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Psychology, Moral and Pessimism in Plato's Republic

Grant number: 13/26800-3
Support type:Scholarships in Brazil - Doctorate
Effective date (Start): May 01, 2014
Effective date (End): July 01, 2019
Field of knowledge:Humanities - Philosophy - History of Philosophy
Principal researcher:Lucas Angioni
Grantee:Natalia Costa Rugnitz
Home Institution: Instituto de Filosofia e Ciências Humanas (IFCH). Universidade Estadual de Campinas (UNICAMP). Campinas , SP, Brazil
Associated scholarship(s):17/21319-6 - SOUL, SUN AND CAVE: Psychological and Epistemological Pessimism in Plato´s Republic, BE.EP.DR

Abstract

The starting point of this work is the theory of the tripartite soul, as it is developed in the Republic. Among the phenomena that Plato presents in this dialogue as proper to the human interiority during biographical existence, we will analyze in particular (i) the pronounced independent character of the constituent elements of the soul and the fragmented nature of the latter, (ii) the importance of stasis in psychic life and, therefore, the liability of the individual to self-dissension and alienation, (iii) the valuation of the epithumetikós as opposed to internal unity and, simultaneously, (iv) of the logistikón as scarce and vulnerable, largely unable to fully realize its ergon. We will show that, for Plato, all these conditions affect human beings naturally, putting obstacles to the path of knowledge, virtuous action and happiness. Based on this, we will propose the hypothesis that - in close relationship with the theory of the tripartite soul and surreptitiously to the encouraging tone of the dialogue as a whole - the Plato of the Republic can plausibly be considered as pessimistic. We will immediately seek to examine the nature of this pessimism. We will distinguish a genuine philosophical pessimism, defining it as a critical construction that emerges from the consideration of irrational and adverse aspects of reality. Our aim in this context will be to argue that, from the anthropological point of view and in notorious contrast to the widespread interpretation to which Plato is an enthusiastic defendant of reasoned-guided development, he can be considered as one of the oldest members of the philosophical tradition of pessimism, in that his thinking is built upon the recognition of innate characteristics of the soul that limit human progress. Finally, we will consider the Platonic theory in its complexity, noting that the negative trend coexists with a positive and exhortatory position. In this context, we will seek to understand what the source and justification of this affirmative speech is, and how Plato moves between the two aspects of his thought.