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Plato's Republic - dialogues of Socrates

Tripartite Soul Theory from Book 4 and Book 9

   Plato was a pupil and friend of the greek philosopher Socrates. Amongst the many works attributed to Plato's authorship is his "The Republic" wherein is set out a series of discourses that allegedly took place between Socrates and a number of other persons who variously arrived and departed as the discussions continued. (Plato may actually have been putting his own ideas in Socrates' mouth!!!).

  It is in this record, made by Plato, of "Socrates? " philosophising that most intriguing themes are developed ~

  ...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.

  Certainly.

  This then is a fact so far, and one which it is not difficult to apprehend.

  No, it is not.

  But here begins a difficulty. Are all our actions alike performed by the one predominant faculty, or are there three faculties operating severally in our different actions? Do we learn with one internal faculty, and become angry with another, and with a third feel desire for all the pleasures connected with eating and drinking, and the propagation of the species; or upon every impulse to action, do we perform these several actions with the whole soul…

Dialogue attributed to Socrates from Plato's Republic Book 4




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  ...As there are three parts, so there appear to me to be three pleasures, one appropriate to each part; and similarly three appetites, and governing principles.

  Explain yourself.

  According to us, one part was the organ whereby a man learns, and another that whereby he shews spirit. The third was so multiform that we were unable to address it by a single appropriate name; so we named it after that which is its most important and strongest characteristic. We called it appetitive, on account of the violence of the appetites of hunger, thirst, and sex, and all their accompaniments; and we called it peculiarly money-loving, because money is the chief agent in the gratification of such appetites.

  Yes, we were right.

  Then if we were to assert that the pleasure and the affection of this third part have gain for their object, would not this be the best summary of the facts upon which we should be likely to settle by force of argument, as a means of conveying a clear idea to our own minds, whenever we spoke of this part of the soul? And shall we not be right in calling it money-loving and gain-loving?

  I confess I think so, he replied.

  Again, do we not maintain that the spirited part is wholly bent on winning power and victory and celebrity?

  Certainly we do.

  Then would the title of strife-loving and honour-loving be appropriate to it?

  Yes, most appropriate?

  Well, but with regard to the part by which we learn, it is obvious to everyone that its entire and constant aim is to know how the truth stands, and that this of all the elements of our nature feels the least concern for wealth and reputation.

  Yes, quite the least.

  Then shall we not do well to call it knowledge-loving and wisdom-loving?

  Of course we shall.

  Does not this last reign in the souls of some persons, while in the souls of other people one or other of the two former, according to circumstances is dominant?

  You are right.

  And for these reasons may we assert that men may be primarily classed as lovers of wisdom, of strife, and of gain?

  Yes, certainly.

  And that there are three kinds of pleasure, respectively underlying the three classes?

  Exactly so.

  Now are you aware, I continued, that if you choose to ask three such men each in his turn, which of these lives is pleasantest, each will extol his own beyond the others? Thus the money-making man will tell you, that compared with the pleasures of gain, the pleasures of being honoured or of acquiring knowledge are worthless, except in so far as they can produce money.

  True.

  But what of the honour-loving man? Does he not look upon the pleasure derived from money as a vulgar one, while, on the other hand, he regards the pleasure derived from learning as a mere vapour and absurdity unless honour be the fruit of it.

  That is precisely the case.

  And must we not suppose that the lover of wisdom regards all other pleasures as, by comparison, very far inferior to the pleasure of knowing how the truth stands, and of being constantly occupied with this pursuit of knowledge…

Dialogue attributed to Socrates from Plato's Republic Book 9




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Several truly notable authorities
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Key Socratic Dialogues from
Book 4 and Book 9 of Plato's Republic



Plato's Ideal State       Plato's Chariot allegory      


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