Soul Division and Mimesis in Republic X

In Pierre Destrée & Fritz Gregor Herrmann (eds.), Plato and the Poets. pp. 283-298 (2011)
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It is well known that in the Republic, Socrates presents a view of the soul or the psyche according to which it has three distinct parts or aspects, which he calls the reasoning, spirited, and appetitive parts. Socrates’ clearest characterization of these parts of the soul occurs in Republic IX, where he suggests that they should be understood in terms of the various goals or ends that give rise to the particular desires that motivate our actions. In Republic X, however, Socrates uses the phenomenon of cognitive conflict about matters of fact to show that the soul has only two parts, the rational and the irrational. Moreover, he characterizes these parts in terms of cognitive tendencies, such as forming beliefs on the basis of reason versus forming beliefs on the basis of perceptual appearances. In this chapter, I explain how these divergent accounts of the soul and its parts are legitimate alternative characterizations. A consequence of my argument is that we should not think of the divided soul as primarily a division of desires, but rather as a division of cognitive attitudes towards the world, each of which yields different sorts of desires.

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Rachel Singpurwalla
University of Maryland, College Park


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