Plato’s idea of the tripartite soul is an analogy to understand how human nature works. It is represented in a picture of a charioteer, and two horses. One horse is white, obedient, fit and of a pure breed where the second is black, a disobedient lumbering animal.
The charioteer represents ‘reasoning’. He is in control of the two horses and is trying to guide them evenly along the journey of life. He is also knowledgeable and therefore is in charge. The white horse is called Passion; representing ‘spirit’. Passion is ambitious and strives towards success. The black horse is called Desire. He represents the human apatite for example: Food, drink, sex and money. Together, these three aspects make up Plato’s tripartite theory of the human soul.
The theory is made up of the following premises:
Two opposing states (Passion and Desire).
One state (Reasoning) above the two opposing states.
Reasoning is allied with Passion.
Desire is more difficult to control than passion.
In order for a person to live at peace with their inner self, they need to have an even balance of passion and desire, by the means of their reasoning. This means a person must limit their indulgence of pleasure in moderation to their spirit and their emotions. When peoples reasoning fails to keep an even balance between their desires and their passions, they will experience unease and are likely to become miserable. Even if only one horse’s actions were out of proportion, it would stress the charioteer causing him to foolishly guide the other horse. However when reason succeeds to stabilize the tension between passion and desire, all three states of the tripartite soul will live in harmony with each other, thus, a person is living a life with inner peace.
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