A More 'Exact Grasp' of the Soul? Tripartition of the Soul in Republic IV and Dialectic in the Philebus

In Kurt Pritzl (ed.), Truth. Catholic University of America Press. pp. 57-135 (2010)
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At Republic 435c-d and again at 504b-e, Plato has Socrates object to the city/soul analogy and declare that a “longer way” is necessary for gaining a more “exact grasp” of the soul. I argue that it is in the Philebus, in Socrates’ presentation of the “god-given” method of dialectic and in his distinctions of the kinds of pleasure and knowledge, that Plato offers the resources for reaching this alternative account. To show this, I explore (1) the limitations of the tripartition of the soul that Socrates’ own objections in the Republic suggest, (2) the route of the “longer way” through the Eleatic dialogues to the Philebus, (3) the procedures that constitute the “god-given” method and the structure of the eidetic field it discloses, and (4) the resources that, considered in light of the method, Socrates’ distinctions of the kinds of pleasure and knowledge provide for the more “exact grasp” of the soul.

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Mitchell Miller
Vassar College


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