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Plato and the Soul

Plato's view of the soul is complex and encompasses aspects of dualism and the assertion that the soul is the ultimate beginning where the life itself originates. Plato divides the human soul into three parts: the rational part, the will, and the appetites. The just person is the one in whom the rational element, supported by the will, controls the appetites. An obvious analogy exists here with the threefold class structure of the state, in which the enlightened philosopher-kings, supported by the soldiers, govern the rest of society.

Plato and the Soul

In Book II, Glaucon and Adeimantus continue the discussion with Socrates, and the main thrust of The Republic is on.  Glaucon admits that people are forced by the State to be just “for whenever anyone thinks that he can safely be unjust, there he is unjust” (Book II, Section 6).  The brothers agree that appearing just is more important than actually being just.  Appearance is everything in today’s society.  A man who is believed by his neighbors to be just can “get away” with more, he can rob, steal, cheat, beat his wife, as long as his façade remains.

Vice is easy, Adeimantus argues, being just is hard.  Why then, do people continue to hold on to the notion that justice is a virtue?  Consider Plato's view of Justice through the Just Man and his neighbor.  Both are confronted with the situation of marital infidelity.  Unjust Man has no qualms about giving into temptation and vice: he seeks his pleasures and indulges his vices.  Just Man will resist, but after a great personal struggle—the temptations of life are such that trouble his soul.  It would be easier to give and gratify the senses like Unjust Man, but remaining just requires effort.

Just Man will begin to question whether living the just life is worth it when no consequences are put upon Unjust Man.  Unjust Man is everywhere in our society: he is in the car tailgating you since the posted speed limit does not apply to him, then cutting you off because he must be accommodated: his life is more important and wherever he is going is obviously more important that anything you could possibly be doing.  Unjust Man is parking in handicapped spaces because they are more convenient to him.  Unjust Man cares only for himself; the rules do not apply to him, and Unjust Man is everywhere.  Thrasymachus would recognize him in modern society.  Unjust Man condemned and executed Socrates.  Justice, we are told, is excellence of Plato's view of the soul, and the just man will live happy.

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