Plato on the soul
AIMS: 1. Consider strengths and weaknesses of Plato‟s Theory of Forms.
2. Understand Plato‟s beliefs about the soul.
1. Quick test. Write names I will collect.
2. Aims. Mention cinescope illus. problem of philosophy: How do you jump out of
yourself and see whether your experiences really correspond to reality? Plato
believed ideas not just the content of your minds ( modern view from Descartes), but
independently existing things Realm of Being. Like numbers – see article. Maybe
answer to life is 42! No proof – self evident. You are still blind if you don‟t believe
(3. Bring you notes to next lesson: Snowball strengths and weaknesses onto A3 sheet
in small groups of 3 or 4. to report back in 10 min.
4. Each group report back. Teacher record answers on board. All write up results for
5. Teacher supplement answers. Recommend New Scientist article – photocopy in
library.) TOMORROW in CR6.
1. Different levels of interpretation of cave. 1 Social/political, 2 Whole reality 3.
2. Cave can represent your body. Soul is prisoner in body. Body is keeping you
from the truth.
3. Assumption here. Real you is non-material. You have a body not you are a
body. DUALISM. (as opposed to MONISM).
4. How did the prisoners get there? (Rachels‟ question). Answer suggested in a
book called Phaedrus .
5. Image of soul as a winged chariot and a charioteer. Soul designed to fly
upwards and behold the beauty of the Forms. Not so much the form of the cat
etc. but ideal Goodness, Justice and Beauty. (mention myth of Pygmalion
here) Plato call this upward desire. „Eros‟. We are flying high on the wings of
love! Progression in love – particular physical beauty, beauty of soul or
character („Platonic love‟), Ideal Beauty. All can experience these things not
just philosophers (love of wisdom) – Forms are accessible. They exist beyond
the outer vault of the heavens.
“ It is there that true Being dwells, without colour or shape, that cannot be
touched; reason alone, the soul‟s pilot can behold it, and all true knowledge is
knowledge thereof….In the revolution the soul beholds universal Justice, Virtue,
Knowledge, not such knowledge that has a beginning and varies…but that which
abides in the real, eternal absolute.” (Phaedrus 247c-e)
6. Problem: Tripartite soul in conflict: Draw and label.
Reason = charioteer
White horse = „spiritedness‟ (thumos) heroism
Black horse = appetite, desire.
Can be compared with Freud ego, id, superego. Illu „I‟m not myself today‟
7. Plato‟s version of the Fall. The black horse causes trouble for the charioteer.
Tries to pull him downwards. This causes the wings to break off and the
chariot and charioteer come plummetting downwards and become trapped in
the cave of a human body. (this is an ancient myth which he learned from
8. This means that for Plato your soul has a pre-existence. (Socrates and slave
boy illus – all knowledge is remembering – this lesson is just revision!).
9. End of story touching for all you romantics:
In book Socrates tells young man Phaedrus how in true love the souls of the
lovers are excited in each other‟s presence:
“As he looks upon the beloved, a reaction from his shuddering comes over him,
with sweat and unwonted heat; for as the stream of beauty enters through his eyes,
he is warmed; the effluence moistens the germ of the feather, and as he grows
warm, the parts from which the feathers grow…become soft and…the quills of the
feathers swell and begin to grow..”
When you fall in love your wings start to grow again!
The image of the beautiful awakens a memory of the Ideal Beauty in the World of
10. But all this leads to a negative view of the body – the „cave‟ you are
imprisoned in your exile from the Real World. Less real, less important. Body
gets in the way of the business of philosophy. Tripartite struggle still going on
in the body. Illus student who had an erection in my lesson!
11. OHT of Plato negative quote about body. How do you think this view has
affected society in history? Church infected with Platonism.
12. Summary of ideas on soul – OHT.
13. Illus from Socrates
14. Arguments for existence of soul.
15. Discussion questions. On OHT.