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Plato’s differing accounts of body and soul

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  1. Questioning the universal truth of the soul's ability to rule.
  2. Problems with Socrates's body-soul conception.
  3. Account of psychological conflict offered by Socrates.
  4. The discussion of psychological conflict.
  5. Socrates's additional partitioning of the soul into the spirited part.

In both the Phaedo and Republic 4, Socrates offers an account of the nature of psychological conflict in the context of a discussion about the soul. Different conceptions of the soul and body emerge from these accounts, each of which takes on a markedly different tenor. I will exposit and criticize the account presented in the Phaedo, and then, in the course of expositing the second account, turn to the similarities and differences between the two accounts. I will then argue that one should prefer the conception offered in Republic 4, for the reason that it offers a more coherent picture of the soul and a more plausible account of psychological conflict.

[...] Importantly, though, we may not reason as follows: because we do not invoke objections from causal interaction to lay waste to Socrates' division of soul and body more generally, by analogy we should not level these objections in the context of an account of psychological conflict. But with regard to a general objection to the soul- body distinction, Socrates need not answer the causal interaction complaint: he might admit that interaction is a mystery, but assert that mystery does not imply the impossibility of interaction he waves his hands, so to speak. [...]


[...] Socrates thus negates each of the following: The soul is composite thing is a kind of harmony of the elements of the body in a state of tension,? (92b) from which is follows that the soul could not have ?existed before those elements from which it had to be composed the harmony is composed last of all, and is the first to be destroyed? (92b-c) The above statements prove that Socrates denies the thesis that mental or soul properties supervene on physical properties, i.e., he denies physicalism. [...]


[...] Here, we would not say that the soul rules the body and dictates the person's actions, but that the opposite is true. Socrates might defend himself as such: the souls of these people are qualified in some way they are ?damaged' or ?corrupt,' maybe and thus the above is not a genuine counterexample to the assertion that the soul rules the body. But we need not resort to cases of what might be deemed disease in order to illustrate the problem. [...]

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