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In the second book of the Republic Plato describes Glau Khan as assigning to Socrates the universal voice of mankind is always declaring that justice and virtue are honorable. What full of grief and hardship and not the pleasures of vice and injustice are easy to attain and are only condemned by law and opinion that the just and righteous suffer and the wicked prosper. It is the age old complaint of the human race. What will be Plato's onse or to this challenge made not only in his time but through the ages. We know that he will rise to the defense of justice. But what does he mean by justice and how good is he is to the complaint that the life of the person who seeks to live by justice and virtue is rewarded by grief and hardship. His answer takes off from his theory of forms his central theory
in which the world of true reality is the world of unchanging and indestructible forms. The world in which everything that can be named every thing for which there is a concept is represented by its eternal form. The Theory of Forms refuted and rebuked the soffit skepticism about whether true knowledge is possible at all in opposition to the softer skepticism about the very possibility of knowledge as we have seen Plato pointed to the absolutely certain knowledge of the film forum's triangle circle angle which is provided by geometry a knowledge which is absolutely true and absolutely certain the absolutely true and the perfect form corresponding to each of our concepts is knowable by training according to Plato and study on the top most rungs of the ladder of knowledge.
Plato also rejects the Sophos insistence that all standards of justice morality and beauty are merely relative to time place social group or even to the individual Rus they argue Spartans are committed to the standards of authoritarianism and militarism. Well Fenians are committed to the standards of democracy. In opposition to this relativism on the part of the Sophos Plato argues that moral forms such as courage and justice and beauty are knowable as absolute and eternal truths exactly as the forms of geometry or astronomy as circles and stars are known by sufficient education and training. Plato argues that the forms of justice that the form of justice is an absolute standard by which human beings and governments in the visible world may be judged. Notice what is at stake
here. The Sufis may again be seen to represent a position much more widely held in our own time. That is the position held by Plato. The softest are very close to the contemporary point of view which is called Cultural Relativism cultural relativists argue that every society every primitive tribe and every advanced civilization must be seen to be unique. One of the coming each an organic totality having its own unique history its own language institutions its own education family its own modes of production and trade its own religion and philosophy It follows then that no outside standards can be used to evaluate any society. No absolute or universal standards of what a culture ought to be like or ought not to be like can be applied. Then it also follows that no culture can be compared with any other with
respect to the meeting standards of human rights or of physical health or mental health or education or of the quality and amount of cruelty that is practiced within the society or the satisfaction of felt human needs or the degree of democratic participation in decisions which affect the individual. For the softness and for present day cultural relativists there are no universal standards for any of these issues and therefore no culture can be judged better or worse than another for its performance on any of them. Athens is therefore no better than spot it but only different. The product of a different set of circumstances each culture evolved in its own way in its own region and in its own time. This point of view is appealing for its tolerance of every kind of society. It is also appealing for not being judge mental as some of its defenders like to say. But there are obvious drawbacks to
cultural relativism. The principal drawback was writ large. As Plato would say when the cultural relativists of the United States had to face the rise of Nazi Germany and the hideous cruelties of the work camps and the extermination camps in which millions of human beings were tortured and murdered. But according to the position taken by cultural relativism no judgment could be passed on the Nazis no external universal or absolute standard could be applied to this unique German culture which had evolved in its own way with his own standards and values but in opposition to cultural relativism the voice of humanity cried out in judgment against the Nazis that this was a culture which had sunk to the depths of evil and had brought hell to earth over 2000 years ago. Plato was attacking the Sophos for being cultural relativists for failing to recognize that human
beings share universal human standards such as that of justice and human rights and that those human beings have a moral responsibility to criticize to judge to speak out wherever the universal and absolute standards of justice are denied or violated or withdrawn. Perhaps the case for Plato against the soffits looks good to you at this point. But let us now I ask. What does Plato discover the form of justice to be. What is justice. This of course is the dynamic center of the entire dialogue. The entire republic. The problem of justice. The truly just government the just so CYA T. This was present to Plato's consciousness as we have seen from his earliest childhood in an heiress to Craddick family which had lost much of its status and power to the new democratic government of
Athens. Was that justice. Again the long war with spotter had raised the question of justice as between Democratic Athens and authoritarian Spada. And now the last blow. The Athenian government's putting Socrates to death. Could this be endured as justice long before he wrote it down in the Republic. Plato was committed to rejecting democracy and to holding the view that not until democracy came to an end. Not until philosophers became kings or Kings became philosophers would they so CYA be based upon justice be possible. But this leaves the question What is the eternal and unchanging and absolutely true form or idea or essence of justice. The philosopher king must be guided by justice
and as you note in book 1 of the Republic Plato introduces the idea of justice in the very first book. He sets out to show what is wrong with various commonly held beliefs about justice and especially to refute the Sophos view of justice in book one for views of justice are given first presented is the view of subtle us the elderly conventional decent businessman who when asked by SOCRATES What is justice. Replies from the perspective of the business man reflecting upon justice in the daily transactions in the business world. Justice says subtlest is speaking the truth and pain one's debts. Now this may represent a simple version of the creed of the businessman to speak the truth about your merchandise and pay your debts to your suppliers of inventory. SOCRATES happily demolishes this definition. SOCRATES does so by the
familiar device of Socratic Method namely the counter example the example which the definition does not fit. Would it be just for you he says to pay your debt to a madman. What if you owed him a weapon which he gave you at a previous time when he was sane. Would it be just Socrates presses suppleness to tell the insane man where he could find his enemy in order to kill him with a weapon you repaid to him. Subtle this has been made a monkey of. He is shown to be far down the ladder of knowledge from a knowledge of the form justice. He is on the level of belief of common sense of the everyday babble in the cave. The second definition of the term justice Socrates elicits from Cephalus a son Paul Marcus who was one of a group of wealthy young men who gather about Socrates and hang out with him in Athens. Paula Marcus offers the view that justice is giving every man his due. Being a
friend to your friends and an enemy to your enemies. SOCRATES demolishes part of Marcus's definition of justice by pointing out that surely a just man would not favor a friend unless the friend were doing something honorable. Nor would a just man do om to anyone and so the pot is cleared now for Throw some of us are some of us is the softest and he defies all conventional views of justice such as being on a roll in business or helping friends and hurting enemies for some of us flatly denies that the laws of the state or the morality of individual persons have anything to do with justice. What the strong wish becomes the losses. For some it is as for the laws of any state there justice is actually nothing but the interests of the ruler. The interest of the stronger. And as for the morality of the individual man the individual person who abides by the laws of his so saya he is merely conforming in blind and docile
obedience to laws that do not protect him but protect the powerful. Laws serve the strong says the some because and conforming to the laws is the morality of the week. Who do not recognize foolishly that the laws do not benefit them and are not in their interests but serve and benefit only the rule. SOCRATES next disposes of Thrasymachus is a claim that might makes right. This is a form of ethical relativism which holds that the morally right is relative to whomever is the more powerful in any situation. SOCRATES argues that a person because his position implies that the ruler is infallible in always achieving his own gratification his own benefit. But if the ruler makes a mistake and rules in a way that benefits his subjects is he then just Socrates also argues that if the ruler is a real craftsman in ruling he will seek to benefit his
subjects not himself. And again Socrates comes back and attempts to compel the ruler to the physician who seeks to benefit the human body primarily although Secondarily let physician does take a fee. And so the ruler seeks to benefit his subjects first and himself. Second. But there some of us is not silenced. He is by no means satisfied that Socrates has succeeded in refuting his views and at the end of the dialogue that is at the end of Book 1. Socrates is still trying to defend justice as what the wise ruler and the wise man practice. But what the form of Justice actually is how to define justice still eludes Socrates. What would justice mean in Plato's philosophy now that what we have seen its central doctrine is the Theory of Forms. What Plato has offered us is a view in his Theory of Forms of all kinds of things from the lowliest mud to
the highest Heavenly Star. Each kind of existing thing has its own form or essence which defines and sets the ideal for its nature. For Plato any kind of being a star a dog a man is just or has virtue is excellent in so far as it functions according to its essence according to the ideal set by its form or essence. In order to know what is just or virtuous or excellent or right for man. Therefore we must find out what is the essence form constitution idea of man. And with the guidance of Plato what we discover about the nature of human beings is that man before man is not a simple form or simple essence but is instead constituted by various elements in accordance with the various and natural capacities and functions of a human being.
The specific functions which man has which distinguishes him from other living beings is his power to use language and to reason his other two elements are is appetite his desires his bodily needs and a spirit an element expressed in emotions such as anger ambition loyalty and aggression all of these three elements. It is the capacity to use language and to reason which is of greatest importance in the essence or form of man and want to therefore rank Supremes. The three elements of the four man fall into a natural hierarchy a graded structure in which the rational element is the highest in power and in the capacity for truth and in value. The bodily appetites are at the bottom level of the hierarchy and the intermediate level is occupied by the spirited element. Here we have the outline of what is known as Plato's tripartite theory of the self
or the soul or the human psyche. Justice or virtue or excellence for a man is as for all other things to function in accordance with its essence. Justice or virtue for a human being is thus to function in accordance with an essence which Plato has discovered to consist of three distinct elements which form a hierarchical structure from the lowest bodily desires to the highest which is reason. And in book four paragraphs hope forty three to four forty four. Plato draws out his theory of the tripartite nature of the human soul implicit in Plato's account of the three elements which together constitute the human soul is the insight that Plato has into a psychological conflict. Here he is gone far beyond. SOCRATES simple doctrine that virtue is knowledge that if we truly know the good we will act in accordance with it. What Plato sees instead is that although reason may know the good the element of
reason runs into conflict with the bodily appetites and with physical desires. In the familiar scenario of the Hollywood westerns the cowboy in the saloon is pulled in one direction by his desires where the pretty waitress and for the alcoholic beverages she is conning him into drinking. But his reason pulls him in the opposite direction by telling him that he is now getting into big trouble. Since human beings have a tripartite souls of Plato the highest good for humans cannot be pleasure since pleasure would be the result of satisfying only the bodily appetites which constitute only one of the three elements of the soul. The human being's highest good must be the sense of well-being or happiness which comes from functioning in accordance with its nature from fulfilling the needs of all three elements which make up the form of what it is to be a person. With the reason having primacy in governing spirit and bodily appetites
the complex nature of a human being can be fulfilled and when each element of the cell functions in this would in accordance with its appropriate role in the structured self the life of such a person may be said to be just and he experiences this justice of the soul. This integration of his personality as well-being or as happiness more reality. Plato is telling us consists in knowing and maintaining the harmony and balance between the rational and the irrational elements of the soul. This balance or harmony in the soul is the justice of the soul the soul's morality or virtue or excellence and its product is happiness. Plato thought of the self or soul not merely as a hierarchical order or structure but as an organism as well in a healthy living organism. The parts are in harmonious interdependence. Each part has a function
which serves the whole organism. And the various pods are in an ordered structure of importance to the life of the organism with the hot and live oak for example having essential functions which for example of the appendix does not. The dysfunctions or malfunctions of any part of the organism have adverse effects upon the rest. So in the soul the dysfunction or malfunction of any of the three elements will drain out of the soul. Its sense of well-being. For Plato it is clear that neither a life devoted exclusively to bodily pleasures nor a life devoted aesthetically to the denial of any bodily pleasures would be functional. Moreover Plato was very well aware of how much capacity there is in the human soul for ill health for inner conflict and misery. If we take a closer look at the three elements of the soul we find that the lowest element in the hierarchy of the soul consists of the bodily appetites such as hunger thirst and
sex. Reason is the drive or need to analyze explain reach the truth of the forms to know what is good for man and society and ultimately to know the idea of the Good itself. The ultimate source of all truth and goodness and to guide one's life by this knowledge. But these two elements come into conflict since human nature desires truth but also struggles against it while the irrational appetites pull us toward their gratification. Reason acts as an inhibiting principle. As Plato tells us in paragraphs 434 to 436 the third and intermediate elements the high spirited pot of the self consists of such emotions as anger pride aggression and loyalty. This element serves as mediator between the other two. It is capable of acting on behalf of either reason or of the appetites. The key to mental health
and to morality or justice is the proper integration of these potentially conflicting parts of the self. The problem is that reason has in mastering the appetites and the spirit of element. Our last rated unforgettably by Plato in another dialogue the Phaedrus in which he presents the figure of a man in a chariot driving to horses. One horse is good. Needs no touch of the whip and is guided only by the Charioteers voice. The other horse is bad uncontrollable by the whip and keeps trying to plunge off and run away. The charioteer pulling at the two horses each rushing in different directions portrays the three conflicting elements of personality and their potential for producing disorder. Extreme conflict and finally breakdown and in another section of the Republic Plato compares the element of reason to a
man the spirited element to a lion and the bodily appetites to a many headed dragon. The problem with Plato then States is this. How to persuade the lion to help the man to keep the dragon of desire in check. In the just moral or sane personality reason rules and when it is thus fulfilling its function to master the other elements of the soul reason exhibits its proper virtue which is wisdom. In the same way when the spirit of the element forms its aggressive and defensive functions within the limits set by the requirements of the soul it exhibits its proper virtue which is courage. One can be courageous in love in war in intellectual or athletic competition and in all the great conditions of stress that occur to human beings. And finally when the appetites
before him of their own functions appropriately they exhibited their characteristic virtue which is Temperance keeping within bounds keeping the passions within limits although all human beings are constituted of these three elements. Humans vary according to which element is dominant in their personalities. Not all personalities are dominated by reason. There are three kinds of personalities according to Plato. Each is dominated by a different element. The fulfilment of which is their goal their purpose in life. There is first of all the time which is dominated by reason. The personality whose main desire is for knowledge and truth. Then there is the type dominated by the spirited element who lives only for success or for public acclaim and finally there is the type of personality dominated by the appetites who
lives as Plato only for money. The most famous tripartite theory of personality to appear opposite of Plato is the author of Sigmund Freud the founder of psychoanalysis whose famous is and ego and super ego constitute for him the tripartite structure of personality. As was pointed out for oids type tripartite theory stresses the necessity of harmonious interdependence of the parts of the personality for the good of the whole. But on the other hand Freud also stresses the potential for much conflict between the three elements. We may compare Freud's concept of the ID which is the seat of the sexual and aggressive drives or instincts and which is also the seat of hunger thirst and other self preservative
instincts. We might compare Freud's is to Plato's bodily appetites. However there are very basic differences between the two tripartite theories some of which we may mention now. Freud emotes aggression which is for Plato an aspect of the spirit of elements. For why do most aggression to being merely one of the drives or instincts. Where as Plato on the other hand had given aggression a more honorable status as a spirited element thus revealing on Plato's part the importance of war and of aggression in the Greek world and thus revealing the honorable status which Athenians gave to their worry is. Other big differences between the two tripartite theories of Plato and Freud are that Freud breaks reason into two ponts ego and super
ego. Freud gave two ego reasons functions of perception and intelligence. Freud gave two super ego reasons functions of moral judgments and of knowledge of the good. Those elements of reason which Freud incorporated into the ego are no longer master but only mediate between him and super ego. Freud and Freud has made notorious throughout the Western world the endless conflicts between the desires of the in both sexual and aggressive and on the other hand the punitive super ego which is constantly watching and condemning these instincts even when they are only unconscious impulses. Surely Freud knew Plato's tripartite theory. Surely he knew it so
well that on two occasions Freud used Plato's own figure of the unruly and uncontrollable horse in relationship to the in the seat of sexual and aggressive desires and Freud the ego the seat of reason is like a man on horseback who has to hold in check the superior strength of the horse. And now we turn to Plato's political philosophy where as he says the form of justice is written in large letters. We turn from justice in the soul to justice in the States. Maryland Center for Public Broadcasting.
From Socrates To Sartre
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The Three Part Man
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Maryland Public Television
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Maryland Public Television (Owings Mills, Maryland)
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Episode Description
Plato IV: Tripartite Soul & Contemporary Psychology - Plato vs. the Sophists; Plato's immutable ideas vs. contemporary cultural and ethical relativism. Analysis of idea of Justice. The idea or essence of man. Theory of the tripartite soul. Relation to contemporary psychology, especially Freud. The charioteer and the two horses. The man, the lion and the dragon. Plato's ethics; "Justice" in the soul. The highest goo is the life of reason. Virtue is knowledge.
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"From Socrates to Sartre is an educational show hosted by Dr. Thelma Z. Lavine, who teaches viewers about the theories and history of philosophy."
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Copyright Holder: MPT
Host: Thelma Z. Lavine, Ph.D.
Producing Organization: Maryland Public Television
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Maryland Public Television
Identifier: 36573.0 (MPT)
Format: Digital Betacam
Generation: Master
Duration: 00:30:00?
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Chicago: “From Socrates To Sartre; #5; The Three Part Man,” 1978-06-15, Maryland Public Television, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 23, 2024,
MLA: “From Socrates To Sartre; #5; The Three Part Man.” 1978-06-15. Maryland Public Television, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 23, 2024. <>.
APA: From Socrates To Sartre; #5; The Three Part Man. Boston, MA: Maryland Public Television, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from