Soul Triad


The most interesting piece of thinking about something you were studying for quite some time is that it seems to swirl around in the back of your mind like lemonade around a tall glass of ice. You might not even notice you are still thinking about it until you realize those ideas come out in other things you write–like lyrical content–or live in random conversations.

While many, for millennia, have attempted to solve the puzzle of what exactly a soul is, if there is such a thing (at least in how we mere humans define it), one school of thought fascinated me quite a bit–what comprises a soul. While there were many discussions and debates about the soul, what Socrates had to say stuck out the most to me (enough to have written a paper about it, anyway).

Socrates believed the soul had three parts: (1) reason; (2) appetite; and, (3) spiritedness. His reasoning behind this was compelled by his belief that a human is driven by its soul and the soul is what drives him/her to perform certain actions or inactions.

Reason is the element that causes us to strive to attain knowledge, to think and to calculate so long as it is done rationally. Passions, hunger, thirst, and sexual desire are examples that fall under appetite. But, anger (according to Socrates), despite being a passionate emotion, falls under the element of spiritedness, which comes into play when the other two elements are at odds with each other and spar for control.

For example, when our appetite of hunger desires jalapeno sliders and the greasiest onion rings one can find at 3:00 a.m., but reason kicks in, attempting to object (because we all know what happens after mass consumption of such fare, especially when alcohol is involved), but ultimately loses because our appetite was far too strong, the element of anger then steps in and “becomes the ally of his reason.” (Plato), Book 4, pg. 128, 440(b). However, for this spirited ally to function properly one must have been raised, from youth, properly. And, there is much debate on how one ought to have been raised properly–even today.

Socrates claimed that the soul must have these elements because one particular thing cannot perform certain actions or inactions at the exact same time. If we agree that a soul is just one particular thing, then it would not be able to perform reason, satiate appetites and compel “spiritedness” or anger simultaneously, which it does seem to do. By compartmentalizing the soul through those elements, Socrates was able to justify it performing various functions that sometimes conflict with opposite actions or inactions concurrently.

There are a couple of issues with this. Can you see what they are? Do we see the same issues? The first I see begins with the rules for each element within their categorical definitions. For me, this seems to eliminate at least one element on that level, namely spiritedness would seem to fall under the element of appetite rather than hold its own. The second is in his claim that the soul performs completely separate actions or inactions simultaneously. Even though this is an age-old debate, and my opinion really doesn’t matter, I think this falls flat and the soul doesn’t really do so.

However, as per usual, it is late and I ought to be in bed. I will explain my reasoning for being lead to the above conclusion another night. Until then, sleep tight for me–I’m gone!

Oh, and don’t forget to “like” my Facebook Page.


About Jan Rain

See the About page. View all posts by Jan Rain

One response to “Soul Triad

  • Soul Triad II | meditationsofacynic

    […] So, a few nights ago I threatened to inflict upon you my reasoning for disagreeing with Socrates’ argument that a soul is made up of three distinct parts. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. The summary of his argument, which needs to be read in order to fully follow my conclusion, can be found here: Soul Triad. […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: