In his second cluster of doctrinal objections to the dating of the Phaedrus as Plato’s first dialogue, Temptation and inner conflict, Richard Sorabji emphasizes the simplicity of the Protagoras and the Gorgias in comparison to the more sophisticated Republic 435-441 and Phaedrus: ‘The latter are helped to take a more sophisticated view partly by their recognizing three parts in the soul.’
In Republic 435-441 Plato presents the proof of the tripartite division of the soul. He arrived at this point as follows. Glaucon and Adeimantus, Plato’s two brothers, charged Socrates in Book II with the task ‘in the first place, to inquire thoroughly into the nature of justice and injustice (diereunȇsasthai ti te estin hekateron), and secondly, to discover the truth about their relative advantages’ (kai peri tȇs ȏphelias autoin t’alȇthes poterȏs echei, 368c5-7, tr. is Jowett’s, as will be all the forthcoming translations from the Republic in this post).
Socrates expects the search to be difficult, and since ‘justice is sometimes spoken of as the virtue of an individual (dikaiosunȇ esti men andros henos), and sometimes as the virtue of a State (esti de pou kai holȇs poleȏs), a State is larger than an individual (meizon polis henos andros), justice is likely to be more abundant and more easily discernible in the larger, (isȏs toinun pleiȏn an dikaiosunȇ en tȏi meizoni eneiȇ kai raiȏn katamathein)’, he suggests: ‘I propose therefore that we inquire into the nature of justice and injustice, first as they appear in the State (ei oun boulesthe, prȏton en tais polesi zȇtȇsȏmen poion ti estin), and secondly in the individual (epeita houtȏs episkepsȏmetha kai en heni hekastȏi), proceeding from the greater to the lesser and comparing them (tȇn tou meizonos homoiotȇta en tȇi tou elattonos ideai episkopountes).’ (368e2-369a3)
To accomplish this task, Socrates decided ‘to construct as good a State as we could (kai houtȏ ȏikizomen hȏs edunametha aristȇn [tȇn polin]), knowing well that in the good one justice would be found (eu eidotes hoti en ge tȇi agathȇi an eiȇ [hȇ dikaiosunȇ], 434e1-2)’. The best State consists of three classes, traders (chrȇmatistikou), auxiliaries (epikourikou), and guardians (philakikou genous), and the justice is defined as ‘each of these classes doing their own business in the State’ (hekastou toutȏn to hautou prattontos en polei, 434c7-9). The question Socrates investigates next is, ‘whether the soul has these three principles or not (peri psuchȇs, eite echei ta tria eidȇ tauta en autȇi eite mȇ, 435c5-6)’, and so he asks ‘whether we learn with one part of our nature, are angry with another (manthanomen men heterȏi, thumoumetha de allȏi tȏn en hȇmin), and with a third part desire the satisfaction of our natural appetites (epithumoumen d’ au tritȏi tini tȏn peri tȇn trophȇn te kai gennȇsin hȇdonȏn kai hosa toutȏn adelpha); or whether the whole soul comes into play in each sort of action (ȇ holȇi tȇi psuchȇi kath’ hekaston autȏn prattomen, hotan hormȇsȏmen, 436a8-b2).’
To solve this problem, Socrates formulates the following principle: ‘Clearly the same thing cannot act or be acted upon in the same part or in relation to the same thing at the same time, in contrary ways (Dȇlon hoti t’auton t’anantia poiein ȇ paschein kata t’auton ge kai pros t’auton ouk ethelȇsei hama); and therefore (hȏste) whenever this contradiction occurs in things apparently the same (an pou heuriskȏmen en autois tauta gignomena), we know (eisometha) that they are really not the same (hoti ou t’auton ȇn), but different (alla pleiȏ, 436b8-c1).’
James Adam notes ad loc. that this ‘is the earliest explicit statement in Greek literature of the maxim of Contradiction’. (Op. cit. [in my previous posts], vol. I, p. 246)
Socrates: ‘The soul of the thirsty one (Tou dipsȏntos hȇ psuchȇ), in so far as he is thirsty (kath’ hoson dipsȇi), desires only drink (ouk allo ti bouletai ȇ piein); for this she yearns (kai toutou oregetai), and for this she strives (kai epi touto hormai) … And if you suppose something which pulls a thirsty soul away from drink (Oukoun ei pote ti autȇn anthelkei dipsȏsan), that must be different (heteron an ti en autȇi eiȇi) from the thirsty principle which draws him like a beast to drink (autou tou dipsȏntos kai agontos hȏsper thȇrion epi to piein – there is nothing in Socrates’ Greek that entitles Jowett to view ‘the thirsting’ as a principle); for, as we were saying, the same thing cannot at the same time with the same part of itself act in contrary ways about the same (ou gar dȇ, phamen, to ge auto tȏi autȏi heautou peri to auto ham’ an t’anantia prattoi) … Now are there times when men are thirsty (Poteron dȇ phȏmen tinas estin hote dipsȏntas), and yet unwilling to drink (ouk ethelein piein;)? … And in such a case what is one to say (Ti oun phaiȇ tis an toutȏn peri)? Would you not say that there was something in the soul bidding a man to drink, and something else forbidding him (ouk eneinai men en tȇi psuchȇi autȏn to keleuon, eneinai de to kȏluon piein), which is other and stronger than the principle which bids him (allo on kai kratoun tou keleuontos – again, there is no ground for translating to keleuon, ‘that which is bidding’ as a principle)? … And the prohibition in such cases is derived from reasoning (Ar’ oun ou to men kȏluon ta toiauta engignetai, hotan engenȇtai, ek logismou), whereas the motives which lead (ta de agonta) and attract (kai helkonta ‘and dragging’) proceed from passions and diseases (dia pathȇmatȏn te kai nosȇmatȏn paragignetai)? … Then we may fairly assume that they are two (Ou dȇ alogȏs axiȏsomen auta ditta te), and that they differ from one another (kai hetera allȇlȏn einai); the one with which a man reasons (to men hȏi logizetai), we may call thee rational principle of the soul (logistikon prosagoreuontes tȇs psuchȇs), the other, with which he loves (to de hȏi erai te) and hungers (kai peinȇi) and thirsts (kai dipsȇi) and feels the flutterings of any other desire (kai peri tas allas epithumias eptoȇtai), may be termed the irrational or appetitive (alogiston te kai epithumȇtikon), the ally of sundry pleasures and satisfactions (plȇrȏseȏn tinȏn kai hȇdonȏn hetairon) … So much (Tauta men), then (toinun), for the definition of two of the principles existing in the soul (duo hȇmin hȏristhȏ eidȇ en psuchȇi enonta ‘let there be defined these two kinds existing in the soul’). And what now of passion, or spirit (to de dȇ tou thumou kai hȏi thumoumetha)? Is it a third (poteron triton) or akin to one of the preceding (ȇ toutȏn poterȏi an eiȇ homophues)?’ (439a9-e4)
That thumos (the spirited part of the soul) and to epithumȇtikon (the appetitive part of the soul) are separate entities Socrates proves as follows: ‘Well (Alla), there is a story which I remember to have heard, and in which I put faith (pote akousas ti pisteuȏ toutȏi). The story is, that Leontius, the son of Aglaion (hȏs ara Leontios ho Aglaїȏnos), coming up one day from the Piraeus (aniȏn ek Peiraiȏs), under the north wall on the outside (hupo to boreion teichos ektos), observed some dead bodies (aisthomenos nekrous) lying on the ground at the place of execution (para tȏi dȇmiȏi keimenous). He felt a desire to see them, and also a dread and abhorrence of them (hama men idein epithumoi, hama de au duscherainoi kai apotrepoi heauton); for a time he struggled (kai teȏs men machoito te) and covered his eyes (kai parakaluptoito), but at length the desire got the better of him (kratoumenos d’oun hupo tȇs epithumias); and forcing them open (dielkusas tous ophthalmous), he ran up to the dead bodies (prosdramȏn pros tous nekrous), saying, Look, ye wretches (“Idou humin”, ephȇ, “ȏ kakodaimones), take your full of the fair sight (emplȇsthȇte tou kalou theamatos”) … The moral of the tale is (Houtos mentoi ho logos sȇmainei) that anger at times goes to war with desire (tȇn orgȇn polemein eniote tais epithumiais), as though they were two distinct things (hȏs allo on allȏi) … And are there not many other cases in which we observe (Oukoun kai allothi pollachou aisthanometha) that when a man’s desires violently prevail over his reason (hotan biazȏntai tina para ton logismon epithumiai), he reviles himself (loidorounta te hauton), and is angry at the violence within him (kai thumoumenon tȏi biazomenȏi en hautȏi), and that in this struggle, which is like the struggle of factions in a State, his spirit is on the side of his reason (kai hȏsper duoin stasiazontoin summachon tȏi logȏi gignomenon ton thumon tou toioutou;); – but for the passionate or spirited element to take part with the desires (tais d’ epithumiais auton koinȏnȇsanta) when reason decides that she should not be opposed (hairountos logou mȇ dein antiprattein), is a sort of thing which I believe that you never observed occurring in yourself (oimai se ouk an phanai genomenou pote en sautȏi tou toioutou aisthesthai), nor, as I should imagine, in anyone else (oimai oud’ en allȏi)? … When a man thinks that he is the sufferer of the wrong (Ti de hotan adikeisthai tis hȇgȇtai;), then the spirit within him boils and chafes (ouk en toutȏi zei te kai chalepainei), and is on the side of what it believes to be justice (kai summachei tȏi dokounti dikaiȏi); and though it suffers hunger or cold or other pain (kai, dia to peinȇn kai dia to rigoun kai panta ta toiauta paschein), it is only the more determined to persevere and conquer (hupomenȏn kai nikai kai ou lȇgei tȏn gennaiȏn). Such a noble spirit will not be quelled until it has achieved its object (prin an ȇ diapraxȇtai) or been slain (ȇ teleutȇsȇi), or until it has been recalled by the reason within, like a dog by the shepherd (ȇ hȏsper kuȏn hupo nomeȏs hupo tou logou tou par’ hautȏi anaklȇtheis praünthȇi;)?’ – Glaucon: ‘The illustration is perfect (Panu men oun eoike toutȏi hȏi legeis); and in our State, as we were saying (kaitoi g’ en tȇi hȇmeterai polei), the auxiliaries were to be dogs (tous epikourous hȏsper kunas ethemetha), and to hear the voice of the rulers, who are their shepherds (hupȇkoous tȏn archontȏn hȏsper poimenȏn poleȏs).’ (439e6-440d6)
Having observed that ‘in the conflict of the soul spirit is arrayed on the side of the rational principle (auto [to thumoeides] en tȇi tȇs psuchȇs stasei tithesthai ta hopla pros to logistikon)’, Socrates asks ‘whether passion is different from reason also (ar’ oun heteron on [to thumoeides] kai toutou [tou logistikou]), or only a kind of reason (ȇ logistikou ti eidos, 440e8)’. Glaucon says that ‘it must be the third’ (Anankȇ triton, 441a4), and ‘that is easily proved (ou chalepon phanȇnai): – We may observe even in young children (kai gar en tois paidiois an tis idoi) that they are full of spirit almost as soon as they are born (hoti thumou men euthus genomena mesta esti), whereas some of them never seem to attain to the use of reason (logismou d’ enioi men emoige dokousin oudepote metalambanein), and most of them late enough (hoi de polloi opse pote).‘ – Socrates: ‘Excellent (Nai ma Dia, kalȏs ge eipes) and you can see passion equally in brute animals, which is a further proof of the truth of what you are saying (eti de en tois thȇriois an tis idoi ho legeis, hoti houtȏs echei). And we may once more appeal to the words of Homer, which have been already quoted by us (pros de toutois, kai ho anȏ pou eipomen, to tou Homȇrou marturȇsei, to) “He smote his breast, and thus rebuked his heart” (stȇthos de plȇxas kradiȇn ȇnipape muthȏi); for in this verse Homer has clearly supposed the power which reasons about the better and worse to be different from the unreasoning anger which is rebuked by it (entautha gar dȇ saphȏs hȏs heteron heterȏi epiplȇtton pepoiȇken Homȇros to analogisamenon tȏi alogistȏs thumoumenȏi) … And so, after much tossing, we have reached land (Tauta men ara mogis dianeneukamen), and are fairly agreed (kai hȇmin epieikȏs hȏmologȇtai) that the same principles which exist in the State exist also in the individual (ta auta men en polei, ta auta d’ en henos hekastou tȇi posuchȇi genȇ eneinai), and that they are three in number (kai isa ton arithmon).’ (441a7-c7)
Jowett misrepresents Plato’s text when he speaks of epithumȇtikon (the appetitive part) and of thumos (the spirited part) as principles. In the light of Republic X these two lower parts appear to be accretions that do not belong to the immortal soul (611b1-612a6). (See ‘1 Dating of the Phaedrus – doctrinal arguments (the soul in Republic X)’)
In Book IV Socrates prefaced his proof of the tripartite soul with a cautionary observation: ‘And I must impress upon you, Glaucon (kai eu g’ isthi, ȏ Glaukȏn), that in my opinion (hȏs hȇ emȇ doxa) our present methods of argument are not at all adequate to the accurate solution of this question (akribȏs men touto ek toioutȏn methodȏn, hoiais nun en tois logois chrȏmetha, ou mȇ pote labȏmen); the true method is another and a longer one (allȇ gar makrotera kai pleiȏn hodos hȇ epi touto agousa, 435c9-d3).’
Adam notes ad loc.: ‘touto in akribȏs men touto and in hȇ epi touto agousa ought, so far as grammar goes, to mean the question whether the soul has tria eidȇ (‘three kinds’) or not. But the makrotera periodos (‘the longer method’) in VI 504 B ff., where Plato expressly refers back to this passage, eschews the psychological problem altogether. The makrotera periodos of Books VI-VII is in harmony with the present enquiry in so far as it seeks to determine the nature of Justice and the other virtues (VI 504 D, 506 A), but it is nowhere in the Republic expressly used either to confirm or to overthrow the triple division of soul which is here propounded … The only way out of these difficulties is to suppose that touto here was not intended by Plato to refer to the psychological, but to the ethical question, to which the psychological enquiry is introductory. Touto must then be taken as dikaiosunȇs te peri kai sȏphrosunȇs kai andreias kai sophias ho hekaston esti [‘concerning justice and temperance and courage and wisdom, what each is’ (VI 504 A)’ (Op. cit. p. 244)
Pace Adam, there is no need to replace the clear reference of touto in Book IV 435d1 and d3 to the question ‘whether the soul has tria eidȇ (‘three kinds’) or not’ by construing a new reference for it from Book VI 504 A. The difficulties to which Adam points can be solved if we pay closer attention to Plato’s makrotera periodos (‘the longer method’) in Books VI and VII.
In Book VI, at 504a4-b3 Socrates says to Adeimantus: ’You may remember (Mnȇmoneueis men pou) that we divided the soul into three parts (hoti tritta eidȇ psuchȇs diastȇsamenoi); and, by relating them to each other, distinguished the several natures of justice, temperance, courage, and wisdom (sunebibazomen dikaiosunȇs te peri kai sȏphrosunȇs kai andreias kai sophias ho hekaston eiȇ)? …And do you remember the word of caution which preceded the discussion of them (Ê kai to prorrȇthen autȏn;) … We were saying, if I am not mistaken (Elegomen pou), that he who wanted to see them in their perfect beauty must take a longer and more circuitous way (hoti hȏs men dunaton ȇn kallista auta katidein allȇ makrotera eiȇ periodos), at the end of which they would appear (hȇn perielthonti kataphanȇ gignoito).’
Jowett’s ‘to see them in their perfect beauty’ for kallista auta katidein is misleading. Plato does not propose to see the three parts of the soul and the four virtues ‘in their perfect beauty’ – no such thing is offered in the ‘longer and more circuitous way’. He proposes to see them in the best way possible: hȏs men dunaton ȇn kallista auta katidein. Similarly, he does not say ‘at the end of which they would appear’, he says ‘at the end of which it would appear.’ Concerning these, what would appear by virtue of the ‘longer and more circuitous way’, we learn in Book VII, when Socrates speaks of its culmination, of seeing the Good.
‘Our argument (Ho de ge nun logos) shows (sȇmainei) that the power and capacity of learning exists in the soul already (tautȇn tȇn enousan hekastou dunamin en tȇi psuchȇi kai to organon hȏi katamanthanei hekastos); and that just as if it were not possible to turn the eye from darkness to light without the whole body (hoion ei omma mȇ dunaton ȇn allȏs ȇ sun holȏi tȏi sȏmati strephein pros to phanon ek tou skotȏdous), so too the instrument of knowledge can only by the movement of the whole soul be turned from the world of becoming to that of being (houtȏ sun holȇi tȇi psuchȇi ek tou gignomenou periakteon einai), and learn by degrees to endure the sight of being, and of the brightest and best of being (heȏs an eis to on kai tou ontos to phanotaton dunatȇ genȇtai anaschesthai theȏmenȇ), or in other words, of the good (touto d’ einai phamen t’agathon, 518c4-d1).
The immortal soul, which we can see by virtue of the ‘longer road’, is unitary. Socrates does not speak here explicitly about the two lower ‘parts of the soul’, their bodily nature is nevertheless indicated implicitly when he contrast the intellectual virtue with virtues he discussed in Book IV: ‘And whereas the other so-called virtues of the soul (Hai men toinun allai aretai kaloumenai psuchȇs) seem to be akin to bodily qualities (kinduneuousin engus ti einai tȏn tou sȏmatos, 518d9-10).’