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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.

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9: Psychology for the Legislated

Sara Brill Indiana University Press ePub

THE ATHENIAN'S TURN to penal law begins with a lament that such legislation is necessary in Magnesia (853b). However, he quickly acknowledges that they are humans legislating for humans, and that the account of human nature and the human soul they have been developing reveals the necessity for laws of the sort they are about to create. The structure of these laws is informed by another early agreement, namely, that the account of the soul that informs the legislators’ approach to legislating is to be shared with the legislated (645b–c). As we have seen, the preludes that are appended to laws are treated as a powerful vehicle for conveying this civically salutary conception and attitude toward soul. This chapter will argue that the preludes attached to penal law are particularly vivid instantiations of this psychology for the legislated. We will begin with the prelude to temple robbing, a piece of legislation which directly precedes and motivates the distinction between injury and injustice that so shapes Magnesian homicide law, and which promotes precisely the attitude toward violent action that is encapsulated by the religious language of pollution. From there we will move on to discuss the legislation pertaining to homicide and the impiety of the young in order to analyze the implicit accounts of soul contained therein.

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1: Socratic Prothumia

Sara Brill Indiana University Press ePub

SOCRATES'S DEFENSE OF the calmness with which he confronts his death unfolds within a theological framework with which he has a vital, if also uneasy, relationship. Indeed, he is granted the opportunity of giving this defense because of a delay in his execution due to a religious observation: the citywide observance of a vow to Apollo, involving a ritual mission to Delos in memory of Theseus, prohibits the civic pollution that accompanies executions. Further, Socrates's attempts to give both an account of himself and of the “true” philosopher are shaped by the need to determine both of these entities’ stances toward the theology he outlines very early on in the dialogue. With respect to the dialogue's psychology, this theological framework provides a number of the dominant conceptual and linguistic tools through which soul is investigated; consequently it will be necessary to outline this framework in detail. At the same time, Plato's depiction of the uneasiness Socrates feels about certain elements of this theology provides an important orientation toward this framework that neither rejects it nor uncritically appropriates it.1 Instead, the Phaedo illustrates that for Plato it is incumbent upon the investigator of the soul to make apparent the conceptual and linguistic apparatus through which soul is interrogated. Insofar as theology provides one such lens, this theology must be made explicit and subject to scrutiny, and this is precisely what Plato has Socrates do.

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8: Psychology for Legislators

Sara Brill Indiana University Press ePub

IN THE FIRST book of the Laws, the Athenian Stranger and his interlocutors turn to discuss the best form of civic education, one that would provide for the well-being of citizens. They conceive of education in terms that merit comparison with Republic: education is a matter of becoming good (634e, 644a), and requires a training in pleasures and desire (643c) that includes the turning of one's erotic impulses toward that which one is studying (643e). In the Republic, as we have seen, it is the plasticity of young souls that is taken to recommend the supervision of poets and the determination of which tales are suitable to tell. In the Laws the first detailed account of psychic plasticity, that is, of the factors that shape the soul and give character to a human life, occurs in the form of an image introduced in order to clarify the Athenian's assertion that those capable of ruling themselves are good, while those incapable of so ruling are bad (644b): the infamous image of the living being as a puppet of the gods (644d–645c). What unfolds in the course of this image-making is an account of the legislative subject, the being for whom laws are enacted.1 This being is constituted by the tense interaction between an array of demands and capacities, figured in the image as sinews or cords. Several of the most powerful of these cords are described as follows: pleasure and pain, two “foolish and antagonistic counselors” (644c); opinions () about the future, hopes, which, when they anticipate pain are called “fear” and when they anticipate pleasure, “confidence”; and calculation (), capable of determining which opinions are good and which are bad (644c–d). Populated by a plurality of competing affections, the human being is a loose and tenuous conglomerate whose actions are the result of a tense mechanics of pulling and pushing. One such cord—calculation—is capable of adjudicating between the competing demands of the others and directing action on the basis of the good. However, this particular cord exerts its attraction and influence in a gentler manner than the others, and thus requires aid. When calculation becomes the shared opinion of the city, it is called law (644d, 645a).2

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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).

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