As the founder of the first university and considered the most powerful thinker in history Plato believed that the soul was made of three parts. The Three Parts of the Soul in Plato’s Republic and Phaedrus are mans Appetite (Black Horse on Left), Spirited (White Horse on Right), and Reason (Charioteer). Each part of the soul has it’s own virtue as well as its own vice. Temperance is the virtue of Appetite, Courage the virtue of Spirit, and Wisdom is the virtue of Reason. It was Plato’s belief that goodness and justice come from the correct balance of the Three Parts of the Soul. We will uncover the perfect balance of the soul According to Plato and how goodness and justice come form this balance.
Known as our animal side the appetitive part of the soul includes a myriad of desires for different pleasures, comforts, physical satisfaction, and bodily ease. Temperance, which is the virtue of the appetite, is ones ability to exhibit moderation and self-restraint when indulging in life’s pleasures. The good and just practice temperance while the evil and unjust practice lust, greed, and gluttony, commonly referred to as the Vice of the appetitive part of the soul. There are so many appetites that Plato does not mention all of them, but he does say that they can often be in conflict with each other. In the republic the workers and artisans were in this category. The ugly black horse on the left represents the appetitive element of the soul.
The spirited part of the soul or hot-blooded part is where we get our source of action. This is the part of the soul that will get angry if we feel an injustice is being done. It is also the part of us that loves facing and overcoming challenges, the part that loves victory, challenge, and winning. Courage, which is the virtue of the spirited element of the soul, enables the soldier to stand and fight as well as control the lower class consisting of merchants, artisans and peasants. The souls source of action derives from courage and enables the appetitive part of the soul to exhibit moderation and self-restraint keeping us good and just. Anger and envy are the vices of the spirited part of the soul. When anger and envy take control gluttony, lust, and greed will soon follow. The spirited element of the soul is represented by the noble white horse on the right.
The last and most important element of the soul according to Plato is reason. This is the part of the soul that thinks, looks ahead, analyzes, rationally weighs options and tries to decide what is best for us overall. It was Plato’s belief that the rational part of the soul convinces the spirited part of the soul to control the appetitive part of the soul. This is the only way one could achieve balance and harmony. The rulers and philosophers were amongst the most rational people in the republic. The charioteer represents our mind and conscious awareness that is guiding the horses and chariot.
The charioteer should be in charge of the whole system deciding about when to give each horse it rein or when to hold it back. The horses should not govern the whole system; the whole system should be run by the rational decisions of the charioteer. Plato believed this was the perfect balance of the soul and would lead to harmonization and happiness of the soul creating a good and just person.