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The Significance of a Bipartite/ Tripartite Division of the Psyche

  • Author(s): Harrington, Tiffany
  • et al.

Published Web Location Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International Public License

Both Plato and Aristotle divide the soul into a distinct number of parts; Plato opts for a tripartite division, while Aristotle opts for a bipartite division. In most of his works, Plato defends a tripartite division of the soul, for example, in the Republic, Phaedrus, Apology, etc. dividing it into the appetitive, spirited and rational parts of the soul; however, in certain works, such as The Timaeus, a bipartite division is discussed, although he never abandons the tripartite division. Plato’s division of the soul is mainly developed in the context of discussions of politics and corresponds to his ideal state, in which there are three kinds of citizens. Aristotle, on the other hand, defends a bipartite division of the soul, dividing it into the rational and the irrational. The motive for dividing the soul into a bipartite or tripartite division is partly political and to explain human behavior, motivations or character types. I will argue that both Plato and Aristotle’s division of the soul agree that there are at least two, parts of the soul, namely, the rational and irrational; however, Aristotle’s division is superior because it is a simpler, more elegant version of Plato’s.

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