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Volume 18 Issue 4 (December 2010), Pages 481-626

‘Essentially Social’? A Discussion of the Spirited Part of the Soul in Plato (pages 481-494)

Abstract: The spirited part, thumos, plays a complex and often disputed role in Plato's account of the soul. The doctrine of the soul as specifically tri‐partitioned seems to depend on a substantial conception of thumos as fundamental and non‐reducible. Building on John Cooper's contribution in the discussion of the topic, this article aims to show that the role of thumos is characterised by an indispensable, deep‐rooted urge for dignified self‐preservation. The view is supported by Plato's own examples, and discussed with regards to Myles Burnyeat's account of thumos as an essentially social phenomenon. The main claim is that in order to preserve the Platonist idea of thumos as fundamental one should discard Burnyeat's characterisation of thumos as unequivocally social, and instead advocate a view of thumos as concerned with a particular form of self‐preservation, which Cooper's account suggests, but does not fully elaborate.

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