3. Parts of the Soul I | Summary and Q&A

April 5, 2012
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3. Parts of the Soul I


Human nature is often torn between different parts of the soul that conflict with each other.

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Key Insights

  • 🛟 The concept of conflict within human nature is prevalent in both ancient and contemporary literature, as well as in everyday life.
  • 🙂 Plato's tripartite soul and Freud's theory of unconscious desires shed light on the internal battles humans face.
  • 🚙 Emotional conflicts arise in various contexts, such as sports bets and personal relationships.
  • 🥳 Different parts of the brain contribute to self-regulation and automatic processes, as evidenced by studies on priming and cognitive biases.


All right. So today's lecture is a lecture about the parts of the soul. And I want to begin with some passages, two from the ancient Greek literary tradition, and two from contemporary mass culture, which bring out the extent to which it is part of the common understanding of human nature that we are often conflicted within ourselves. So in The Rep... Read More

Questions & Answers

Q: What is Plato's tripartite soul and how does it manifest in Leontius and Medea?

Plato's tripartite soul divides human nature into reason, spirit, and appetite. In the story of Leontius, his appetite conflicts with his better judgment, leading him to act against his own values. Medea, on the other hand, experiences a battle between reason and her uncontrollable desire for a young man named Jason.

Q: How does the Internet exemplify conflicts within the soul?

The Sweet Sixteen bracketing decision reveals that emotions and analysis often conflict when making decisions. People with emotional attachments to certain teams struggle to use reason to make the best choices, highlighting the ongoing tension between different parts of the soul.

Q: How does Oprah's viewpoint align with Plato or Hume?

Oprah's belief that being in your heart is better than being in your head aligns more closely with Plato's perspective on reason being in charge. Hume, on the other hand, suggests that reason should serve the passions rather than dominate them.

Q: How does Freud's theory complement Plato's tripartite soul?

Freud's theory of the unconscious aligns with Plato's notion of the id and its incoherent desires. Both theories recognize the existence of unconscious drives that often contradict reason and self-regulation.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • The ancient Greek literary tradition and contemporary mass culture both illustrate the common understanding that humans are often conflicted within themselves.

  • Plato's tripartite soul separates reason, spirit, and appetite, and explores the conflict between these parts in stories about Leontius and Medea.

  • Jonathan Haidt's exploration of emotional conflict in sports and Oprah's discussion of the importance of heart over mind further exemplify this internal struggle.

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