Plato And Ethics Essay

625 words - 3 pages

In his Socratic dialogue The Republic, Plato states that there are three forces at conflict within each individual. Specifically, the reader is introduced to the Tripartite Theory of the Soul which states that every human soul is made up of three parts: the appetitive, the spirited, and the rational. To begin, the appetitive part of the soul desires food, drink, sex, and other carnal pleasures. Next, the spirited part of an individual’s soul reveals ambition or anger and desires honor and victory. Lastly, the rational part of the soul weighs options, and tries to gauge what is best and truest overall in every circumstance. Plato first maintains that there is evidence of divisions of the soul in Socrates argument, “For we hold it impossible that the same thing should, at the same time, with the same part of itself, in reference to the same object, be doing two opposite things” (439b). In other words, a soul ...view middle of the document...

Next, Socrates speaks on the conflict between the spirited and appetitive parts of the soul. Socrates mentions that Leontius’ appetitive part of the soul has the desire to look upon “…some dead bodies on the ground…” (439e), whereas his spirited part was “…at the same time loathing the thought…” (440a). Thereby, Leontius “…struggled with himself” (440a). In this example, the reader is shown that one can become angry when trying to overcome the desires of the appetitive part of his soul. In conclusion, Plato has illustrated that there are three different conflicts within a person causing him to act upon those conflicts. For example, let’s say you slept for only two hours on a Saturday night. The next morning, your appetitive side would choose to hit the snooze button on the alarm: the appetitive side would want sleep. However, there would now be a conflict because the spirited side of your soul would be in an angry state knowing that you should attend church. The rational side has its own purpose which is to obtain what is good for the whole soul. Therefore, the rational side would deny the body its physical pleasure and choose the virtuous option of attending church services. Plato further maintains that the soul is capable of living in a state of justice when there is harmony between the three parts. Socrates says, “Is it not then essentially the domain of the rational principle to command…the entire soul…and the domain of the spirited principle to be its subject and ally? Yes” (441e). Therefore, the rational and spirited parts “will exercise control over the appetitive principle” (442a). In other words, Plato felt self-mastery of the three parts of the soul is what led a person to live a harmonious life. If a person is able to balance appetite, spirit, and reason, they will then behave in a virtuous manner. In short, the person who did not get enough sleep on a Saturday night would ignore the urge to stay in bed and observe Sunday morning worship at church. The spirited part would feel victorious because the rational part of the soul overcame the appetitive part.

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