In Phaedo, Socrates stated that he “[has] a firm hope that there is something in store for those who have died, and, as we have been told for many years, something much better for the good than for the wicked” (“Socrates & the Human Soul”). This quote is a succinct representation of Socrates’ general belief that the human soul was an invisible and immortal entity that guides the physical body (“Socrates & the Human Soul”). Socrates believed in this theory so much so that he requested a sacrifice to the Greek god of healing upon his death as gratitude for his escape from the “tomb of the human body” and entrance into eternal life (para. 12).
In relation to Socrates’ thoughts of the ideal city, he believes that education, specialization, and social structures are what the ideal city will depend on (“The Republic Summary”). These attributes are further developed by simple rulers and specialized workers that work individually to help create a greater whole over time. This concept of individual pieces lends itself to another aspect of Socrates’ theory of the human soul. Socrates feel that, along with its immortality and invisibility, the soul has three, distinct parts. These three parts are the rational, the appetitive, and the spirit (para. 3). In a just man, Socrates claimed that the three parts of the soul must be led by reason, yet still work equally to accomplish an ideal nature. Likewise, Socrates likened an ideal city to a just man, and stated that an ideal city must be led by its ruler (a philosopher). However, while being ruled, the city still needs the warriors and producers perform their individual functions (para. 3).
A theory of an ideal city that has its residents perform its own functions in a good nature is a concept that has many different variables to consider. Socrates also believed that humans focused too much on rewards, and, consequently, often lost focus on the tasks at hand. This can be seen in Socrates’ discussion in The Republic when he states that the rulers should “lead very simple lives, forbidden to touch gold or silver or to own property” (para. 2). By living this simple lifestyle, the ruler lives without distractions and it taken care of by the warriors and producers. The warriors and producers are, in turn, protected and governed by a ruler with a sound mind. With this structure, the class system in almost erased entirely.
When connecting a social class system and hierarchy to Socrates’ theory of the soul, one can see that the deletion of hierarchies and class are present within the soul’s existence inside immortality. Thinking within the framework of Socrates’ theory, souls are no longer concerned with trivial human elements once they escape from their vessels. Claiming this to be true, souls’ foci must then switch to more higher level matters, meaning that they no longer divide themselves by occupation and wage.
To conclude, Socrates’ theory of the human soul connects directly with his thoughts of what an ideal city should be. The ideal city is led by a ruler who is not distracted by wealth or property that he owns. Instead, the warriors and producers of the city provide for the king and are consequently led by a ruler who is of sound mind and judgement. To compare, the soul is led by its rationality, and the appetitive and spirit follows accordingly. Socrates believes that the souls is immortal, and that it serves a much higher purpose than its human body ever will. In tandem with this thinking, the ideal city’s structure will lead itself to providing an eternal form of justice and law that will be upheld for generations.
- Christian Neuroscience Society. “Socrates & the Human Soul.” Christian Neuroscience Society, cneuroscience.org/content/socrates-human-soul.
- LitCharts. “The Republic Summary.” LitCharts, www.litcharts.com/lit/the-republic/summary.