The Platonic Theories

The middle dialogues seem mark a new phase in Plato's effort to understand and vindicate Socrates and his love of wisdom.

Plato nowhere explains what he intends in writing his dialogues, but it is easy to get the impression in the middle dialogues that he has decided that an adequate defense of Socrates is possible only if the assumption that human beings are psychological beings is placed within a more general conception of reality. The character Socrates continues in his role as chief interlocutor in the middle dialogues, but he now seems to speak for Plato's attempt to make sense of the historical Socrates and his devotion to the love of wisdom.

(Socrates gives up his role of chief interlocutor in the Parmenides, which is traditionally thought of as a late dialogue.)

Selected Readings

The dialogues for this unit on Plato are the Meno, Phaedo, Republic, and Parmenides. We will also read from Aristotle's Metaphysics. It is probably not feasible to read these works in their entirety in the short time allotted in a semester class. The Republic particularly is long. Some of the more important passages are listed below. Read more generally if possible.

1. The "lover of wisdom" (φιλόσοφος) should not fear death

Phaedo 63e-64a, 64c-68b. Socrates does not fear death. He is is a "lover of wisdom" (φιλόσοφος).

1. Death is the separation of soul from body.
2. The body stands in the way of the knowledge the lover of wisdom seeks.
3. The lover of wisdom should not fear death.

"I wish now to explain to you, my judges, the reason why I think a man who has really spent his life in philosophy (φιλοσοφίᾳ) is naturally of good courage when he is to die, and has strong hopes that when he is dead he will attain the greatest blessings in that other land. So I will try to tell you, Simmias, and Cebes, how this would be. Other people are likely not to be aware that those who pursue philosophy aright study nothing but dying and being dead. Now if this is true, it would be absurd to be eager for nothing but this all their lives, and then to be troubled when that came for which they had all along been eagerly practicing."

• Death is the separation of soul from body.

 "We believe, do we not, that death is the separation of the soul (ψυχῆς) from the body (σώματος), and that the state of being dead is the state in which the body is separated from the soul and exists alone by itself and the soul is separated from the body and exists alone by itself? Is death anything other than this?
 No, it is this."

• The lover of wisdom is not interested in the pleasures associated with the body.

 "Now, my friend, see if you agree with me; for, if you do, I think we shall get more light on our subject. Do you think a philosopher (φιλοσόφου) would be likely to care much about the so-called pleasures, such as eating and drinking?
 By no means, Socrates.
 How about the pleasures of love?
 Certainly not.
Well, do you think such a man would think much of the other cares of the body—I mean such as the possession of fine clothes and shoes and the other personal adornments? Do you think he would care about them or despise them, except so far as it is necessary to have them?
 I think the true philosopher would despise them.
Altogether, then, you think that such a man would not devote himself to the body, but would, so far as he was able, turn away from the body and concern himself with the soul?
 To begin with, then, it is clear that in such matters the philosopher, more than other men, separates the soul from communion with the body?
 It is.
Now certainly most people think that a man who takes no pleasure and has no part in such things doesn't deserve to live, and that one who cares nothing for the pleasures of the body is about as good as dead.
 That is very true."

• The body stands in the way of truth the lover of wisdom seeks.

 Now, how about the acquirement of pure knowledge (φρονήσεως)? Is the body a hindrance or not, if it is made to share in the search for wisdom? What I mean is this: Have the sight and hearing of men any truth in them, or is it true, as the poets are always telling us, that we neither hear nor see any thing accurately? And yet if these two physical senses are not accurate or exact, the rest are not likely to be, for they are inferior to these. Do you not think so?
 Certainly I do.
 Then, when does the soul attain to truth? For when it tries to consider anything in company with the body, it is evidently deceived by it.
In thought, then, if at all, something of the realities becomes clear to it?
 But it thinks best when none of these things troubles it, neither hearing nor sight, nor pain nor any pleasure, but it is, so far as possible, alone by itself, and takes leave of the body, and avoiding, so far as it can, all association or contact with the body, reaches out toward the reality.
 That is true.
 In this matter also, then, the soul of the philosopher (ἡ τοῦ φιλοσόφου ψυχὴ) greatly despises the body and avoids it and strives to be alone by itself?

• The forms are not sensible. They are known in reason.

 "Now how about such things as this, Simmias? Do we think there is such a thing as justice itself (δίκαιον αὐτὸ), or not?
 We certainly think there is.
 And absolute beauty and goodness.
 Of course.
 Well, did you ever see anything of that kind with your eyes?
 Certainly not.
 Or did you ever reach them with any of the bodily senses? I am speaking of all such things, as size, health, strength, and in short the essence or underlying quality of everything. Is their true nature contemplated by means of the body? Is it not rather the case that he who prepares himself most carefully to understand the true essence of each thing that he examines would come nearest to the knowledge of it?
 Would not that man do this most perfectly who approaches each thing, so far as possible, with the reason (διανοίᾳ) alone, not introducing sight into his reasoning (λογισμοῦ) nor dragging in any of the other senses along with his thinking, but who employs pure, absolute reason in his attempt to search out the pure, absolute essence of things, and who removes himself, so far as possible, from eyes and ears, and, in a word, from his whole body, because he feels that its companionship disturbs the soul and hinders it from attaining truth and wisdom? Is not this the man, Simmias, if anyone, to attain to the knowledge of reality?
 That is true as true can be, Socrates"

• Those who practice the love of wisdom correctly do not fear death.

 "Then all this must cause good lovers of wisdom to think and say one to the other something like this: 'There seems to be a short cut which leads us and our argument to the conclusion in our search that so long as we have the body, and the soul is contaminated by such an evil, we shall never attain completely what we desire, that is, the truth. For the body keeps us constantly busy by reason of its need of sustenance; and moreover, if diseases come upon it they hinder our pursuit of the truth. And the body fills us with passions and desires and fears, and all sorts of fancies and foolishness, so that, as they say, it really and truly makes it impossible for us to think at all. The body and its desires are the only cause of wars and factions and battles; for all wars arise for the sake of gaining money, and we are compelled to gain money or the sake of the body. We are slaves to its service. And so, because of all these things, we have no leisure for philosophy. But the worst of all is that if we do get a bit of leisure and turn to philosophy, the body is constantly breaking in upon our studies and disturbing us with noise and confusion, so that it prevents our beholding the truth, and in fact we perceive that, if we are ever to know anything absolutely, we must be free from the body and must behold the actual realities with the eye of the soul alone. And then, as our argument shows, when we are dead we are likely to possess the wisdom which we desire and claim to be enamored of, but not while we live. For, if pure knowledge is impossible while the body is with us, one of two thing must follow, either it cannot be acquired at all or only when we are dead; for then the soul will be by itself apart from the body, but not before. And while we live, we shall, I think, be nearest to knowledge when we avoid, so far as possible, intercourse and communion with the body, except what is absolutely necessary, and are not filled with its nature, but keep ourselves pure from it until God himself sets us free. And in this way, freeing ourselves from the foolishness of the body and being pure, we shall, I think, be with the pure and shall know of ourselves all that is pure,— and that is, perhaps, the truth. For it cannot be that the impure attain the pure.' Such words as these, I think, Simmias, all who are rightly lovers of knowledge must say to each other and such must be their thoughts. Do you not agree?
 Most assuredly, Socrates.
 Then if this is true, my friend, I have great hopes that when I reach the place to which I am going, I shall there, if anywhere, attain fully to that which has been my chief object in my past life, so that the journey which is now imposed upon me is begun with good hope; and the like hope exists for every man who thinks that his mind has been purified and made ready.
 And does not the purification consist in this which has been mentioned long ago in our discourse, in separating, so far as possible, the soul from the body and teaching the soul the habit of collecting and bringing itself together from all parts of the body, and living, so far as it can, both now and hereafter, alone by itself, freed from the body as from fetters?
 Well, then, this is what we call death, is it not, a release and separation from the body?
 Exactly so.
 But, as we hold, the true philosophers and they alone are always most eager to release the soul, and just this—the release and separation of the soul from the body—is their study, is it not?
 Then, as I said in the beginning, it would be absurd if a man who had been all his life fitting himself to live as nearly in a state of death as he could, should then be disturbed when death came to him. Would it not be absurd?
 Of course.
 In fact, then, Simmias, the true philosophers practice dying, and death is less terrible to them than to any other men. Consider it in this way. They are in every way hostile to the body and they desire to have the soul apart by itself alone. Would it not be very foolish if they should be frightened and troubled when this very thing happens, and if they should not be glad to go to the place where there is hope of attaining what they longed for all through life—and they longed for wisdom—and of escaping from the companionship of that which they hated? When human loves or wives or sons have died, many men have willingly gone to the other world led by the hope of seeing there those whom they longed for, and of being with them; and shall he who is really in love with wisdom and has a firm belief that he can find it nowhere else than in the other world grieve when he dies and not be glad to go there? We cannot think that, my friend, if he is really a philosopher; for he will confidently believe that he will find pure wisdom nowhere else than in the other world. And if this is so, would it not be very foolish for such a man to fear death?
 Very foolish, certainly."

• Philosophy understands that the body imprisons the soul. Phaedo 82e-84b, Phaedo 69a-69d

"My dear Simmias, I suspect that this is not the right way to purchase virtue (ἀρετὴν), by exchanging pleasures for pleasures, and pains for pains, and fear for fear, and greater for less, as if they were coins, but the only right coinage, for which all those things must be exchanged and by means of and with which all these things are to be bought and sold, is in fact wisdom (φρόνησις); and courage and self-restraint and justice and, in short, true virtue exist only with wisdom, whether pleasures and fears and other things of that sort are added or taken away. And virtue which consists in the exchange of such things for each other without wisdom, is but a painted imitation of virtue and is really slavish and has nothing healthy or true in it; but whereas, truth to tell, temperance and justice and courage may in fact be a kind of purification of all such things, and wisdom itself a kind of purification And I fancy that those men who established the mysteries were not unenlightened, but in reality had a hidden meaning when they said long ago that whoever goes uninitiated and unsanctified to the other world will lie in the mire, but he who arrives there initiated and purified will dwell with the gods. For as they say in the mysteries, 'the thyrsus-bearers are many, but the mystics few'; and these mystics are, I believe, those who have practiced philosophy correctly (οἱ πεφιλοσοφηκότες ὀρθῶς). And I in my life have, so far as I could, left nothing undone, and have striven in every way to make myself one of them. But whether I have striven aright and have met with success, I believe I shall know clearly, when I have arrived there, very soon, God willing. There is my defense, then, Simmias and Cebes, to show that it is reasonable for me not to be grieved or troubled at leaving you...."

"[P]hilosophy (φιλοσοφία) sees that the most dreadful thing about the imprisonment in the body is the fact that it is caused by the lusts (ἐπιθυμίας) of the flesh, so that the prisoner is the chief assistant in his own imprisonment. ... The soul of the true philosopher (ἀληθῶς φιλοσόφου ψυχὴ) ... stands aloof from pleasures and lusts and griefs and fears (ἡδονῶν τε καὶ ἐπιθυμιῶν καὶ λυπῶν καὶ φόβων), so far as it can, considering that when anyone has violent pleasures or fears or griefs or lusts he suffers from them not merely what one might think--for example, illness or loss of money spent or his lusts--but he suffers the greatest and most extreme evil and does not take it into account. ... The evil is that the soul of every man, when it is greatly pleased or pained by anything, is compelled to believe that the object which caused the emotion (πάσχῃ) is very distinct and very true; but it is not. ... Each pleasure or pain bonds the soul as with a nail to the body and rivets it on and makes it corporeal, so that it fancies the things are true which the body says are true. For because it has the same beliefs and pleasures as the body it is compelled to adopt also the same habits and mode of life (ἐκ γὰρ τοῦ ὁμοδοξεῖν τῷ σώματι καὶ τοῖς αὐτοῖς χαίρειν ἀναγκάζεται οἶμαι ὁμότροπός τε καὶ ὁμότροφος γίγνεσθαι), and can never depart in purity to the other world, but must always go away contaminated with the body; and so it sinks quickly into another body again and grows into it, like seed that is sown. Therefore it has no part in the communion with the divine and pure and absolute. ... This, Cebes, is the reason why the true lovers of knowledge (φιλομαθεῖς) are temperate (κόσμιοί) and brave (ἀνδρεῖοι); not for what the many say. ... For the soul of the philosopher would not reason (λογίσαιτ᾽) as others do, and would not think it right that philosophy should set it free, and that then when set free it should give itself again into bondage to pleasure and pain and engage in futile toil.... No, his soul believes that it must gain peace from these emotions, must follow reason (λογισμῷ) and abide always in it, beholding that which is true and divine and not a matter of opinion (τὸ ἀληθὲς καὶ τὸ θεῖον καὶ τὸ ἀδόξαστον), and making that its only food; and in this way it believes it must live, while life endures, and then at death pass on to that which is akin to itself and of like nature, and be free from human ills."

2. The Theory of Recollection

• In the Meno and Phaedo, Socrates introduces what has come to be known as the Theory of Recollection.
• The Theory of Recollection consists in an epistemological thesis and an ontological thesis.
• According to the epistemological thesis, knowledge is an essential part of reason.
• According to the ontological thesis, the soul is a persistent object whose existence is not contingent on the body.

Meno 79e-80b. Socrates is like a torpedo fish.

"Socrates, I used to be told, before I began to meet you, that yours was just a case of being in doubt yourself and making others doubt also: and so now I find you are merely bewitching me with your spells and incantations, which have reduced me to utter perplexity. And if I am indeed to have my jest, I consider that both in your appearance and in other respects you are extremely like the flat torpedo sea-fish; for it benumbs anyone who approaches and touches it, and something of the sort is what I find you have done to me now. For in truth I feel my soul and my tongue quite benumbed, and I am at a loss what answer to give you. And yet on countless occasions I have made abundant speeches on virtue to various people--and very good speeches they were, so I thought--but now I cannot say one word as to what it is. You are well advised, I consider, in not voyaging or taking a trip away from home; for if you went on like this as a stranger in any other city you would very likely be taken up for a wizard."

Meno 80d-81a.. The "eristical" argument.

 "Why, on what lines will you look, Socrates, for a thing of whose nature you know nothing at all? Pray, what sort of thing, amongst those that you know not, will you treat us to as the object of your search? Or even supposing, at the best, that you hit upon it, how will you know it is the thing you did not know?
I understand the point you would make, Meno. Do you see what a captious (ἐριστικὸν) argument you are introducing--that, forsooth, a man cannot inquire (ζητεῖν) either about what he knows or about what he does not know? For he cannot inquire about what he knows, because he knows it, and in that case is in no need of inquiry; nor again can he inquire about what he does not know, since he does not know about what he is to inquire.
 Now does it seem to you to be a good argument, Socrates?
 It does not."

Meno 81b-c. What priests and priestesses say.

"They say that the soul of man is immortal, and at one time comes to an end, which is called dying, and at another is born again, but never perishes. Consequently one ought to live all one's life in the utmost holiness. ... Seeing then that the soul is immortal and has been born many times, and has beheld all things both in this world and in the nether realms, she has acquired knowledge of all and everything; so that it is no wonder that she should be able to recollect all that she knew before about virtue and other things. For as all nature is akin, and the soul has learned all things, there is no reason why we should not, by remembering but one single thing--an act which men call learning--discover everything else, if we have courage and faint not in the search; since, it would seem, research and learning are wholly recollection (ἀνάμνησις)."

Meno 85b-86b. Knowledge is recollection.

 "What do you think, Meno? Was there any opinion that he did not give as an answer of his own thought?
 No, they were all his own.
 But you see, he did not know, as we were saying a while since.
 That is true.
 Yet he had in him these opinions, had he not?
 So that he who does not know about any matters, whatever they be, may have true opinions on such matters, about which he knows nothing?
 And at this moment those opinions have just been stirred up in him, like a dream; but if he were repeatedly asked these same questions in a variety of forms, you know he will have in the end as exact an understanding (ἐπιστήσεται) of them as anyone.
 So it seems.
 Without anyone having taught him, and only through questions put to him, he will understand, recovering the knowledge out of himself?
 And is not this recovery of knowledge, in himself and by himself, recollection?
 And must he not have either once acquired or always had the knowledge (ἐπιστήμην) he now has?
 Now if he always had it, he was always in a state of knowing; and if he acquired it all some time, he could not have acquired it in this life. Or has someone taught him geometry? You see, he can do the same as this with all geometry and every branch of knowledge. Now, can anyone have taught him all this? You ought surely to know, especially as he was born and bred in your house.
Well, I know that no one has ever taught him.  And has he these opinions, or has he not?
 He must have them, Socrates, evidently.
 And if he did not acquire them in this present life, is it not obvious at once that he had them and learnt them during some other time?
 And this must have been the time when he was not a human being?
 So if in both of these periods--when he was and was not a human being--he has had true opinions in him which have only to be awakened by questioning to become knowledge, his soul must have had this cognizance (μεμαθηκυῖα) throughout all time? For clearly he has always either been or not been a human being.
 And if the truth of all things that are is always in our soul (οὐκοῦν εἰ ἀεὶ ἡ ἀλήθεια ἡμῖν τῶν ὄντων ἐστὶν ἐν τῇ ψυχῇ), then the soul must be immortal; so that you should take heart and, whatever you do not happen to know at present--that is, what you do not remember--you must endeavor to search out and recollect?
 What you say commends itself to me, Socrates, I know not how."

Phaedo 72e-73b. Knowledge is recollection.

 "[I]f it is true, Socrates, as you are fond of saying, that our learning is nothing else than recollection, then this would be an additional argument that we must necessarily have learned in some previous time what we now remember. But this is impossible if our soul did not exist somewhere before being born in this human form; and so by this argument also it appears that the soul is immortal.
 But, Cebes, what were the proofs of this? Remind me; for I do not recollect very well just now.
 Briefly, Simmias, a very good proof is this: When people are questioned, if you put the questions well, they answer correctly of themselves about everything; and yet if they had not within them some knowledge (ἐπιστήμη) and right reason (ὀρθὸς λόγος), they could not do this. And that this is so is shown most clearly if you take them to mathematical diagrams or anything of that sort."

Phaedo 74a-c. Knowledge of the equal itself.

  "We say there is such a thing as equality (ἴσον). I do not mean one piece of wood equal to another, or one stone to another, or anything of that sort, but something beyond that--the equal itself (αὐτὸ τὸ ἴσον). Shall we say there is such a thing, or not?
  We shall say that there is most decidedly Socrates.
  And do we know what it is?
  Whence did we come upon the knowledge of it? Was it not from the things we were just speaking of, by seeing equal pieces of wood or stones or other things, on the occasion of them that equal was in thought (ἐνενοήσαμεν), it being different from them? ... It is on the occasion of those equals, different as they are from that equal, that you have thought and come upon knowledge (ἐπιστήμην) of it?
  That is perfectly true."

3. The Theory of Forms

• In the Phaedo, Socrates introduces what has come to be known as the Theory of Forms.
• Socrates' interlocutors do not demand argument for the existence of forms. Just why Plato does this is not immediately clear, as his reasons for writing what he does are hard to know, but he seems to find it natural to think that the forms are what Socrates is asking about when he is searching for definitions.

Phaedo 65b-66a. The philosopher and knowledge of the forms.

 "What I mean is this: Have the sight and hearing of men any truth in them, or is it true, as the poets are always telling us, that we neither hear nor see any thing accurately? And yet if these two physical senses are not accurate or exact, the rest are not likely to be, for they are inferior to these. Do you not think so?
 Certainly I do.
 Then, when does the soul attain to truth? For when it tries to consider anything in company with the body, it is evidently deceived by it.
 In thought, then, if at all, something of the realities becomes clear to it?
 But it thinks best when none of these things troubles it, neither hearing nor sight, nor pain nor any pleasure, but it is, so far as possible, alone by itself, and takes leave of the body, and avoiding, so far as it can, all association or contact with the body, reaches out toward the reality.
 That is true.
 In this matter also, then, the soul of the philosopher (ἡ τοῦ φιλοσόφου ψυχὴ) greatly despises the body and avoids it and strives to be alone by itself?
 Now how about such things as this, Simmias? Do we think there is such a thing as justice itself (δίκαιον αὐτὸ), or not?
 We certainly think there is.
 And absolute beauty and goodness.
 Of course.
 Well, did you ever see anything of that kind with your eyes?
 Certainly not.
 Or did you ever reach them with any of the bodily senses? I am speaking of all such things, as size, health, strength, and in short the essence or underlying quality of everything. Is their true nature contemplated by means of the body? Is it not rather the case that he who prepares himself most carefully to understand the true essence of each thing that he examines would come nearest to the knowledge of it?
 Would not that man do this most perfectly who approaches each thing, so far as possible, with the reason (διανοίᾳ) alone, not introducing sight into his reasoning (λογισμοῦ) nor dragging in any of the other senses along with his thinking, but who employs pure, absolute reason in his attempt to search out the pure, absolute essence of things, and who removes himself, so far as possible, from eyes and ears, and, in a word, from his whole body, because he feels that its companionship disturbs the soul and hinders it from attaining truth and wisdom? Is not this the man, Simmias, if anyone, to attain to the knowledge of reality?
 That is true as true can be, Socrates."

Phaedo 75c-d. The forms are what Socrates is asking about.

"Now if we had acquired that knowledge before we were born, and were born with it, we knew before we were born and at the moment of birth not only the equal and the greater and the less, but all such things? For our present argument is no more concerned with the equal than with absolute beauty and the absolute good and the just and the holy (αὐτοῦ τοῦ καλοῦ καὶ αὐτοῦ τοῦ ἀγαθοῦ καὶ δικαίου καὶ ὁσίου), and, in short, with all those things which we stamp with the seal of absolute (τὸ ‘αὐτὸ ὃ ἔστι) in our dialectic process of questions and answers; so that we must necessarily have acquired knowledge of all these before our birth."

Phaedo 78d. The forms "remain the same and never in any way admit of any change."

 "Is the absolute essence (αὐτὴ ἡ οὐσία), which we in our dialectic process of question and answer call true being, always the same or is it liable to change? Absolute equality, absolute beauty, any absolute existence, true being (αὐτὸ τὸ ἴσον, αὐτὸ τὸ καλόν, αὐτὸ ἕκαστον ὃ ἔστιν, τὸ ὄν)—do they ever admit of any change whatsoever? Or does each absolute essence, since it is uniform and exists by itself, remain the same and never in any way admit of any change?
 It must necessarily remain the same, Socrates."

Phaedo 79a. "[T]he things which are always the same can be grasped only by the reason (λογισμῷ)...."

Phaedo 79c. "[W]hen the soul inquires alone by itself, it departs into the realm of the pure, the everlasting, the immortal and the changeless, and being akin to these it dwells always with them whenever it is by itself and is not hindered, and it has rest from its wanderings and remains always the same and unchanging with the changeless, since it is in communion therewith. And this state of the soul is called wisdom (φρόνησις)."

Phaedo 100b-d. "It is nothing new, but the same thing I have always been saying, both in our previous conversation and elsewhere. I am going to try to explain to you the nature of that cause (αἰτίας) which I have been studying, and I will revert to those familiar subjects of ours as my point of departure and assume that there are such things as beauty itself according to itself (καλὸν αὐτὸ καθ᾽ αὑτὸ) and good and greatness and the like."

Phaedo 102a. F-things are F because they "participate" in the form the F itself.

 "But what was said after that, Phaedo?
 As I remember it, Echecrates, after all this had been admitted, and they had agreed that each of the abstract qualities (εἰδῶν) exists and that other things which participate (μεταλαμβάνοντα) in these get their names from them...."

Parmenides 132d. "Parmenides, I think the most likely view is, that these ideas (εἴδη) exist in nature (φύσει) as patterns (παραδείγματα), and the other things resemble (ἐοικέναι) them and are imitations (ὁμοιώματα) of them; their participation (μέθεξις) in ideas is assimilation (εἰκασθῆναι) to them, that and nothing else."

4. The Tripartite Theory of the Soul

• The human soul is tripartite. The three parts are reason, spirit, and appetite. Desire arises in each part. The desire in reason is or stems from belief about what is good or bad, but the desires in spirit and appetite are independent of these beliefs. In this way, the Tripartite Theory is inconsistent with Socratic Intellectualism.

• The parts of the soul can be organized in different ways. In the proper organization, reason rules, spirit sides with reason, and together they control appetite.

Republic IV.439c-e. Two parts of the human soul, "reason" (λογιστικὸν) and "appetite" (ἐπιθυμητικόν).

 "Are we to say, then, that some men sometimes though thirsty refuse to drink?
 We are indeed, many and often.
What then, should one affirm about them? Is it not that there is something in the soul that bids them drink and a something that forbids, a different something that masters that which bids?
 I think so.
 And is it not the fact that that which inhibits such actions arises when it arises from the calculations of reason (λογισμοῦ), but the impulses which draw and drag come through affections (παθημάτων) and diseases?
 Not unreasonably, shall we claim that they are two and different from one another, naming that in the soul whereby it reckons and reasons the rational (λογιστικὸν) and that with which it loves, hungers, thirsts, and feels the flutter and titillation of other desires, the irrational and appetitive (ἐπιθυμητικόν)--companion of various repletions and pleasures.
 It would not be unreasonable but quite natural for us to think this."

Phaedo 94b-c. The soul opposes "feelings" of the body.

 "Does the soul yield to the feelings (πάθεσιν) of the body or oppose them? I mean, when the body is hot and thirsty, does not the soul oppose it and draw it away from drinking, and from eating when it is hungry, and do we not see the soul opposing the body in countless other ways?

Republic IV.439e-441b. The third part of the soul, "spirit" (θυμοειδές).

 "But now the Thumos or principle of high spirit (θυμοῦ), that with which we feel anger, is it a third, or would it be identical in nature with one of these?
 Perhaps, with one of these, the appetitive."

 "That what we now think about the spirited element is just the opposite of our recent surmise. For then we supposed it to be a part of the appetitive, but now, far from that, we say that, in the factions of the soul, it much rather marshals itself on the side of the reason.
 By all means.
Is it then distinct from this too, or is it a form of the rational, so that there are not three but two kinds in the soul, the rational and the appetitive (λογιστικὸν καὶ ἐπιθυμητικόν), or just as in the city there were three existing kinds that composed its structure, the moneymakers, the helpers, the counsellors, so also in the soul there exists a third kind, this principle of high spirit (θυμοειδές), which is the helper of reason by nature unless it is corrupted by evil nurture?
 We have to assume it as a third.
 Yes, provided it shall have been shown to be something different from the rational, as it has been shown to be other than the appetitive.
That is not hard to be shown, for that much one can see in children, that they are from their very birth chock-full of rage and high spirit, but as for reason (λογισμοῦ), some of them, to my thinking, never participate in it, and the majority quite late.
Yes, by heaven, excellently said, and further, one could see in animals that what you say is true."

Republic IV.441d-e. Reason should rule.

 "We must remember, then, that each of us also in whom the several parts within him perform each their own task--he will be a just man and one who minds his own affair.
We must indeed remember.
Does it not belong to the rational part (λογιστικῷ) to rule (ἄρχειν), being wise (σοφῷ) and exercising forethought in behalf of the entire soul, and to the principle of high spirit (θυμοειδεῖ) to be subject to this and its ally?

Republic IV.442a-b. Reason and spirit should control appetite.

 "And these two (reason and spirit) thus reared and having learned and been educated to do their own work in the true sense of the phrase, will preside over the appetitive part (ἐπιθυμητικοῦ) which is the mass of the soul in each of us and the most insatiate by nature of wealth. They will keep watch upon it, lest, by being filled and infected with the so-called pleasures associated with the body and so waxing big and strong, it may not keep to its own work but may undertake to enslave and rule over the classes which it is not fitting that it should, and so overturn the entire life of all.
 By all means."

5. The Theory of Justice

• Book I of the Republic ends in perplexity. The search initially is for what justice is This search turns into a search for whether the just life is better than unjust life. Socrates' interlocutors are unable to defend their answers to either question. "So that for me the present outcome of the discussion is that I know nothing. For if I don't know what the just is (τὸ δίκαιον μὴ οἶδα ὅ ἐστιν), I shall hardly know whether it is a virtue (ἀρετή) or not, and whether its possessor is or is not happy (εὐδαίμων)" (Republic I.354b-c).

Republic II.358e-359a. Glaucon is not satisfied with the outcome the discussion. He outlines a view of justice and the value of the just life that many accept but that he himself wonders about. According to this conception, the just life is a second-best life that is not always happier. Glaucon challenges Socrates to show that this is wrong and that the just life is happier.

"They say that to do wrong is by nature good, to be wronged is bad, but the suffering of injury so far exceeds in badness the good of inflicting it that when men do wrong and are wronged by one another and taste of both, those who lack the power to avoid the one and take the other determine that it is for their profit to make a compact with one another neither to commit nor to suffer wrong; and that this is the beginning of legislation (νόμους) and covenants (συνθήκας) between men, and that they name the commandment of the law the lawful and the just, and that this is the genesis and being of justice (γένεσίν τε καὶ οὐσίαν δικαιοσύνης)."

Republic IV.427e-428a. The search for justice in the city.

 "I think our city, if it has been rightly founded is good in the full sense of the word (οἶμαι ἡμῖν τὴν πόλιν, εἴπερ ὀρθῶς γε ᾤκισται, τελέως ἀγαθὴν εἶναι).
 Clearly, then, it will be wise, brave, sober (σώφρων), and just.
 Then if we find any of these qualities in it, the remainder will be that which we have not found?

Republic IV.434c-d. The city is wise because the rulers are wise, brave because the auxiliaries are brave, moderate because everyone is controlled, and just because each of the parts do their own jobs. "The proper functioning of the working class, the guardians, and the rulers, each doing its own work in the city, ... would be justice (δικαιοσύνη) and would render the city just."

• Now that they have found justice in the city, they turn to justice in the individual. They appeal to a principle about the use of words to show that must somehow be a matter of the organization of the parts of the soul. Next they consider what the parts of the soul are. They conclude that the soul is tripartite and that the proper organization is one in which reason rules.

Republic IV.435a-c "If you call a thing by the same name whether it is big or little, it is like in the way in which it is called the same or like. Then a just man too will not differ at all from a just city in respect of the very form of justice, but will be like it. But now the city was thought to be just because three natural kinds existing in it performed each its own function, and again it was sober, brave, and wise because of certain other affections and habits of these three kinds. Then, my friend, we shall thus expect the individual also to have these same forms in his soul, and by reason of identical affections of these with those in the city to receive properly the same appellations."

Republic IV.443d-444a. Justice in the individual human being is the proper ordering of the three parts of the soul.

"[J]ustice is ... not ... the doing of one's own business externally, but with regard to that which is within and in the true sense concerns one's self, and the things of one's self—it means that a man must not suffer the principles in his soul to do each the work of some other and interfere and meddle with one another, but that he should dispose well of what in the true sense of the word is properly his own, and having first attained to self-mastery and beautiful order (κοσμήσαντα) within himself, and having harmonized these three principles, the notes or intervals of three terms quite literally the lowest, the highest, and the mean, and all others there may be between them, and having linked and bound all three together and made of himself a unit, one man instead of many, self-controlled and in unison, he should then and then only turn to practice if he find aught to do either in the getting of wealth or the tendance of the body or it may be in political action or private business, in all such doings believing and naming the just and honorable action to be that which preserves and helps to produce this condition of soul, and wisdom the science that presides over such conduct (σοφίαν δὲ τὴν ἐπιστατοῦσαν ταύτῃ τῇ πράξει ἐπιστήμην); and believing and naming the unjust action to be that which ever tends to overthrow this spiritual constitution, and brutish ignorance (ἀμαθίαν), to be the opinion (δόξαν) that in turn presides over this."

Republic IV.445a-b. Now that they know what justice is in the individual, it is clear to Glaucon that the just life is better.

"I think, Socrates, that from this point on our inquiry becomes an absurdity—if, while life is admittedly intolerable with a ruined constitution of body even though accompanied by all the food and drink and wealth and power in the world, we are yet to be asked to suppose that, when the very nature and constitution of that whereby we live is disordered (ταραττομένης) and corrupted, life is going to be worth living, if a man can only do as he pleases, and pleases to do anything save that which will rid him of evil and injustice and make him possessed of justice and virtue—now that the two have been shown to be as we have described them."

Republic V.473c-d. Unless the "lovers of wisdom" (φιλόσοφοι) rule, there will be no end of troubles.

"Unless either philosophers (φιλόσοφοι) become kings in our states or those whom we now call our kings and rulers take to the pursuit of philosophy seriously and adequately, and there is a conjunction of these two things, political power and philosophic intelligence (τε πολιτικὴ καὶ φιλοσοφία), while the motley horde of the natures who at present pursue either apart from the other are compulsorily excluded, there can be no cessation of troubles, dear Glaucon, for our states, nor, I fancy, for the human race either."

Republic VI.500c-501b. If compelled, the lover of wisdom would not be a poor craftsman.

 "[H]e fixes his gaze upon the things of the eternal and unchanging order, and seeing that they neither wrong nor are wronged by one another, but all abide in harmony as reason bids, he will endeavor to imitate them and, as far as may be, to fashion himself in their likeness and assimilate himself to them. ... So the lover of wisdom (φιλόσοφος) associating with the divine order will himself become orderly and divine in the measure permitted to man (κόσμιός τε καὶ θεῖος εἰς τὸ δυνατὸν ἀνθρώπῳ γίγνεται). ... If, then, some compulsion is laid upon him to practise stamping on the plastic matter of human nature in public and private the patterns that he visions there, and not merely to mould and fashion himself, do you think he will prove a poor craftsman of sobriety and justice and all forms of ordinary civic virtue (σωφροσύνης τε καὶ δικαιοσύνης καὶ συμπάσης τῆς δημοτικῆς ἀρετῆς)?
 By no means, Socrates.
 But if the multitude become aware hat what we are saying of the philosopher is true, will they still be harsh with philosophers, and will they distrust our statement that no city could ever be blessed unless its lineaments were traced by artists who used the heavenly model?
 They will not be harsh if they perceive that. But tell me, what is the manner of that sketch you have in mind?
They will take the city and the characters (ἤθη) of men, as they might a tablet, and first wipe it clean— no easy task. But at any rate you know that this would be their first point of difference from ordinary reformers, that they would refuse to take in hand either individual or state or to legislate before they either received a clean slate or themselves made it clean.
And they would be right.
And thereafter, do you not think that they would sketch the figure of the constitution?
 And then, I take it, in the course of the work they would glance frequently in either direction, at justice, beauty, sobriety and the like as they are in the nature of things (τὸ φύσει δίκαιον καὶ καλὸν καὶ σῶφρον καὶ πάντα τὰ τοιαῦτα), and alternately at that which they were trying to reproduce in mankind...."

Republic VI.504e-505a. The good itself is the greatest object of study.

 "[D]o you, Socrates, suppose that anyone will let you go without asking what is the greatest study and with what you think it is concerned?
 By no means, but do you ask the question. You certainly have heard it often, but now you either do not apprehend or again you are minded to make trouble for me by attacking the argument. I suspect it is rather the latter. For you have often heard that the greatest thing to learn is the idea of good (τοῦ ἀγαθοῦ ἰδέα) by reference to which just things and all the rest become useful and beneficial. And now I am almost sure you know that this is what I am going to speak of and to say further that we have no adequate knowledge of it."

Republic VII.532a-b. The good itself is grasped with reason alone.

"[W]hen anyone by dialectics attempts through discourse of reason (λόγου) and apart from all perceptions of sense to find his way to the very essence (αὐτὸ ὃ ἔστιν) of each thing and does not desist till he apprehends by thought itself the nature of the good in itself (αὐτὸ ὃ ἔστιν ἀγαθὸν αὐτῇ νοήσει λάβῃ), he arrives at the limit of the intelligible (νοητοῦ)...."

Republic VII.540a. The lover of wisdom will use the good itself as a "pattern" (παράδειγμα).

"[T]hose who have survived the tests and approved themselves altogether the best in every task and form of knowledge must be brought at last to the goal. We shall require them to turn upwards the vision of their souls and fix their gaze on that which sheds light on all, and when they have thus beheld the good itself (τὸ ἀγαθὸν αὐτό) they shall use it as a pattern (παραδείγματι) for the right ordering (κοσμεῖν) of the state and the citizens and themselves throughout the remainder of their lives.,.."

Republic VII.540b-c. The lovers of wisdom rule not as something fine but as a necessity.

"The rulers will, each in his turn, devote the greater part of their time to the study of philosophy (φιλοσοφίᾳ), but when the turn comes for each, toiling in the service of the state and holding office for the city's sake, regarding the task not as a fine thing but a necessity...."

6. Pleasure in the life of the lover of wisdom

Republic IX.582e-583a. The pleasures of the lover of wisdom are the most true.

  "But since the tests are experience and wisdom and reason (ἐμπειρίᾳ καὶ φρονήσει καὶ λόγῳ), what follows?
  Of necessity, that the things approved by the lover of wisdom and the lover of reason (ὁ φιλόσοφός τε καὶ ὁ φιλόλογος) are most true (ἀληθέστατα).
  Then of the three kinds of pleasure, the pleasure of that part of the soul whereby we learn is the sweetest, and the life of the man in whom that part dominates is the most pleasurable (ἡ τούτου τοῦ μέρους τῆς ψυχῆς ᾧ μανθάνομεν ἡδίστη ἂν εἴη, καὶ ἐν ᾧ ἡμῶν τοῦτο ἄρχει, ὁ τούτου βίος ἥδιστος;)?
  How coud it be otherwise?"

Republic IX.585d . "[T]o be filled with what befits nature is pleasure...."

Republic IX.586d-587a. The "truest possible pleasures."

"Let us confidently assert that those desires of even the profit-loving and honor-loving parts of the soul, which follow knowledge and reason and pursue with their help those pleasures which intelligence (φρόνιμον) prescribes, will attain the truest pleasures possible for them, since they are following the truth. These pleasures are proper (οἰκείας) to them, if that which is best for each thing may be said to be most proper to it. So if the whole soul follows the wisdom-loving part (and there is no internal dissension, then each part will be able to fulfill its own task and be just in other respects, and also each will reap its own pleasures, the best and the truest as far as possible. And when one of the other two [parts of the soul] gets the mastery the result for it is that it does not find its own proper pleasure and constrains the others to pursue an alien pleasure and not the true."

7. Socrates' intellectual autobiography

Phaedo 96a-c. Socrates in his youth was interested in the inquiry into nature.

"When I was young, Cebes, I was tremendously eager for the kind of wisdom which they call investigation of nature (περὶ φύσεως ἱστορίαν). I thought it was a glorious thing to know the causes (αἰτίας) of everything, why each thing comes into being and why it perishes and why it exists; and I was always unsettling myself with such questions as these: Do heat and cold, by a sort of fermentation, bring about the organization of animals, as some people say? Is it the blood, or air, or fire by which we think? Or is it none of these, and does the brain furnish the sensations of hearing and sight and smell, and do memory and opinion arise from these, and does knowledge come from memory and opinion in a state of rest? And again I tried to find out how these things perish, and I investigated the phenomena of heaven and earth until finally I made up my mind that I was by nature totally unfitted for this kind of investigation."

Phaedo 97b-98b. Socrates hoped to learn from Anaxagoras why things are the way they are.

"Then one day I heard a man reading from a book, as he said, by Anaxagoras, that it is the mind that arranges and causes all things (νοῦς ἐστιν ὁ διακοσμῶν τε καὶ πάντων αἴτιος). I was pleased with this theory of cause, and it seemed to me to be somehow right that the mind should be the cause of all things, and I thought, 'If this is so, the mind in arranging things arranges everything and establishes each thing as it is best for it to be. So if anyone wishes to find the cause of the generation or destruction or existence of a particular thing, he must find out what sort of existence, or passive state of any kind, or activity is best for it. And therefore in respect to that particular thing, and other things too, a man need examine nothing but what is best and most excellent; for then he will necessarily know also what is inferior, since the science of both is the same. As I considered these things I was delighted to think that I had found in Anaxagoras a teacher of the cause of things quite to my mind, and I thought he would tell me whether the earth is flat or round, and when he had told me that, would go on to explain the cause and the necessity of it, and would tell me the nature of the best and why it is best for the earth to be as it is; and if he said the earth was in the center, he would proceed to show that it is best for it to be in the center; and I had made up my mind that if he made those things clear to me, I would no longer yearn for any other kind of cause. And I had determined that I would find out in the same way about the sun and the moon and the other stars, their relative speed, their revolutions, and their other changes, and why the active or passive condition of each of them is for the best. For I never imagined that, when he said they were ordered by intelligence (νοῦ), he would introduce any other cause for these things than that it it is best for them to be as they are. So I thought when he assigned the cause of each thing and of all things in common he would go on and explain what is best for each and what is good for all in common. I prized my hopes very highly, and I seized the books very eagerly and read them as fast as I could, that I might know as fast as I could about the best and the worst."

Phaedo 98b-99c. Anaxagoras disappoints Socrates.

"My glorious hope, my friend, was quickly snatched away from me. As I went on with my reading I saw that the man made no use of intelligence (νῷ), and did not assign any real causes (αἰτίας) for the ordering of things, but mentioned as causes air and ether and water and many other absurdities. And it seemed to me it was very much as if one should say that Socrates does with intelligence whatever he does, and then, in trying to give the causes of the particular thing I do, should say first that I am now sitting here because my body is composed of bones and sinews, and the bones are hard and have joints which divide them and the sinews can be contracted and relaxed and, with the flesh and the skin which contains them all, are laid about the bones; and so, as the bones are hung loose in their ligaments, the sinews, by relaxing and contracting, make me able to bend my limbs now, and that is the cause of my sitting here with my legs bent. Or as if in the same way he should give voice and air and hearing and countless other things of the sort as causes for our talking with each other, and should fail to mention the real causes, which are, that the Athenians decided that it was best to condemn me, and therefore I have decided that it was best for me to sit here and that it is right for me to stay and undergo whatever penalty they order. For, by Dog [= Anubis, the jackal-like Egyptian god who is a guider of souls and weigher of hearts in connection with the afterlife and the realm of the dead], I fancy these bones and sinews of mine would have been in Megara or Boeotia long ago, carried thither by an opinion of what was best, if I did not think it it was better and nobler to endure any penalty the city may inflict rather than to escape and run away. But it is most absurd to call things of that sort causes (αἴτια). If anyone were to say that I could not have done what I thought proper if I had not bones and sinews and other things that I have, he would be right. But to say that those things are the cause of my doing what I do, and that I act with intelligence but not from the choice of what is best (νῷ πράττων, ἀλλ᾽ οὐ τῇ τοῦ βελτίστου αἱρέσει), would be an extremely careless way of talking. Whoever talks in that way is unable to make a distinction and to see that in reality a cause is one thing, and the thing without which the cause could never be a cause is quite another thing. And so it seems to me that most people, when they give the name of cause to the latter, are groping in the dark, as it were, and are giving it a name that does not belong to it. And so one man makes the earth stay below the heavens by putting a vortex about it, and another regards the earth as a flat trough supported on a foundation of air; but they do not look for the power which causes things to be now placed as it is best for them to be placed, nor do they think it has any divine force, but they think they can find a new Atlas more powerful and more immortal and more all-embracing than this, and in truth they give no thought to the good, which must embrace and hold together all things. Now I would gladly be the pupil of anyone who would teach me the nature of such a cause...."

Phaedo 100b-100e. Socrates embarks on a second voyage in his search for the "causes" of things.

"[T]his is what I mean. It is nothing new, but the same thing I have always been saying, both in our previous conversation and elsewhere. I am going to try to explain to you the nature of that cause (αἰτίας) which I have been studying, and I will revert to those familiar subjects of ours as my point of departure and assume that there are such things as absolute beauty and good and greatness and the like (καλὸν αὐτὸ καθ᾽ αὑτὸ καὶ ἀγαθὸν καὶ μέγα καὶ τἆλλα πάντα). ... I think that if anything is beautiful besides absolute beauty (αὐτὸ τὸ καλόν) it is beautiful for no other reason than because it partakes (μετέχει) of absolute beauty; and this applies to everything. ... Now I do not yet, understand nor can I perceive those other ingenious causes (τὰς ἄλλας αἰτίας τὰς σοφὰς). If anyone tells me that what makes a thing beautiful is its lovely color, or its shape or anything else of the sort, I let all that go, for all those things confuse me, and I hold simply and plainly and perhaps foolishly to this, that nothing else makes it beautiful but the presence or communion (call it which you please) of absolute beauty, however it may have been gained (ἡ ἐκείνου τοῦ καλοῦ εἴτε παρουσία εἴτε κοινωνία εἴτε ὅπῃ δὴ καὶ ὅπως †προσγενομένη); about the way in which it happens, I make no positive statement as yet, but I do insist that beautiful things are made beautiful by beauty. For I think this is the safest answer I can give to myself or to others, and if I cleave fast to this, I think I shall never be overthrown, and I believe it is safe for me or anyone else to give this answer, that beautiful things are beautiful through beauty."

8. Other passages in the middle dialogues

• Through questioning, Socrates got Meno to accept that "in man all other things depend upon the soul, while the things of the soul herself depend upon wisdom, if they are to be good; and so by this account the profitable will be wisdom, and virtue, we say, is profitable" (Meno 88e). Now Socrates raises a worry about this account of virtue.

Meno 96d-98a. Beliefs do not stay in one place unless they are tied down.

 "I fear, Meno, you and I are but poor creatures, and Gorgias has been as faulty an educator of you as Prodicus of me. So our first duty is to look to ourselves, and try to find somebody who will have some means or other of making us better. I say this with special reference to our recent inquiry, in which I see that we absurdly failed to note that it is not only through the guidance of knowledge that human conduct is right and good; and it is probably owing to this that we fail to perceive by what means good men can be produced.
 To what are you alluding, Socrates?
 I mean that good men must be useful: we were right, were we not, in admitting that this must needs be so?
 And in thinking that they will be useful if they give us right guidance in conduct: here also, I suppose, our admission was correct?
 But our assertion that it is impossible to give right guidance unless one has knowledge looks very like a mistake.
 What do you mean by that?
 I will tell you. If a man knew the way to Larisa, or any other place you please, and walked there and led others, would he not give right and good guidance?
 Well, and a person who had a right opinion as to which was the way, but had never been there and did not really know, might give right guidance, might he not?  Certainly.
 And so long, I presume, as he has right opinion about that which the other man really knows, he will be just as good a guide--if he thinks the truth instead of knowing it--as the man who has the knowledge.
 Just as good.
 Hence true opinion is as good a guide to rightness of action as knowledge; and this is a point we omitted just now in our consideration of the nature of virtue, when we stated that knowledge is the only guide of right action; whereas we find there is also true opinion.
 So it seems.
 Then right opinion is just as useful as knowledge.
With this difference, Socrates, that he who has knowledge will always hit on the right way, whereas he who has right opinion will sometimes do so, but sometimes not.
 How do you mean? Will not he who always has right opinion be always right, so long as he opines rightly?
 It appears to me that he must; and therefore I wonder, Socrates, this being the case, that knowledge should ever be more prized than right opinion, and why they should be two distinct and separate things.
 Well, do you know why it is that you wonder, or shall I tell you?
 Please tell me.
 It is because you have not observed with attention the images of Daedalus.  But perhaps there are none in your country.
 What is the point of your remark?
 That if they are not fastened up they play truant and run away; but, if fastened, they stay where they are.
 Well, what of that?
 To possess one of his works which is let loose does not count for much in value; it will not stay with you any more than a runaway slave: but when fastened up it is worth a great deal, for his productions are very fine things And to what am I referring in all this? To true opinion (τὰς δόξας τὰς ἀληθεῖς). For these, so long as they stay with us, are a fine possession, and effect all that is good; but they do not care to stay for long, and run away out of the human soul, and thus are of no great value until one makes them fast with causal reasoning (αἰτίας λογισμῷ). And this process, friend Meno, is recollection (ἀνάμνησις), as in our previous talk we have agreed. But when once they are fastened, in the first place they turn into knowledge (ἐπιστῆμαι), and in the second, are abiding. And this is why knowledge is more prized than right opinion: the one transcends the other by its trammels.