Symposium by Plato

Plato's Psychology - The Tripartite Soul

Plato presents a complicated theory of human psychology spread out amongst his various works. In Republic, Phaedo, Phaedrus, and others, Plato develops a view of human psychology centered on the nature of the soul. He presents the bulk of his argument in Republic and Phaedo, introducing the ideas of the immortal soul and the tripartite division of the soul. At times, however, he appears to contradict his views. It seems possible that Plato is not being entirely truthful about his beliefs in at least one, if not both of the descriptions.

The most important belief of Plato's psychology was the idea of the tripartite soul. A soul, Plato believed, did not consist of a single part, but instead was composed of three distinct elements. This tripartite view of the soul is developed through an allegory to the ideal city, presented throughout the Republic. Plato hoped that by looking first at the composition and origins of justice in a city, he could discover the virtues that lead to justice in the individual. His ideal city consists of three distinct classes of individual, each of which, he argues, is crucial to the functioning of the city. Each of these three classes, in turn, exemplifies a virtue that is crucial for a city to...

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