Rational SoulApr 29th, 2006
Thus, the analogy holds. In addition to the physical body, which corresponds to the land, buildings, and other material resources of a city, Plato held that every human being includes three souls (Gk. yuch [psychê]) that correspond to the three classes of citizen within the state, each of them contributing in its own way to the successful operation of the whole person.
* The rational soul (mind or intellect) is the thinking portion within each of us, which discerns what is real and not merely apparent, judges what is true and what is false, and wisely makes the rational decisions in accordance with which human life is most properly lived.
* The spirited soul (will or volition), on the other hand, is the active portion; its function is to carry out the dictates of reason in practical life, courageously doing whatever the intellect has determined to be best.
* Finally, the appetitive soul (emotion or desire) is the portion of each of us that wants and feels many things, most of which must be deferred in the face of rational pursuits if we are to achieve a salutary degree of self-control.
In the Phaedrus, Plato presented this theory even more graphically, comparing the rational soul to a charioteer whose vehicle is drawn by two horses, one powerful but unruly (desire) and the other disciplined and obedient (will).
On Plato's view, then, an human being is properly said to be just when the three souls perform their proper functions in harmony with each other, working in consonance for the good of the person as a whole.
Rational Soul (Thinking)
Wisdom Spirited Soul (Willing)
Courage Appetitive Soul (Feeling)
As in a well-organized state, the justice of an individual human being emerges only from the interrelationship among its separate components. (Republic 443d)
Plato's account of a tripartite division within the self has exerted an enormous influence on the philosophy of human nature in the Western tradition. Although few philosophers whole-heartedly adopt his hypostasization of three distinct souls, nearly everyone acknowledges some differentiation among the functions of thinking, willing, and feeling. (Even in The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy's quest depends upon the cooperation of her three friends—Scarecrow, Lion, and Tin Woodsman—each of whom exemplifies one of the three aspects of human nature.) Perhaps any adequate view of human life requires some explanation or account (Gk. logos [logos]) of how we incorporate intellect, volition, and desire in the whole of our existence.
In the context of his larger argument, Plato's theory of human nature provides the foundation for another answer to the question of why justice is better than injustice. On the view developed here, true justice is a kind of good health, attainable only through the harmonious cooperative effort of the three souls. In an unjust person, on the other hand, the disparate parts are in perpetual turmoil, merely coexisting with each other in an unhealthy, poorly-functioning, dis-integrated personality. Plato developed this theme in greater detail in the final books of The Republic.