Plato 's Theory Of The Soul Essay

Plato 's Theory Of The Soul Essay

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In book 4 of the Republic, Plato establishes, through the voice of Socrates, his theory of the soul and how it encourages a person to act in a just manner as a just person will always be better off. Plato contests that there are at least three clearly defined and separate parts of the soul. The three parts consist of desire, reason, and spirit. Each of these aspects of the souls has a function and a virtue, and it is when theses three parts act in harmony that a person behaves in a just manner. This assertion is in response to Glaucon, who claims that acting justly is only to one’s benefit if one is recognized for one’s just actions, and therefore there is no inherent value to the individual of acting justly. In contrast, Socrates contends that justice is good in itself, as a person’s soul is not in conflict when he or she is acting justly, and the person will therefore be in the condition he or she is meant to be in and happier for it. This theory of the soul and how it relates to justice is largely unconvincing, as it relies on a concept of an absolute conventional morality, and claims that any deviation from this morality will result in a conflict of the soul, and therefore cause one to be worse off.
The first part of Socrates’ tripartite soul is desire. Socrates considers desire to be the appetite one has for basic wants and needs (439d). Desire functions in the interest of pleasure and satiation, and it does so without respect to consequence. Desire is also not capable of distinguishing the type of or how much of an object it craves. For instance, desire cannot determine if it wants a hot or cold drink, only that it wants a drink (437d). If the soul or body craves something, desire is only concerned with quenching the appet...


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...e, which would dictate that stealing is immoral.
The final aspect of the soul is spirit. Spirit’s function is to encourage a person to act on what reason has established to be in the person’s best interest, and its virtue is that of courage. As reason will have established the person should steal the bread, if he or she does so, then spirit will have performed its function. Furthermore, as a person risks punishment for the theft, it can be said that he or she is acting in a courageous manner.
Through this example, it has been established that each part of the soul can perform its function even while acting in an unjust manner. However, Socrates’ final assertion, a person will always be better off acting justly, needs to be addressed. In this most dire and extreme case, a person will undoubtedly be better off stealing the bread, as the alternative is starvation.

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