Anarchic Souls: Plato’s Depiction of the ‘Democratic Man’

Phronesis 58 (2):139-59 (2013)
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Abstract

In books 8 and 9 of Plato’s Republic, Socrates provides a detailed account of the nature and origins of four main kinds of vice found in political constitutions and in the kinds of people that correspond to them. The third of the four corrupt kinds of person he describes is the ‘democratic man’. In this paper, I ask what ‘rules’ in the democratic man’s soul. It is commonly thought that his soul is ruled in some way by its appetitive part, or by a particular class of appetitive desires. I reject this view, and argue instead that his soul is ruled by a succession of desires of a full range of different kinds. I show how this view helps us better understand Plato’s depiction of corrupt souls in the Republic more generally, and with it his views on the rule of the soul, appetitive desire, and the nature of vice.

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Mark Johnstone
McMaster University

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