Plato on the Limits of Human Life (Studies in Continental Thought)
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By focusing on the immortal character of the soul in key Platonic dialogues, Sara Brill shows how Plato thought of the soul as remarkably flexible, complex, and indicative of the inner workings of political life and institutions. As she explores the character of the soul, Brill reveals the corrective function that law and myth serve. If the soul is limitless, she claims, then the city must serve a regulatory or prosthetic function and prop up good political institutions against the threat of the soul’s excess. Brill’s sensitivity to dramatic elements and discursive strategies in Plato’s dialogues illuminates the intimate connection between city and soul.
perspective on soul, Socrates and his interlocutors avail themselves of the tale of another, one which reminds them of the stakes of their entire conversation. The inadequacy of the medical model for understanding and evaluating conditions of soul also reveals the inadequacy of an appeal to a phusis conceived in opposition to nomos in regulating human behavior. By uncovering the excessive, limitless character of psuchē, the analysis of the tyrant thus also marks out the work of the city in
comprehensive nor complete), and on the need continually to investigate their claims, as well as his persistent refusal to insist upon the veracity of the myth that he tells toward the dialogue’s end. Doing so requires a denial of the doctrinal character of any of the discussions in the dialogue. To attribute such a status to them is to treat a question as though it were an answer, thereby committing what is for Plato a fatal philosophical error. Instead, we need to scrupulously observe that
the condition they are in at the time of death. Thus, a detail of landscape provides the means for indicating differences of psychic condition. Accompanied by their nurture and education, souls are submitted to a fate that belongs to them alone. Led by guides that have been assigned to them, to a path that is their own (later we learn that this includes traveling on a vehicle reserved for them [113d]), they embark on a journey that will take them to their place of residence for a fixed amount of
radical form by the tyrant. In the remainder of book 4, the discussion of desire is used to indicate the variegation of the soul on the basis of the experience of simultaneous contrary impulses: the “tending toward” indicative of desire and the “drawing or holding back” which, as the contrary to “tending toward,” must be the result of something other than desire, something that will presently be called calculation.9 The indignation one can aim at the “tending toward” of desire is, in turn, taken
| Republic fact, it immediately moves on to Socrates’s own dissatisfaction with their discussion (611b–612a). Glaucus After their rather complicated discussion of the immortality of the soul, Socrates and Glaucon assess their previous psychological investigations, and decide they have come up lacking.40 Here is how Socrates diagnoses their condition: “Now we were telling the truth about it as it looks at present. However that is based only on the condition in which we saw it. Just as those who