’s Essay, Research Paper
Objections to Plato s Three Parts of the Soul
Plato s The Republic is perhaps the first and greatest works written about politics ever. This book, which was written more than 24 centuries ago, is very modern in the sense that it still makes people think the way it did in the 4th century B.C., and although the reader may not always agree with what Plato has to say, he does make some points like no philosopher after him ever will again.
In The Republic Plato discusses everything about society in his time, from justice, to philosopher-rulers to the nature of the human soul to democracy. Although not always very readable, it is very clear what he wants to say when he speaks of the three parts of the soul , which is also the topic of this paper.
He explains first in his book how humans should be raised, why there should be censorship on children s books and what his objections to democracy are, all of this basing on a couple of ideas: that truth is the highest good obtainable, and that all humans are created in the same way. Plato believes that the way all people act is all based on one main idea: the human soul is divided into three parts. The souls of all human beings contain these same parts; only different people are dominated by different parts. These three different parts are:
1) The intellect- this part is to gain knowledge with
2) The heart- this part is to feel empathy, courage and anger with
3) The animal instinct- this part contains the appetites for hunger, sex and so on
Consequently, there are three different kinds of people: one that is dominated by part 1), and this is of the intelligent kind and should be made philosopher king, for only he can study long enough to find the truth, and thus only he can rule a country in such a way that is best for that country. The second type is dominated by part 2), and these people should stick to matters of the heart: fighting for their country, and doing empathy-related matters. The third type is dominated by part 3), and is kind of a horrible type. This type wants power, since it loves to be in control. They should not be allowed to rule though, because decisions are not made out of love for the truth and the benefit of society, but only out of love for immoral and impure things.
Plato comes up with a solution for this: he says that all children should be brainwashed from ever since they are little kids. They should be told that when children are born, they have a heart that either consists of bronze (type 3), silver (type 2) or gold (type 1). The goal of their life is that these children should find out which type they belong to, so that they can do whatever fits them best. Plato also feels that everyone is ruled only by one part of their souls, and that everyone should stick to the type that is ruled by that part.
Now my first objection to this whole idea is that a philosopher who in such a way values truth and wants to base the whole society on truth (and therefore can never live in a democracy where what most people think is considered truth) can never start to build this same society on lies, by telling generation after generation something he considers to be a lie for the benefit of society. Of course as soon as these children find out that what they have believed in all of their lives is a lie, they will riot, especially the children with the heart of gold , as they will, like Plato, attach great value to truth and all related matters. This is a contradiction, where Plato himself does what he despises most.
Furthermore, I think Plato will not manage to make all these children believe this: no child, especially not a smart one will not want to hear that his heart is made of an inferior metal than his friend s one.
Thirdly, Plato leaves no opportunity for people to change: he states that once a child is born this way he has to stay that way. What if an event in a persons life (like death, birth or other events like that) changes that persons character completely; makes someone change from a sweet, understanding person of type 2 to someone who has lost all faith in the world around him and decides to devote his whole life to science and related matters because he feels he will not be hurt as easily?
Lastly, Plato blocks out the possibility that people may have mixed feelings. When we look at for instance (catholic) religious students, who technically are not allowed to fall in love but should devote their whole life to the Church (type 1), we may notice that although they may not always want to, they may have romantic or sexual (type 3) feelings in equal amounts, and thus can not (according to Plato) be dominated by both of these feelings.
Although I do agree with the comments that Plato has on democracy, and the value he attaches to the truth, I find some of his ideas, like this one, quite hard to grasp. His main ideas may seem faultless at first, but when one thinks about it better he leaves open quite some gaps for which he doesn t come up with a good solution.