Plato's Tripartite Theory of the Soul Handout

Handout to accompany presentation on Plato's Tripartite Theory of the Soul. Includes 1 page summary explaining the theory and evaluating.

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Plato's Tripartite theory of the Soul or the spirit:
Firstly, he believes that the soul controls the mind and body.
In book 4, Socrates asks how our soul could have conflicting desires; we must have at least 2 parts of
our soul. Glaoucon agrees.
He sees that people can desire a drink or a particular drink (identifying appetitive and rational) and that
children, despite having no reason, can desire a drink (identifying spirited, which enforces the rational
despite being distinct and separate)
He concludes that the spirit is divided into 3 parts: Appetitive, Spirited and Rational.
Appetitive =necessary desires (food/water) and unnecessary desires (sex, more food, beer) these
must be restricted by the other parts of the soul.
Spirited = love honour and victory, ensuring the soul follows reason, as well as anger which must be
restricted by reason.
Rational = judges what is true/false, right/wrong, etc.
These correspond to 3 classes of individuals: Guardians, Auxiliaries and Commoners.
Individual justice = maintaining these 3 parts in correct balance, listen to reason, practice spirit and
Justice in a city therefore = a city governed by philosopher kings, imposed by warriors over the
His theory, to some extent, coincides with Freud's tripartite theory of the consciousness.
Utopia could be achieved, according the Plato.
A structured society is more efficient, etc.
Plato's categorisation of reality and attempts to reach the truth via reason is common of his time but
ancient theories of science have been largely disproven and it is now commonly accepted that
knowledge is gained by empiricism.
There is no logical or other link between the soul, individual or city.
Plato assumes that there is a soul.
It is elitist.
It would lead to a totalitarian menace.


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