Speaking with the same voice as reason Personification in Plato’s psychology

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1 Scopus citations

Abstract

Introduction Contemporary readers of Greek ethics tend to favor those accounts of the virtuous ideal according to which virtue involves the development of both our emotional and our rational motivations. So our contemporaries find much of interest and sympathy in Aristotle's conception of virtue as a condition in which reason does not simply override our appetites and emotions, but these non-rational motivations themselves “speak with the same voice as reason.” By contrast, the Stoic ideal of “apathy,” the result of extirpating the emotions, and the Stoic analysis of the emotions as defective impulses of reason, have few contemporary fans: our contemporaries tend to reject “defective” as an appropriate evaluation of emotion and so to reject extirpation as a goal; most also reject the Stoic analysis of emotion as a modification of reason, maintaining that emotions have distinctively non-rational elements. However, Aristotle's own optimism about the cultivability of our non-rational motivations rests on substantial psychological commitments that he inherits from Plato, and it is worth thinking about whether we can accept those commitments or whether the Aristotelian ideal of virtue is available to us with some other psychology. Following Plato, Aristotle divides the human soul into rational and emotional and appetitive “parts,” and then describes the non-rational “part” of the soul concerned with appetites and emotions as itself partly rational, capable of obeying although not of issuing rational commands. Aristotle likens this part of the soul to a child, and its relationship with reason to a child's relationship with its father. Now the conception of our appetites and emotions as capable of agreeing with, obeying, or being persuaded by reason suggests that the appetites and emotions themselves involve belief-like items that can be modified in light of expanded considerations, new evidence, and so on.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationPlato and the Divided Self
PublisherCambridge University Press
Pages77-101
Number of pages25
ISBN (Electronic)9780511977831
ISBN (Print)9780521899666
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)

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