Theories Of The Soul In Phaedo And The Republic

Plato was interested in understanding the nature of the soul. It would seem that he developed various approaches to understand the association the soul the mortal human body. This paper will discuss the Phaedo and the Republic to theories of the soul.

In the Phaedo Plato was primarily concerned with understanding whether the soul was a unitary or composite. He found that the soul is a representative of reason such that it is immortal and unitary. In comparison, the body is distinctly different. It is perishable (mortal), composite and can perish into its individual parts.

Each of the ‘forms’ is constant and understood only through reason. The same goes for particular situations that can be perceived- they never remain the same. Hence, from this we understand that two kinds of substances exist, those that may be invisible and unchanging, while others are visible and changing. Relating this to the human body, a similar distinction can be seen in humans: soul (mind) versus our body, respectively.

Further discussion shows that the soul uses the body as its tool to discover and investigate the physical world. The soul is still in its functionality, here as the body seems alive so long as it is united with a soul. That is, the body is controlled by the soul, similar to how something divine would have power over a mortal. The soul is divine. “The soul is more like the divine, deathless, intelligible, uniform, indissoluble, always the same as itself, whereas the body is most like that which is human, mortal, multiform, unintelligible, soluble and never consistently the same”.

This is where the affinity argument comes in. According to this argument the soul is imperishable, intelligent and not perceptible by humans. The soul uses of the senses and attends to perceptibles, “it strays and is confused and dizzy, as if it were drunk”.

The conclusion is, hence, that the importance of philosophy is tangential to practicing death. While the soul controls the body, it is also tied to it. It can only depart after the fall of the body .

Two philosophers at the time, Simmias and Cebes, had alternate views. Simmias’ argued that the soul could be like an a linkage. Attunement “is something invisible, without body, beautiful and divine in the attuned lyre, whereas the lyre itself and its strings are physical, bodily, composite, earthy and akin to what is mortal”. Hence, while the properties he describes are similar to Plato’s his Simmias’ explanation is direct connection with the example he uses. This in turn makes the version different because he argues that while the soul is immortal, it is not reasonable to assume that it can exist without it’s lyre (body).

Cebes’ argued that the soul to be like a weaver. He explains that the soul to be the weaver to a cloak, which would be the body. He thinks the soul is “stronger and much more lasting than the body”. However, according to him, the argument from resemblance “is much as if one said at the death of an old weaver that the man had not perished but was safe and sound somewhere, and offered as proof the fact that the cloak the old man had woven himself and was wearing was still sound and had not perished. If one was not convinced, he would be asked whether a man lasts longer than a cloak which is in use and being worn, and if the answer was that a man lasts much longer, this would be taken as proof that the man was definitely safe and sound, since the more temporary thing had not perished.” 

The weaver is likely to last longer than any cloak he makes. That being said, the weaver will eventually die. Similarity he argues that while the soul resembles the immortal relative to the body, it is not. It too will die with or before its last body. Regardless, “any man who faces death with confidence is foolish, unless he can prove that the soul is altogether immortal”.

In the Republic, Plato examines various features associated with the soul. This is done in relation to justice and injustice which is in turn linked to the theme of virtues and continues.

There are three parts of the soul: rational (reason), spirit (emotion) and appetitive (desires).

Gluacon says that we should group spirit with appetitive. However, there are instances when spirit can be opposed to appetite. Leontius on seeing corpses, doesn’t want to look, yet is intrigued to look at them. Furthermore, there is a possibility that spirit is reason. It is also true that spirit can be present even when reason is present. An example of this is child's anger. Hence, it can be said that spirit is different from both rational and appetite. From this it can be derived that the human mind can be equated to a city arises).

Plato described a society where all citizens are divided into one of three groups: guardians (rulers) auxiliaries (military) and mercantiles (everyone else). The four virtues are wisdom, courage, temperance, justice. A city turns out to be wise if its guardians possess knowledge. The same city may be courageous if its auxiliaries are brave. Moderation is when the better part is in control of the worse part, that is, reason controls desires. Justice will be in the city if everyone doing that for which they are properly suited - this is relational. He explains how the worst scenario would be if the craftspeople; Mercantile become rulers: Guardians. The city can be used to draw the meaning of justice in an individual. In accordance to this, injustice would be a kind of civil war between the three parts. Justice, on the other hand, is psychic health.

While in the Phaedo, there is a clear distinction between the soul and the body. Here the rational part of the soul is explored. In the Republic the soul is embodied; our spirit and appetite are embodied. Auxiliaries would not be required if there were no mercantiles.

The Republic suggests that in principle all mental functions are singularly connected to the soul. This is in agreement with the unitary model of the soul found in the Phaedo, but more extensively. Additionally, the Republic elaborates on the different kinds of desires and the implications a soul (in perfect condition) would imply.

It does not seem like the two theories can be reconciled. The soul, as Plato conceives of it in the Phaedo, is hence mainly attributed with cognitive and intellectual features. Its ability to reason depends on the senses; something that controls the body and its desires, “especially if it is a wise soul”. This may involve good judgment, in relation to the virtues such as temperance, justice and courage . Here, it is important to note that the soul is not simply the mind, but both broader and narrower than that.

Plato’s Republic seems to have a more robust approach in comparison. However, the conception of the soul explained in the Republic is broader than our concept of mind. But if it is soul that accounts for the life of humans, for example, then must the human soul should account not only for mental functions like desire, but also for other functions. Hence, it is not clear how the soul is related to a broad range of activities that are importantly invested in the lives of organisms like humans that are ensouled. This shows that Plato's theory of the soul here is not completely developed.

The flaws observed in both the Phaedo and Republic do not allow either of them to reconcile with one another. 

16 December 2021
Your Email

By clicking “Send”, you agree to our Terms of service and  Privacy statement. We will occasionally send you account related emails.

close thanks-icon

Your essay sample has been sent.

Order now
Still can’t find what you need?

Order custom paper and save your time
for priority classes!

Order paper now