Ancient Philosophy 29 (1):1-15 (2009)

It is well-known that Plato’s Republic introduces a tripartition of the incarnate human soul; yet quite how to interpret his ‘parts’ 1 is debated. On a strong reading, they are psychological subjects – much as we take ourselves to be, but homunculi, not homines. On a weak reading, they are something less paradoxical: aspects of ourselves, identified by characteristic mental states, dispositional and occurrent, that tend to come into conflict. Christopher Bobonich supports the strong reading in his Plato’s Utopia Recast: His Later Ethics and Politics. In his The Brute Within: Appetitive Desire in Plato and Aristotle, Hendrik Lorenz agrees with Bobonich that the parts of the soul are ‘the subjects or bearers of psychological states’. Any ascription to my Mental Conflict of the opposed, weak view needs qualification: my Plato is highly ambivalent.2 But my intention here is less to defend an earlier self – though I predict failing to escape it – than to reconsider tripartition in the Republic in the light of Bobonich’s virtuosity and Lorenz’s lucidity. They persuade me of the inexhaustibility of the text, notably within Book 4 from 436 to 439. About these pages we may indeed disagree: they find them decisive in favour of their view, as I don’t. When Socrates remarks, ‘Let us have our understanding still more precise, lest as we proceed we become involved in dispute’, he was not anticipating the dissensions of interpreters.
Keywords Ancient Philosophy  Classical Studies  History of Philosophy
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ISBN(s) 0740-2007
DOI ancientphil20092911
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Freedom of the Will and the Concept of a Person.Harry G. Frankfurt - 1971 - Journal of Philosophy 68 (1):5-20.

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The Spirited Part of the Soul in Plato's Timaeus.Josh Wilburn - 2014 - Journal of the History of Philosophy 52 (4):627-652.
Plato on Hunger and Thirst.Katja Maria Vogt - 2017 - History of Philosophy & Logical Analysis 20 (1):103-119.

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