10 Slices
Medium 9780253008824

10: Psychic Excess

Sara Brill Indiana University Press ePub

EARLY ON IN the lengthy prelude addressed to the would-be atheist, the Athenian makes a statement about soul whose ambiguity and profundity beg comparison with that fateful description of the good from Republic 6 as “beyond being” ( ) (509b). If, observes the Athenian, soul can be shown to be generated prior to things like fire and air, then “it would be most correct to say it to be ” (892c).1 As the adverbial form of means primarily “differently from.” It is often used (in conjunction with a genitive) to indicate “above,” and this specification to its kind of “difference from” recommends the adverb's use to indicate “especially,” “pre-eminently,” or, as Bury renders it, “superlatively.” To claim that psuchē is is to suggest that psuchē has being as both surpassingly and superlatively natural, which is to attribute to soul a deeply ambiguous relationship to nature.

This is a fruitful ambiguity, one in keeping with the general tenor of the discussion of soul in book 10. The Athenian's characterization of the soul as exceedingly natural is contingent upon both a conception of phusis and a demonstration of soul's generation, a showing of its priority with respect to genesis. In fact, genesis and phusis are brought into an intimate relationship in this passage because the atheist's conception of phusis, as the Athenian describes it, is precisely as (generation or coming-to-be of things primary) (892c). As we have seen, the Athenian does not expressly challenge this general formulation of phusis; instead, as the prelude develops, he attempts to reconfigure the atheist's conception of the relationship between phusis and psuchē by asserting that soul is the primary cause of all motion. In doing so, the Athenian attributes to soul generative capacities whose magnitude and scope blur the distinction between psychology and cosmology.

See All Chapters
Medium 9780253008824

5: Psychic Fragmentation

Sara Brill Indiana University Press ePub

WHILE BOOKS 2 and 3 provide an account of the vehicles through which city and soul affect one another, books 4 and 5 elaborate upon the complexity that is interior to soul and identify the tense interaction between desire and other elements of the soul as decisive for the unity or fragmentation of both soul and city. Thus, books 4 and 5 contribute to the multidimensional psychodynamics requested in the preceding books by deepening Socrates's and his interlocutors’ understanding of what it means for soul to become virtuous or vicious. They do so by focusing upon the general forms of fragmentation and unity to which the human being and human things (including cities) give rise in the course of their respective becomings.

Indeed, I will argue, books 4 and 5 lay the foundation for a catalogue of psychic division, one which seeks to take into account a broad range of manifestations of fragmentation and unity. These books look not only to individual human behavior and the psychic division that can be discerned therein, but also to collective human action and the political formations to which it gives rise—viewing the city as a field in which division and unity are made manifest—and beyond even human political activity to the varieties of beings themselves and the vision of dissolution and unity provided by an exploration of the ontological status of things.

See All Chapters
Medium 9780253008824

3: Psychic Geography

Sara Brill Indiana University Press ePub

WHEN SOCRATES CONCLUDES the four logoi about immortality with the observation that it is to the care of the soul that they must turn, “not only for this time in which we call ‘being alive’ goes on, but for time as a whole” (107c), it would seem as though he simply passes over the need to give an account of “being alive.” Socrates does not go on to offer a logos of living being in the same manner in which he has discussed the immortality of the soul. And yet, if his subsequent account is indeed of time as a whole, it is the place in which such time unfolds that is given the greatest attention. The myth about the earth that Socrates offers provides an image of the scene of duration, an image of what we might call “doing time,” in which the site of the “doing” is the subject of description. Socrates returns to the mythic context in which the four logoi began by first offering a preliminary description of the soul's journey to Hades (107c–108c), followed by an extended myth of the earth (108d–114c) in which he describes the whole earth (108d–109b) and its various regions (109b–113c), and concluding with an account of the experiences of the souls of the dead under and upon its surface (113d–114c). Thus, Socrates follows the fourth logos about soul's immortality—a logos whose failure to provide an adequate account of living being we have charted in some detail—by recounting a description of the earth in which death is presented as the soul's migration to a region on the earth appropriate to it. Justice is enacted by the soul's dwelling therein.

See All Chapters
Medium 9780253008824

7: Politics and Immortality

Sara Brill Indiana University Press ePub

BOOK 10 OPENS with Socrates's observation that their most recent comments have illustrated the correctness of their earlier critical assessment of poetry. He then levels a charge against the imitative arts as such: they “seem to maim the thought of those who hear them and do not as a remedy have the knowledge of how they really are” (595b). According to this assessment, the lovers of poetry1 are lovers of something that disfigures them, and moreover does so without announcing these effects. Indeed, it is precisely the lack of transparency regarding poetry's ontological status and effects, its lack of provision for knowledge of what it is and does, that Socrates attempts to remedy in the subsequent discussion of what mimēsis is. This is to say that book 10, which concludes with the myth of Er, begins with a call for a poetry that is able to account for itself, a dialectical and self-critiquing poetry.

Throughout the first half of book 10, Socrates's critique of poetry takes as its justification the tendency of poetry to foster2 one part of the soul to the detriment of others, even in the souls of the decent (605c). The figure he summons to illustrate this danger is that of a bereaved and decent father who, having lost his son, does battle with himself, struggling between a desire to deliberate and set his affairs aright, on the one hand, and a desire to indulge in lamentation, nourishing the part of him that wants to mourn, on the other (603e–604d). Even decent people, concludes Socrates, are tempted by the displays of lamentation in tragedy to luxuriate in mourning (605c–d).

See All Chapters
Medium 9780253008824

4: City and Soul

Sara Brill Indiana University Press ePub

THE MAJORITY OF the conversation that comprises the Republic occurs because Socrates is trapped by his own piety: unable to hear justice slandered, he agrees to defend the just life by showing the effects of justice and injustice on the soul. Glaucon and Adeimantus offer a number of formulations of this task. Glaucon desires to hear what the powers of justice and injustice are when they are in the soul, alone and by themselves, stripped of their wages and consequences (358b). Adeimantus, observing that no one has adequately argued that injustice is the greatest evil a soul can possess and justice, correspondingly, the greatest good (366e), fills in his brother's argument. He calls attention to the effect on the soul of the customary opinion that justice is good but hard, namely, the development of the belief that happiness is best attained by gaining the reputation for justice while cultivating the unscrupulous advantage-gaining of the unjust (365a–366b). He twice asks Socrates not only to show that justice is stronger than injustice, but also what each does to the person who has them (367b, e).1

See All Chapters

See All Slices