Plato's Tripartite Theory of the Soul: Definition & Parts

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  • 0:04 Reading Plato
  • 0:51 Logistikon
  • 1:38 Thymoeides
  • 2:10 Epithymetikon
  • 2:45 Applications
  • 3:33 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Clio Stearns

Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

In Plato's famous work 'The Republic', he sets out a theory that the soul is divided into three different parts. This lesson will familiarize you with the tripartite theory of the soul and what each part is all about.

Reading Plato

One of the most famous classical philosophers, Plato set forth ideas that stand as the foundation of psychology, politics, and many major philosophical questions. Among his most famous works is The Republic. This book takes on the concept of the ideal formation of the city, and Plato draws many important parallels between the human soul and the meaning of political structures.

In The Republic, Plato defines his idea that there is a tripartite soul. In other words, each person's soul is divided into three different parts, and these parts are simply in different balance from one person to the next.

Plato defines the soul's three parts as the logical part, the spirited part, and the appetitive part. This lesson will help you understand what each of these parts entails.


The first part of the tripartite soul is logistikon. This is the part of the soul that loves logic, thought, and rational learning. Plato equated this part of the soul with the temperament associated with Athenians.

When the logical part of the soul is dominant, the person is able to distinguish well between fantasy and reality. The logical part of the soul is also wise and able to make decisions that are just; in fact, much of Plato's understanding of justice comes from valorizing the logical part of the soul.

Plato reasons that philosopher-kings, or wise thinkers and rulers who Plato ultimately believes should rule over any government, have deeper access than others to the logical part of their soul, and are thus wiser and better able to make just and reasonable decisions.


The second part of the soul is called thymoeides, and this is usually thought of as the most spirited of the three parts. It is this part of the soul that causes people to experience strong emotions, particularly anger and temper.

Plato associated thymoeides with the desire to do good and to be good, because in his view, it was spirit that enabled courage and passionate principle. He considered this part of the soul to be partnered with the logical part, since both of them ultimately work in favor of righteousness and justice.


Finally, the third part of Plato's soul was called epithymetikon, and this is thought of as the appetitive part. It is the part of the human soul that cannot resist appetites, including those for food, power, and sex. This part of the soul is often conflated with the Freudian id.

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