PLATO’S ARGUMENT FOR THREE PARTS OF THE SOUL

 

SOCRATES:   No such remarks then will disconcert us or any whit the more make us believe that it is ever possible for the same thing at the same time in the same respect and the same relation to suffer, be, or do opposites.

GLAUCON:    They will not me, I am sure, said he.

            All the same, said I, that we may not be forced to examine at tedious length the entire list of such contentions and convince ourselves that they are false, let us proceed on the hypothesis that this is so, with the understanding that, if it ever appear otherwise, everything that results from the assumption shall be invalidated.

            That is what we must do, he said.

            Will you not then, said I, set down as opposed to one another assent and dissent, and the endeavor after a thing to the rejection of it, and embracing to repelling--do not these and all things like these belong to the class of opposite actions or passions, it will make no difference which?

            None, said he, but they are opposites.

            What then, said I, of thirst and hunger and the appetites generally, and again consenting and willing--would you not put them all somewhere in the classes just described? Will you not say, for example, that the soul of one who desires either strives for that which he desires or draws toward its embrace what it wishes to accrue to it, or again, in so far as it wills that anything be presented to it, nods assent to itself thereon as if someone put the question, striving toward its attainment?

            I would say so, he said.

            But what of not-willing and not-consenting nor yet desiring? Shall we not put these under the soul's rejection and repulsion from itself and generally into the opposite class from all the former?

            Of course.

            This being so, shall we say that the desires constitute a class and that the most conspicuous members of that class are what we call thirst and hunger?

            We shall, said he.

            Is not the one desire of drink, the other of food?

            Yes.

            Then in so far as it is thirst, would it be of anything more than that of which we say it is a desire in the soul? I mean is thirst thirst for hot drink or cold or much or little or in a word for a draught of any particular quality, or is it the fact that if heat is attached to the thirst it would further render the desire--a desire of cold, and if cold of hot? But if owing to the presence of muchness the thirst is much it would render it a thirst for much and if little for little. But mere thirst will never be desire of anything else than that of which it is its nature to be, mere drink, and so hunger of food.

            That is so, he said. Each desire in itself is of that thing only of which it is its nature to be. The epithets belong to the quality--such or such.

            Let no one then, said I, disconcert us when off our guard with the objection that everybody desires not drink but good drink and not food but good food, because, the argument will run, all men desire good, and so, if thirst is desire, it would be of good drink or of good whatsoever it is, and so similarly of other desires.

            Why, he said, there perhaps would seem to be something in that objection.

            But I need hardly remind you, said I, that of relative terms those that are somehow qualified are related to a qualified correlate, those that are severally just themselves to a correlate that is just itself.

            I don't understand, he said.

            Don't you understand, said I, that the greater is such as to be greater than something?

            Certainly.

            Is it not than the less?--[Yes.]--But the much greater than the much less. Is that not so?

            Yes.

            And may we add the onetime greater than the onetime less and that which will be greater than that which will be less?

            Surely.

            And similarly of the more toward the fewer, and the double toward the half and of all like cases, and again of the heavier toward the lighter, the swifter toward the slower, and yet again of the hot toward the cold and all cases of that kind--does not the same hold?

            By all means.

            But what of the sciences? Is not the way of it the same? Science, which is just that, is of knowledge which is just that, or is of whatsoever we must assume the correlate of science to be. But a particular science of a particular kind is of some particular thing of a particular kind. I mean something like this. As there was a science of making a house it differed from other sciences so as to be named architecture.

            Certainly.

            Was not this by reason of its being of a certain kind such as no other of all the rest?

            Yes.

            And was it not because it was of something of a certain kind that it itself became a certain kind of science? And similarly of the other arts and sciences?

            That is so.

            This then, said I, if haply you now understand, is what you must say I then meant, by the statement that of all things that are such as to be of something, those that are just themselves only are of things just themselves only, but things of a certain kind are of things of a kind. And I don't at all mean that they are of the same kind as the things of which they are, so that we are to suppose that the science of health and disease is a healthy and diseased science and that of evil and good, evil and good. I only mean that as science became the science not of just the thing of which science is but of some particular kind of thing, namely, of health and disease, the result was that it itself became some kind of science and this caused it to be no longer called simply science but, with the addition of the particular kind, medical science.

            I understand, he said, and agree that it is so.

            To return to thirst, then, said I, will you not class it with the things that are of something and say that it is what it is in relation to something--and it is, I presume, thirst?

            I will, said he, namely of drink.

            Then if the drink is of a certain kind, so is the thirst, but thirst that is just thirst is neither of much nor little nor good nor bad, nor in a word of any kind, but just thirst is naturally of just drink only.

            By all means.

            The soul of the thirsty then, in so far as it thirsts, wishes nothing else than to drink, and yearns for this and its impulse is toward this.

            Obviously.

            Then if anything draws it back when thirsty it must be something different in it from that which thirsts and drives it like a beast to drink. For it cannot be, we say, that the same thing with the same part of itself at the same time acts in opposite ways about the same thing.

            We must admit that it does not.

            So I fancy it is not well said of the archer that his hands at the same time thrust away the bow and draw it nigh, but we should rather say that there is one hand that puts it away and another that draws it to.

            By all means, he said.

            Are we to say, then, that some men sometimes though thirsty refuse to drink?

            We are indeed, he said, many and often.

            What then, said I, should one affirm about them? Is it not that there is a something in the soul that bids them drink and a something that forbids, a different something that masters that which bids?

            I think so.

            And is it not the fact that that which inhibits such actions arises when it arises from the calculations of reason, but the impulses which draw and drag come through affections and diseases?

            Apparently.

            Not unreasonably, said I, shall we claim that they are two and different from one another, naming that in the soul whereby it reckons and reasons the rational, and that with which it loves, hungers, thirsts, and feels the flutter and titillation of other desires, the irrational and appetitive--companion of various repletions and pleasures.

            It would not be unreasonable but quite natural, he said, for us to think this.

            These two forms, then, let us assume to have been marked off as actually existing in the soul. But now the thumos, or principle of high spirit, that with which we feel anger, is it a third, or would it be identical in nature with one of these?

            Perhaps, he said, with one of these, the appetitive.

            But, I said, I once heard a story which I believe, that Leontius the son of Aglaion, on his way up from the Piraeus under the outer side of the northern wall, becoming aware of dead bodies that lay at the place of public execution at the same time felt a desire to see them and a repugnance and aversion, and that for a time he resisted and veiled his head, but overpowered in despite of all by his desire, with wide staring eyes he rushed up to the corpses and cried, There, ye wretches, take your fill of the fine spectacle!

            I too, he said, have heard the story.

            Yet, surely, this anecdote, I said, signifies that the principle of anger sometimes fights against desires as an alien thing against an alien.

            Yes, it does, he said.

            And do we not, said I, on many other occasions observe when his desires constrain a man contrary to his reason that he reviles himself and is angry with that within which masters him, and that as it were in a faction of two parties the high spirit of such a man becomes the ally of his reason? But its making common cause with the desires against the reason when reason whispers low, Thou must not--that, I think, is a kind of thing you would not affirm ever to have perceived in yourself, nor, I fancy, in anybody else either.

            No, by heaven, he said.

            Again, when a man thinks himself to be in the wrong, is it not true that the nobler he is the less is he capable of anger though suffering hunger and cold and whatsoever else at the hands of him whom he believes to be acting justly therein, and as I say his spirit refuses to be aroused against such a one?

            True, he said.

            But what when a man believes himself to be wronged? Does not his spirit in that case seethe and grow fierce--and also because of his suffering hunger, cold, and the like--and make itself the ally of what he judges just? And in noble souls it endures and wins the victory and will not let go until either it achieves its purpose, or death ends all, or, as a dog is called back by a shepherd, it is called back by the reason within and calmed.

            Your similitude is perfect, he said, and it confirms our former statements that the helpers are as it were dogs subject to the rulers who are as it were the shepherds of the city.

            You apprehend my meaning excellently, said I. But do you also take note of this?

            Of what?

            That what we now think about the spirited element is just the opposite of our recent surmise. For then we supposed it to be a part of the appetitive, but now, far from that, we say that, in the factions of the soul, it much rather marshals itself on the side of the reason.

            By all means, he said.

            Is it then distinct from this too, or is it a form of the rational, so that there are not three but two kinds in the soul, the rational and the appetitive? Or just as in the city there were three existing kinds that composed its structure, the money-makers, the helpers, the counselors, so also in the soul does there exist a third kind, this principle of high spirit, which is the helper of reason by nature unless it is corrupted by evil nurture?

            We have to assume it as a third, he said.

            Yes, said I, provided it shall have been shown to be something different from the rational, as it has been shown to be other than the appetitive.

            That is not hard to be shown, he said, for that much one can see in children, that they are from their very birth chock-full of rage and high spirit, but as for reason, some of them, to my thinking, never participate in it, and the majority quite late.

            Yes, by heaven, excellently said, I replied, and further, one could see in animals that what you say is true. And to these instances we may add the testimony of Homer quoted above, 'He smote his breast and chided thus his heart.'†40 For there Homer has clearly represented that in us which has reflected about the better and the worse as rebuking that which feels unreasoning anger as if it were a distinct and different thing.

            You are entirely right, he said.

            Through these waters, then, said I, we have with difficulty made our way and we are fairly agreed that the same kinds equal in number are to be found in the state and in the soul of each one of us.

            That is so (Republic IV 436e-441c).