The Powers of Plato's Tripartite Psychology

There is a mystery right at the heart of Plato’s famous doctrine of the three parts of the soul, as this doctrine is presented in the Republic, Phaedrus and Timaeus: just what is a soul ‘part’ ( meros, eidos )? Republic IV tells us a way to distinguish soul parts, namely by the Principle of Opposites: since ‘the same thing will not do or undergo opposites in the same respect, in relation to the same thing, at the same time’ (436b8-9), whenever we find a thing that does or undergoes opposites in the same respect, in relation to the same thing, at the same time, we must partition it in such a way that each of the parts does or undergoes only one of the opposites in question. But this raises more questions than it answers: (1) are these parts themselves simple? (2) is the Principle of Opposites the only way to determine parts? (3) what is there to being a soul-part other than being distinguished by the Principle of Opposites—is it to desire and pursue one of the characteristic ( idia ) pleasures identified at Republic 580d-81c, namely, the pleasures of truth for the reasoning part of the soul, of honour and victory for the spirited part, and of food-sex-drink, and as a means to these, money, for the appetitive part?
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