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
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.
This then is a fact so far, and one which it is not difficult
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
...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.
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
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
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?
And that there are three kinds of pleasure, respectively
underlying the three classes?
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
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
Key sources supportive of
Tripartite Soul Theory