Tyrannized Souls: Plato's Depiction of the ‘Tyrannical Man’

British Journal for the History of Philosophy 23 (3):423-437 (2015)
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In book 9 of Plato's Republic, Socrates describes the nature and origins of the ‘tyrannical man’, whose soul is said to be ‘like’ a tyrannical city. In this paper, I examine the nature of the ‘government’ that exists within the tyrannical man's soul. I begin by demonstrating the inadequacy of three potentially attractive views sometimes found in the literature on Plato: the view that the tyrannical man's soul is ruled by his ‘lawless’ unnecessary appetites, the view that it is ruled by sexual desire, and the view that it is ruled by a lust for power. I then present my own account. On the view I defend, the tyrannical man's soul is to be understood as ruled by a single, persistent, powerful desire for bodily pleasure: as much as he can get, and however he can get it. Finally, I show how understanding the tyrannical man's soul in the way I recommend helps resolve some commonly expressed concerns about this part of the Republic. I suggest, on this basis, that Plato's procedure in constructing his catalogue o..

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Mark Johnstone
McMaster University


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