Plato’s Republic introduces a multitude of important and interesting concepts, of topics ranging from music, to gender equality, to political regime. For this reason, many philosophers and scholars still look back to The Republic in spite of its age. Yet one part that stands out in particular is Plato’s discussion of the soul in the fourth book of the Republic. Not only is this section interesting, but it was also extremely important for all proceeding moral philosophy, as Plato’s definition has been used ever since as a standard since then. Plato’s confabulation on the soul contains three main portions: defining each of the three parts and explanation of their functions, description of the interaction of the parts, and then how the the parts and their interaction motivate action. This essay will investigate each segment, and seek to explain their importance.
For Plato, the soul is considered to have three parts: the appetitive or the passions, the spirited part or the will, the reasonable part or the intellect. The appetitive deals with the bodily necessities and desires. The appetite is often considered base or even sinful, but is clearly not so for Aristotle: the passions merely demonstrate a person’s basic necessities, which one can not consider without considering the human person in the same way. The spirited part reacts to injustices or incorrectness in one’s surroundings, and it is often described as the “angry” part, as anger deal with perception of injustice as well. The reasonable part concerns itself with finding the truth and distinguishing it from falsities, and is often considered both the highest and hardest to perfect part of the soul. Each part has its own intricacies and specifics, allowing them to aid the human person in different ways.
The appetite is perhaps the most controversial of the parts of the platonic soul, since it is the part that one can most easily observed leading oneself to wrong. For instance, consider an employee who has been assigned a project by his boss. The employee has been planning out the work he has to do, and has completed everything but one or two key parts, which can be left until the last night. However, on that night, the employee is invited by his friends to watch and tailgate for a football game, which he is lead to accept by council from his passions. This council, however, will also lead him to not complete the work project. On top of commonly being observed as at fault, the passions do not seem to have any apparent benefit either, as the appetite only directs one’s attention to his base needs, and not to higher pleasures or practices like the will and reason does.
So, in the Platonic view, what is the worth of the appetite? Plato does not specifically enter the topic in his Republic, but the reader is able to come across a few conclusions from what is said. First, from all the time that Plato spends discussing and teaching about them, it is not likely (though still technically possible) for...