Plato on the Soul
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The ancient Greek philosopher Plato (424–348 BCE) wrote copiously on the question of the human soul. The soul is given substantial treatment in many of his dialogs – the Phaedo, Republic, Symposium, Phaedrus, and Timaeus primarily, though the Meno, Ion, and Philebus, as well as other dialogs, are at least tangentially concerned with topics related to his view of the soul as well. Of these treatments, two particular items of interest to the student and historian of psychology are his “tripartite” theory of the soul and his epistemological theory of anamnesis, or learning by recollection.
Plato’s tripartite theory is given most explicit expression in Book IV of the Republic. According to Plato’s view, there are three elements which constitute the life of the soul. Of these the one that is unique to human beings, and thus privileged by Plato, is reason. Plato’s accent on reason would be the impetus behind Aristotle’s – and historically, the Western tradition’s – characterization of man...