Plato: The Tripartite Nature Of The Soul

2250 Words 9 Pages
Plato covered a lot of philosophical ground during his life. To summarize all of his ideas would require an entire book. My goal with this section is to hit on Plato’s big ideas so that a beginning student can have a good grasp of what Plato was all about, see how his philosophy continues to influence Western culture today, and, hopefully, be inspired to dig deeper into his work.

The Tripartite Nature of the Soul
Because so much of Plato’s philosophy grows out of his view of the nature of the human soul, let’s start off by unpacking his thoughts in that realm.

Plato believed that the human soul was immortal; it existed before this mortal life, and will exist after this earthly sojourn is through. In the Phaedrus, Plato goes into explicit
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He mentions it here and there throughout his works (but primarily in Phaedo and Republic), and he refined it as the years went by. So, completely understanding the Theory of the Forms requires reading all of Plato’s works and piecing together the fragments.

Here’s the Reader’s Digest version of what you get when you assemble those pieces.

For Plato, reality exists in two realms. The first is the physical world — the world we can observe with our physical senses. The second is the realm of the Forms.

The physical world is constantly changing. People die, buildings crumble, leaves fall. What’s more, our subjective senses can lead our observations of the world astray. You might see the same object another person does, but think it’s something else. With all this change and uncertainty, how do you know what is real? The answer for Plato is that you can’t know about reality just by observing the physical world. Instead, you have to look to the heavens to where the Forms
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For example, some philosophers and cosmologists argue that our universe may in fact just be a hologram or perhaps a virtual reality created by super-intelligent aliens. In short, the reality we experience might not be reality, and there may be a super-reality existing outside what we can currently perceive. It’s partly due to Plato’s Theory of the Forms that philosophers are even having this debate.

The Examined Life
Now that you understand Plato’s conception of the human soul, and his Theory of the Forms, you’ll understand why he spent so many of his dialogues discussing the nature of things like justice, courage, beauty, and love.

If human souls once lived among the Forms, but have now forgotten them, and the whole goal in life is to rediscover what you once knew, then the best way to spend one’s mortal life is by digging into the very essence of the

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