Republic Outline XIX, Book IV
Prof. Bill Long 9/14/05
Moving from External to Internal Justice, 433d-439e
S has just given his definition of justice, where each person does his/her own work and where justice is, in addition, "the power that makes it possible for them to grow in the city" (443c). In other words, justice is a like a glue that holds society together, or a grease that allows its engine to hum. As such "the power that consists in everyone's doing his own work rivals wisdom, moderation, and courage in its contribution to the virtue of the city" (433e). The role of judges then falls quickly into place. "Won't their sole aim in delivering judgments be that no citizen should have what belongs to another or be deprived of what is his own?" (433e)
Emboldened by this success, S presses on. If a cobbler does the work of a carpenter, it is injustice but it won't hurt the city much. However, if one who is by nature a craftsperson attempts to become a soldier or an unworthy soldier tries to "enter that of the judges and guardians,"..."then I think you'll agree that these exchanges and this sort of meddling bring the city to ruin" (434b). Hence the worst thing that can happen in the city is if "meddling and exchange" take place, which S calls injustice.
Now that justice has been defined, and the centrality of keeping to one's task has been stressed, we can return to the method S articulated back in Book II. "We thought that, if we first tried to observe justice in some larger thing that possessed it, this would make it easier to observe in a single individual" (435d). So, what to do? "Let's apply what has come to light in the city to an individual, and if it is accepted there, it will be well" (435e).
Plato's Tripartite Psychology (Theory of the Soul)
The task before S, then, is to try to project the city that has been generated on a large intellectual canvas back into the soul. We know that S's city had three natural classes within it. Does that mean that the soul has three parts to it or not? (435c) But S says that he needs to investigate that question and "will never get a precise answer using our present methods of argument" (435d). I suppose what he means is that we can't "prove" the tripartite nature of the soul by simply imagining it to be the so, as in the case of the kallipolis. S says he needs to take a "longer and fuller" road to get us there (435d). I will abbreviate some of Plato's treatment here, because the argument is quite involved, but I hope to highlight the significant points.
S warns us that we are in for a hard road (436a). The first question he asks, then, is whether we, who have a "spirited" capacity, a "love of learning" and a "love of money," do or have all these things "with the same part of ourselves, or do we do them with three different parts?" (436a) By the way, these three capacities are derived not abstractly but by examining the lives and characteristics of various groups of people (e.g., the Scythians, the Greeks, the Eqyptians). So, the question is a good one. Are we basically actors who act "with the whole of our soul" or "do we learn with one part, get angry with another, and with some third part desire the pleasures of food, drink, sex...?" (436a-b).
S then states a rule that, by itself, doesn't seem to make much sense but will be important for him as the argument progresses. That rule is: "It is obvious that the same thing will not be willing to do or undergo opposites in the same part of itself, in relation to the same thing, a the same time" (436b). Thus, if this happens, we know we are dealing with more than one part. S warned us this would be hard!
But the crucial move S makes in argument in 'discovering' a tripartite soul comes in 437a-b when he probes pairs of opposites in the human mind: "assent and dissent, wanting to have something and rejecting it, taking something and pushing it away" (437b). What is it in the soul that enables these contrary desires to exist? It is something that S calls the "appetites." He asks rhetorically: "Wouldn't you say that the soul of someone who has an appetite for a thing wants what he has an appetite for and takes to himself what it is his will to have..?" (437c). S concludes: "Then won't we say that there is a class of things called appetites and that the clearest examples are hunger and thirst?" (437d).
He then goes into a seemingly longer discussion than necessary of the fact that an appetite is just a longing or desire for a generic thing (such as drink or food) instead of good food or drink (438a). After a long section, which I don't really understand at this point but Professor Reeve says is provided to lay the groundwork for rejecting the hypothesis that weakness of will is impossible (p. 113, n.9), S returns to this same point in 439: "thirst itself isn't for much or little good or bad, or in a word, for drink of a particular sort. Rather, thirst itself is in the nature only for drink itself" (439a).
Finally, Getting Somewhere
S's breakthrough in deducing other parts of the soul comes in the following question: "Therefore, if something draws it back when it is thirsting, wouldn't that be something different in it from whatever thirsts and drives it like a beast to drink?" (439b) That is, S is pointing out the common phenomenon where we have an experience of desiring something (i.e., the "appetitive" part of our soul is engaged) but, at the same time, of holding back from that desire. He poses the question precisely, "Isn't it that there is something in their soul, bidding them to drink, and something different (my italics), forbidding them to do so, that overrules the thing that bids?" (439c). The thing that forbids "if it comes into play at all--[is] as a result of rational calculation" (439d). Now S has discovered the second part of the soul. He declares:
"Hence it isn't unreasonable for us to claim that they are two, and different from one another. We'll call the part of the soul with which it calculates the rational part and the part with which it lusts, hungers, thirsts, and gets excited by other appetites the irrational appetitive part..." (439d).
Then, S poses the question regarding what he calls the "spirited part." The spirited part is that by which we get angry or show emotion. Is it "a third part or is it of the same nature of either of the other two?" (439d). S closes with a story that is so memorable that I think I will begin my next (and last) essay on Book IV with it.
Copyright © 2004-2007 William R. Long