sikhism which are similarly suggestive of Tripartism.

The following link leads to a page where support for an acceptance of Existential Tripartism is offered by ALL of these major World Relgions.


The major World Religions
ALL suggest that Spirituality is actually relative - to "Desire" and to "Wrath"



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Science (i.e. Psychology)

Scientific studies can also be held to have identified a Tripartite Soul Theory-related presentation of Human Nature

Further details of two of these can be found at our partner site - Age-of-the-Sage:


Dr. William Sheldon ~ Human Personality traits


The New York Longitudinal Study
Alexander Thomas, Stella Chess, Herbert G. Birch



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Several truly notable authorities
endorse Tripartite Soul Theory


Key Socratic Dialogues from
Book 4 and Book 9 of Plato's Republic



Plato's Ideal State       Plato's Chariot allegory      


Philosophy - Eastern and Western & 'Tripartite' Human Nature


FIVE major World Religions & 'Tripartite' Human Nature