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SOUL, SUN AND CAVE: Psychological and Epistemological Pessimism in Plato´s Republic

Grant number: 17/21319-6
Support Opportunities:Scholarships abroad - Research Internship - Doctorate
Effective date (Start): December 30, 2017
Effective date (End): December 16, 2018
Field of knowledge:Humanities - Philosophy - History of Philosophy
Principal Investigator:Lucas Angioni
Grantee:Natalia Costa Rugnitz
Supervisor: Klaus Corcilius
Host Institution: Instituto de Filosofia e Ciências Humanas (IFCH). Universidade Estadual de Campinas (UNICAMP). Campinas , SP, Brazil
Research place: Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen, Germany  
Associated to the scholarship:13/26800-3 - Psychology, Moral and Pessimism in Plato's Republic, BP.DR


We will consider the description of human soul´s nature, faculties, functioning and, in particular, limitations, given by Plato in the Republic, highlighting that (a) the theory of the tripartite soul (Rep. IV 436a et seq.) offers an account of the obstacles that reason faces in successfully fulfilling its érgon; especially the "external" forces, coming from without as powerful, brutal and, for the most, uncontrollable impulses deprived of reason, irrational by definition. We will study, with particular emphasis, the appetitive form of motivation, and bring to consideration its central role in psychic life as an inexhaustible source of psychic conflict and psychic fragmentation. We will then call attention to one of the most representative passages in Plato´s Republic: the allegory of the Cave (Rep. VII, 514a et seq.), highlighting that, when read together with the simile of the Sun (Rep. VI 504c et seq.) and the image of the Line (Rep. VI, 509d et. seq.), (b) the Cave amplifies the account of intelligence´s failure in achieving its proper function, as long as it suggests an "internal" source of obstacles, a "natural weakness" to turn towards the intelligible domain, specifically to the maximum object of knowledge: the Idea of the Good, as well as a kind of estrangement of the intelligible domain itself in relation to intelligence. Given the tight connection between knowledge, virtue and happiness, and considering (a) and (b), we will conclude that (T1) to the same extent that intelligence is unreachable, genuine moral action and true happiness fall men reach and that, being so, (T2) the Republic is signed by a deep pessimism: a pessimism of psychological and epistemological ascendancy, which has important consequences over the moral and the political theory and that remains in a notable contrast to the utopian vein of dialogue as a whole. In order to defend T1 and T2, we will undertake a critical analysis of Books IV to VII.

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