Plato’s Tripartite Conception of the Soul Conception of the Soul and the Inner Order of the SoulJune 27, 2021
What is to be understood by the expression “order of the soul” and how can this order be achieved? The expression “organization of the soul” implies that it is made up of various parts and that these parts must be in correct relation to each other.
Plato exemplifies this subject with a myth in his Phaedrus. In this myth, the soul is compared to a chariot consisting of two winged horses, one black and the other white, and a driver. The white one of these horses is extremely docile and obeys the instructions of his rider. However, the black horse always acts against the instructions of the coachman with a vicious attitude (Phaedrus, 246 b).
According to this myth, all souls go beyond the sky after the perfect chariots of the gods, and those who can manage their chariots well, go to the top of the sky with the gods and see the truths, that is, the ideas. With this view, their wings are fed and they return to the earth in a strengthened state. The myth is based on the assumption that a person who regulates his soul properly can easily acquire knowledge of truths, so that the problems of knowledge and morality are not separate from each other. Based on this analogy, the soul exhibits a three-part structure;
a) Smart part (to logistikon).
b) The dashing piece (to tumoeides).
c) The part that has an appetite, desires (to epitymethicon).
The appetizing, desiring part is the birthplace of all pleasures and pains and corresponds to the stomach or diaphragm in the human body. The heart part, which expresses itself mostly with anger and assertiveness, corresponds to the heart in the human body. This part, by its nature, tends to act in accordance with the dictates of reason (Devlet, 441 e). The intelligent part is the part that corresponds to the head in the human body and is the center of all intellectual activities in the soul. When considered in line with these explanations, the bold and assertive part corresponds to the benign white horse depicted in Phaedrus, the appetite and impulse part associated with bodily pleasures and pains, the black horse in Phaedrus, and the mind part of the head corresponds to the driver. The mind part of them is immortal. The other two parts disappear with the death of the body.
Plato argues that if these parts know their limits and are in their natural state, truth, justice and virtue will be realized in the soul. The intelligent part must by nature dominate the other parts, while the other parts by their nature must submit to it. According to Plato, it is beneficial and profitable for everything on earth to be under the command of reason. Because the power that informs everything about its limits and nature and organizes everything in the most appropriate way is the mind. Not only Plato’s moral understanding, but perhaps his whole philosophy can be based on this acceptance; “while all things were in a state of confusion, reason put them in order” (Guthrie, 1978: 247).
It is possible to see the reflections of this understanding in Plato’s understanding of spirit, site and universe. Plato explained the order of all these structures, which he thought were formed by the coming together of various parts, with the dominance of the part of the mind they contained over the other parts. For example; The part that is wise in the soul controls the other parts. Philosophers who stand out with their wisdom on the site rule other social segments. Demiourgos, who represents the divine mind in the universe, gives form and order to the chaotic proto-matter, which has no shape, form or quality. Thus, the mind becomes the main cause of order in the soul, in the city, and in the whole universe.
Plato’s entire philosophy can be based on the assumption that reason is not eternal, but the explanatory and cause of every order that has come into existence later.
The reflection of this understanding in the soul is that the mind takes the heart part with it, curbing the appetites and desires and taking them under its control. When the impulse part, which is mortal by nature and most similar to the bodily part of the spirit, submits to the part of the mind, which is the part of the spirit that is most similar to the divine, that is, the human being is purified from bodily elements as much as possible and gains an idea-like, divine appearance. Plato’s morality suggests a measured life in which the soul’s appetites and desires are restrained as much as possible.
Another point that should be especially noted here is that the Intellect derives its organizing power from the ideas, both in the soul, in the city, and in the whole universe (it is clear that here, unlike the previous ones, we are talking about a divine mind). Thus, while Anaxagoras’ Nous takes its ordering from its own nature, Plato’s spirit owes its ordering to the knowledge of truth and the application of this knowledge. The main function of the human soul is to contemplate the ideas and repeat the divine order in them, first in the soul and then in the site. Of course, the absolute order of the ideas cannot be replicated competently in the spirit or on the site, but the imitation and repetition of this order is intended, albeit partially. In this way, man will be able to establish the divine order in the universe within himself and transfer it to the site from there.
Then, Plato’s ultimate aim is to organize the soul in accordance with the ideas and to base this order on the city order. With this feature, the soul is the embodiment of ideas.