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The Three Parts Of The Soul According To Freud And Plato

The soul or psyché is the non-physical, spiritual or emotional centre of a person. The soul is the element that survives death. An example of the definition of the soul according to the infamous philosopher Plato is outlined in the ‘Republic’ whereabouts Socrates engages in a discussion with Glaucon regarding primarily the justice of the city and the justice that exists in the soul. Secondly, another example of the explanation of the soul is outlined in Freud’sThe Question of Lay Analysis’. In order to understand which of these accounts is truer of human nature, one must primarily define the theories of both Socrates and Freud and furthermore explain the differences existing between the two accounts. This will in collusion draw together the truer account based upon personal opinion.

Within Plato’s Republic, The soul (psyché) is summarised by Socrates to have three definite parts. Man has inside of him the impulsive or appetitive element, the element of thought or reason and between these two exists an element that can curb impulses and cravings and take orders from thought and reason. These three parts of the soul, according to Socrates, correspond with three different kinds of interests, three kinds of virtues and three kinds of personalities, all depending upon which element of the soul is dominating at that specific time.

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All the parts of the soul have functions to perform under the leadership of the awakened nous. According to Socrates, the ‘parts of the soul’ are governed by certain inflicting desires. The soul consists of appetite, spirit and reason. Appetite includes hunger, thirst and sex. Thumos or spirit which includes the ambition and strength of purpose and final reason, being according to Socrates the highest faculty of our material and immortal soul. Socrates begins, sensibly enough, declaring that the principles which underline the just state must reflect those by which the individual person acquires the good life. Socrates equates ‘appetite’ in his just state to the ‘workers’, who cannot be trusted with many decisions, and whose virtues are industry and sobriety.

The ‘spirit’, is associated with the soldiers…who must defend the state and whose virtue is courage. ‘Reason’ is associated with ‘the philosophy-kings’ who make the decisions, and whose virtue is wisdom. Evidently, Socrates’ ideal state is a tight oligarchy in which the few philosophy-kings make sure that the workers do as they are told. Once Socrates has convinced Glaucon that the soul has indeed three different parts faculties, he quickly ends this part of the discussion by applying his analysis of the civic virtues to the civic virtues of the soul, wisdom, courage and temperance. Wisdom is the virtue of the rational part of the soul, courage is the virtue proper to the ‘spirited’ part of the soul and temperance is the excellence proper to all parts f the soul so far as they are all in agreement with each other in regards to which faculty should rule

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In order to complement and create mutual support of the account of justice in the city, Socrates sets out the accounts of justice in the soul. The soul will establish the nature of the city by establishing the nature of the citizens and therefore this is why a parallel is drawn among the three parts of the soul and the three civic functions in the city. It is apparent that. Socrates sets up the discussion of the soul in order to convince Glaucon to refuse oligarchic politics and select justice of his own free and informed will and realize the truth in Socrates’ words and he intends to make Glaucon aware of the consequences one may experience secretly seeking to satisfy his own desires at the expense of his fellow man Evidently, Socrates displays that both justice in the city and justice existing in the soul produces a well-ordered harmony of the three distinct parts. The unification resulting in a harmony of the parts allows the whole to flourish, while also allowing each of the three parts to flourish within their proper limits. Socrates hence makes justice the master virtue of both city and individual soul, so that, if justice is present, all the other virtues are present.

Consequently, the argument is, the ideal city is structured in exactly the same way in which the ideal soul is structured, each part of the ideal city, like each part of the ideal soul has a proper work established by nature. The citizens of each class have a proper work for which they are best suited by nature in exactly the same way that each of the three parts of the soul has a role for which they are properly suited by nature in the ideal soul. The ideal city has three classes and the subjects within each class have a specific nature disposing them to be well qualified for their particular class and the tasks of their classes. The ‘philosopher-kings, the guardians and the businessmen. In this same fashion, the soul is divided into three principal parts with each acquiring a particular nature. Socrates commences this assertion of the three distinct parts of the soul.

The soul can be one thing but it is composed of multiple parts, one part that may desire what another part may resist. Socrates proposes two examples supporting his belief. One is concerned with objects that have the ability to be in motion but be motionless at the same time and secondly the desire to drink and the resistance to taking the drink that one may desire. Socrates distinguishes the two moments by identifying that one part of the soul is ‘rational’ and the other is the ‘irrational appetitive part’. Thus the two extreme parts of the soul are established and are described by Socrates as ‘fighting a civil war’. The third part of the soul is identified as the ‘spirited’ part. This part according to Socrates, is ‘far from being [appetitive], for in the civil war in the soul it aligns itself far more with the rational part’.

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In ‘The Question of Lay Analysis’, Freud conceptualizes the workings of the psyche, distinguishing the conscious from the unconscious, and distinguishing the functions of it, I and above-I. He uses the word ‘soul’ to describe what he regards as the overreaching concept that takes in all the others. Sigmund Freud’s account of the dimensions of the human personality consists of the ego, id and superego, which at length propose a more contemporary method of comprehending the parts of the soul. Freud’s distinction between the id, ego and superego is different than Socrates’ distinction between the rational, ‘spirited’ and the desiring parts of the soul. The id (libido) in the soul says ‘I want’, and the ego instructs it to wait.

Freud evidently arranges the three parts that he believes define the soul and sometimes employs the concepts of the pleasure principle, the reality principle and the death drive. Nevertheless, Freud’s distinction may help to understand what it means to divide up the personality or soul in this way. When Freud distinguishes id from ego, he is calling attention to particular conflicts of perspectives that may occur within a person, the sort of conflicts that make phenomena such as neurotic denial possible. In neurotic denial one may experience certain desires or emotions that disturb him in some way. To avoid such disturbance, one denies that they are experiencing these desires and emotions.

However, in order to deny that we are experiencing these desires and emotions, one must be recognized, in some sense, that one is experiencing them. This is so that one may have the ability to deny them more effectively. Freud demonstrates our ability to accomplish this by distinguishing between the id (the source of desires and emotions) and ego (the identity or self-consciousness of the individual person who is experiencing the desires and emotions). Considering that the desires and emotions are incompatible with an individual’s ego, the ego ‘represses’ them or at length denies their existence. Socrates proposes a similar example of a conflict between the desiring part of the soul and the spirited part, in which the spirited part of the soul ‘gets angry’ at the desiring part for seeking out certain pleasures.

Evidently, it is obvious that there are numerous differences between the theories of Socrates and Freud. This is based upon the fact that both men held different occupations, in different periods of time, and both specialized in their own fields, being philosophy and psychology. Such differences in the periods of time are evident in the ‘The Question of Lay Analysis’, whereabouts Freud defined his use of personal pronouns in naming the different aspects of the psyche. His reasons for rejecting words from the classical language were because in psychoanalysis Freud likes to keep in contact with the popular mode of thinking and prefers to make its concepts scientifically serviceable rather than to discard them.

Socratic philosophy is based upon observations and critical analysis of the people who surrounded and influence his theories, in contrast to Freud’s theory begin based upon his research into the parts of the main and the functions of the body to create the theory of the soul. Another difference between the two theories includes that Freud does not offer any ‘solutions’ in comparison to Socrates, who builds up theory-based justice. A man must be just to truly be happy.

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This is why Socrates ends his discussion of the justice in the soul with his speech about maintaining harmony within the soul and then letting one’s actions flow from that harmony. His point is that any person in whose soul this harmony prevails will spontaneously and inevitably treat others fairly and justly. Freud merely explains his theory using facts and avoiding any supernatural references, whereas Socrates attempts to offer a more spiritual explanation in the event of offering solutions to reverse the opinions and theories of his interlocutors.

Based upon personal opinion, Freud’s theory of the parts of the soul is easier to understand and relates more to contemporary society and contemporary thought in comparison to Socrates. Socratic philosophy in regards to the psyche is not only slightly confusing; the imagery created is not predominantly visible today and therefore slightly harder to relate to. Freud has taken a deeper, more psychological view of the theory of the psyche and based it upon his knowledge of the mind, creating a more accurate definition of the soul, in contrast to Socrates, whose definition evidently is collaborated by his mere observations of the demos he lived in. Socrates’ account of our human nature is based upon the society and the citizens who surrounded him. Freud has of course witnessed and studied human nature in his patients, but he has connected his studies of the human mind in order to create his theories. Contemporary citizens can evidently relate more to Freud’s theory than that of Socrates. Freud’s theory is a product of his factual knowledge and therefore appears to be a truer account of our human nature.

In conclusion, the theories of Socrates and Sigmund Freud are both true in their accounts, one on a spiritual concept and the other a psychological concept. However, both ultimately focus on relatively the same basis of the soul’s three main parts.

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The Three Parts Of The Soul According To Freud And Plato. (2021, Feb 23). Retrieved March 24, 2023, from