[1.2.2] Plato on the Soul

Plato (429?-347 BC) in Book 4 of the Republic presents a theory, which states that the human soul has three main parts: reason, spirit, and appetite.
In Book 5 he maps the objects of the Intelligible and Visible realms known from the Two World Theory to different subordinated faculties of the soul, faculties, which are aimed to handle these objects.

REASON (logos)Intelligible (high)Knowledge, forms – grasped with the help of recollection and the lower-level faculties
THINKING (dianoia) Intelligible (low)Hypothesis, scientific knowledge
BELIEF (pistis) Visible (high) Ordinary physical objects
IMAGINATION (phantasia) Visible (low) Images, shadows of ordinary physical objects

The following UML Use Case diagram shows the main concepts in Plato’s philosophy of mind – as presented in different works:

Plato on soul
FacultyRelated Use Case
SENSE PERCEPTIONSENSE PERCEPTION gets information about ordinary objects (particulars):Perception, unlike discursive thought or belief, is aligned not with the so-called rational part of the soul, but with the desiderative part…, the senses are disparaged as a source of confusion and falsehood. The senses mislead us.” The cause of this misleading is the fact that we perceive particulars, ordinary material objects, not Forms.
APPETITEAPPETITE (epithumêtikon) gives rise to desire for instant gratification through food, drink, sex…
SPIRIT SPIRIT aiming/motivating for esteem by others: “The natural attachment of spirit [thumoeides] is to honor and, more generally, to recognition and esteem by others”
REASONUse REASON (logos) to generate Knowledge (nous): ” Reason is the part of the soul that is, of its own nature, attached to knowledge and truth. It is also, however, concerned to guide and regulate the life that it is, or anyhow should be, in charge of, ideally in a way that is informed by wisdom and that takes into consideration the concerns both of each of the three parts separately and of the soul as a whole”
RECOLLECTIONRECOLLECTION of what it once grasped of the forms:recollection… our disembodied, immortal souls have seen the Forms prior to their incarceration in the body. If Forms are the (basic) objects of knowledge, and Forms are not in the physical world, then we must have acquired that knowledge at some point prior to our commerce with that world.”
THINKING Generate hypothesis through THINKING (dianoia): A critical question then is how one obtains the appropriate kind of justification to tie down or convert a belief into knowledge. Plato offers little in the way of detail on this score, but twice he alludes to a method of hypothesis, suggesting both in the Phaedo and Republic that hypotheses and their ultimately being rendered ‘non-hypothetical’ is part of the process by which one comes to know a Form.”
IMAGINATIONUse IMAGINATION (eikasia) to grasp images: “there is the intelligible realm and the visible realm… At the bottom of the visible one finds images, shadows and such. Set over the images is the faculty of eikasia, imagination.”
BELIEFUse BELIEF (pistis) to grasp properties of ordinary objects: “there is the intelligible realm and the visible realm… The ordinary physical objects of which the images are images occupy the upper portion. Set over the physical world is the faculty of pistis, literally faith or conviction, but generally regarded as belief.


First published: 10/01/2019

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