Choosing and Desire in Plato's Republic 4


  • Richard Parry Agnes Scott College



Soul, Desire, Tripartite, Reason, Appetite, Akrasia


Donald Davidson’s causal theory of action greatly influenced a dominant analytic interpretation of the argument, in Republic 4, for parts of the soul.  According to Davidson, actions are caused by a combination of belief and desire (pro-attitude).  In the interpretation inspired by this account, parts of the soul have distinctive beliefs and desires, which cause action; thus, parts are distinct agents.  As well, the argument in Republic 4 is taken to show that, while reason desires the good, appetite is a desire which is good-independent.  Then, since appetite is not a desire for the good, its being a distinct agent implies the possibility of akrasia—appetite could overcome reason’s judgment about the better course of action.  In fact, the possibility of akratic conflict is taken to be integral to the distinction among parts.  By contrast, this paper offers an interpretation which shows that the causal theory is not needed to establish the parts of the soul.  As a consequence, akrasia has no role to play in distinguishing parts of the soul.


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How to Cite

Parry, R. (2023). Choosing and Desire in Plato’s Republic 4. PLATO JOURNAL, 24, 29-44.