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Корпус текстов Платона в истории его интерпретаций - 2


The Passion for Reason in Plato’s Republic

Jörg Hardy
(Centre for Advanced Study in Bioethics, University of Münster, Germany)

In the Republic, Plato presents us with a tripartite model of the soul (in Book IV 434d2 – 443c2), and a series of three epistemological allegories (in Books VI and VII 506b2 – 518b5), namely the allegory of the sun (507a7-509b10), the allegory of the divided line (509d1-511e5), and the one of the cave (514a1-518b5). Taken as a whole, the three epistemological allegories in Books VI and VII also form one model of the soul, just as the one of the tripartite soul in Book IV.

In this paper I aim to explain how these two models of the soul fit together, and how the two models illustrate – each in its one way – the modus operandi of reasoning and education. The model of the tripartite soul in Book IV distinguishes three distinct mental faculties (and capacities). These are the desiring part (to epithumêtikon), the spirited, passionate part (to thumoeides) and the reasoning part (to logistikon), respectively. These three faculties bring about bodily pleasures, courage and passion, and reason, respectively. The objective of the model of the tripartite soul is to show the power and sovereignty of reason as the instrument that allows us to conduct a good life (eudaimonia) – if we make a beneficial use of the capacity of reason.

The objective of the epistemic allegories in Books VI and VII is then to illustrate education (and the lack of education, respectively) and to show that education allows us to make a beneficial use of “the virtue of reason” (Rep. 518b-519a) as is required for conducting a good life. The sun represents the Form of the Good, which is the cause of all the various ontological species and epistemic capacities that are described in the allegory of the divided line. The line is first divided into two unequal sections with the smaller section representing the visible realm below the larger section representing the intelligible realm. These two sections, the visible and the intelligible, are further subdivided in the same ratio as the first division. The four sections of the line represent four states of mind (pathemata) or epistemic capacities, respectively, and each capacity refers to a certain kind of objects: noêsis (intellection) refers to the forms, dianoia (thinking, understanding) refers to mathematical and scientific objects, pistis (belief or trust) refers to visible things, and eikasia (image-recognition) refers to images like reflections on the water and shadows.


The line as a whole illustrates a process of gaining knowledge, climbing from a lower level to the next higher level by way of recognizing the objects on a given lower level as representations of objects on the next higher level. The scientific progress illustrated by the line comprises various specific cognitive activities. What these activities have in common is the ability to grasp shadows and images as representations of the real things that belong to the next higher ontological realm. Within the progress along the line there is an increasing in clarity and truth; each higher section represents more clarity and truth than the section below.

The allegory of the cave operates on a more fundamental level; it explains the essential condition for the scientific progress illustrated by the line. The allegory of the cave consists of three stages: (1) The prisoners living in a cave are caught in an impenetrable deception. They are not able to identify shadows and images as shadows and images, that is, as representations of things of a different kind, illustrated by their inability to move their head so that they cannot turn their view to the light above and behind them. What the prisoners lack, is the concept of meta-representation. (2) The prisoners are released from bonds and compelled to look up toward the light and to step out of the cave. (3) After having left the cave, the former prisoners have to painfully adjust to light, but will gradually become able to study the real things in the light of day and will finally even see the sun itself (516b).

The model of the tripartite soul conveys the message that reason has to rule the interaction of a person’s desires and capacities (the virtues). The three epistemological allegories illustrate both scientific understanding, and education (paideia) (514a, 518c-519a). In my presentation I propose an interpretation that unifies the two accounts of the soul and shows how Plato thinks about the power and passion of reason in the Republic.



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