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The Analysis of the Parts of the Soul

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  1. The Analysis of the Parts of the Soul

First of all, Socrates is attempting to show that the human soul is not an indivisible entity, i.e. it consists of some parts by explaining that “one thing cannot act in opposite ways or exist in opposite states at the same time.” Socrates believes that the human soul has three parts: the appetitive, which longs for carnal pleasures and money, the rational, which aspires to knowledge and truth, and the spiritual, which desires honor. In a just sole, the rational part rules, the appetitive obeys, and the spiritual enhances the rational credo of the rational part.  Honor may be considered only in the light of striving for truth.

To reach his conclusion about reason, desire, and passion, Socrates draws parallels between a human physical need (e.g., a need to quench thirst) and mental ability (reasoning). Since a person, because of some circumstances, may be unwilling to drink even if he or she is thirsty, this implies that there exist two parts of the soul, namely reason and desire (reason, in this case, overcomes desire). Besides, people may feel various emotions caused by certain desires, things, etc., which infers that, apart from desire and reason, the soul also consists of passion (spirit).     

Such a distinction is rather important because it proves that humans rank higher than animals and can aspire not only to gratification of carnal needs but truth and knowledge, which are making humans who they are. For Plato, this distinction is valuable since the tripartite structure of the soul is a matter of individual justice, which significantly contributes to political justice in general. As he says, “Justice is establishing the parts of the soul so that they dominate and are dominated by each other according to nature, injustice so that they rule and are ruled contrary to nature” (Plato, Book IV).

  1. The Good and the Many

Socrates begins his argument stating that there are many things, which can be described and defined and to which “the beautiful” and the “good” are no exception, which infers “that there is a many beautiful and a many good.” Besides, there is an absolute good and an absolute beauty; absoluteness, in this case, presupposes that absolute things “may be brought under a single idea, which is the essence of each.” Further, he suggests that sight is a single sense that requires an additional thing, without which a person cannot see or be seen, i.e. light. Since the sun is the main source of light and a human eye resembles the sun the most, Socrates names the sun “the author of sight” and “the child of the Good.” Socrates concludes that although the idea of good “imparts truth to the known and the power of knowing to the knower” and the good endows all things with knowledge, being, and essence, it is not the essence since the Good itself “far exceeds essence in dignity and power” (Plato, Book VI).

I learned from Socrates’ argument many curious things. First of all, I never thought about what exactly enables us to see, i.e. I disregarded the role of light in the process of seeing. Secondly, I never asked myself, which human organ resembles the sun the most. Thirdly, I was embarrassed by Socrates’ dazzling comparison between the soul and the eye: the soul acquires intelligence when it rests upon the light of being and truth, and it hesitates and “seems to have no intelligence” if it focuses on the twilight of perishing and becoming. Finally, I learned that the sun is “the child of the Good” since it gives life and enables humans to see the world clearly and that the nature of the good is not essential because of the good ranks higher.     



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