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Reason, Spirit and Appetite - Plato

The three parts of the soul in Plato's Republic

Plato's ideal and just state, as envisioned in his most famous work 'The Republic', was suggested of as being peopled with three categories, or classes, of citizens - artisans, auxiliaries and philosopher-rulers.

Each of these categories of citizens were suggested of as being made up of persons who had similar behavioral tendencies and outlooks to each other.
In the following video clip, presented by Wayne Willis, consideration is given to how Socrates and Plato accepted that people are capable of showing capacities of Reason, Spirit and Appetite, and that whilst everyone has some tendency to show each of these capacities, over longer periods of time individuals can be said to be persons particularly capable of reason, of spirit or of appetite.
Persons particularly capable of reason were held by Socrates and Plato to be potentially suitable to become rulers, persons particularly capable of spirit were held by Socrates and Plato to be potentially suitable to be defenders of the state and persons particularly capable of showing appetite were held to be potentially suitable to be employed as economic producers.
Wayne Willis further considers how Socrates did not see "equality" as a societal goal but rather saw "justice" as being achievable where rulers ruled, defenders defended and producers produced - each in line with their own personal dispensations as persons of Reason, of Spirit, and of Appetite.
Plato's Ideal State would be ruler by persons personally suited to govern, guarded by those personally suited to defend, and supplied with products and services by those personally suited to act as economic agents.


In The Republic, and another work Phaedrus, Plato suggests that individual Human Beings each have a Tripartite Soul with the three aspects featuring in this Tripartism-of-Soul being - appetite, spirit and reason.

Plato's class of artisans were held to be composed of persons who were particularly inclined to indulge their appetites and desires, (for food, drink, wealth and sex), and, as such were held to be well-suited to work as economically productive artisans.

Plato's class of auxiliaries was held to be composed of relatively spirited, and courageous, persons who were held to be well-suited to be employed in protecting the state from external threats and internal disorders.

The souls of persons who were categorized by Plato as philosopher-rulers, however, were held to be particularly endowed with reason, to the degree that it prevailed in their own souls over appetite and spirit, and which also resulted in sufficient capacities of foresight to enable them to function as rulers.

Thus appetites channeled through the artisan class would produce goods and services, spirit channeled through the auxiliaries would provide potential for defence of the state, reason channeled through the philosopher-rulers (after processes of selection, and of special training over some fifty years), could provide for the guidance of appetite, and of spirit, in order that the state was ruled wisely in the interests of all.


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endorse Tripartite Soul Theory


Key Socratic Dialogues from
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