Jan 8

Philosophy Job Candidate Talk

"The Irrational Part of the Soul: Reflections on Spirit, Appetite and Tragedy (see webpage for more details)

Sunday, January 8th, 2012
12:00 – 1:00 pm / Leighton #402

The Irrational Part of the Soul: Reflections on Spirit, Appetite & Tragedy

Have you ever eaten a third helping of your favorite cake, despite knowing that it would be in your best interest to refrain? Have you ever lost your temper, despite knowing that it would better serve you to remain composed? If you are human (and I will assume that you are), you have firsthand experience of weakness of will, commonly referred to by its Greek name, “akrasia."

For the Socrates of Plato's Republic, akrasia explains more than our propensity to break our New Year's resolutions. It also reveals the very structure of the human soul. The human soul is divided. The so-called “rational part” desires that which reason calculates to be best; and the so-called “irrational part” desires, feels and evenbelieves in ways that are irresponsive to reasoning. Hence, in Plato's view, the behavior of the akratic is best explained by appeal to her divided soul; she eats the third slice of cake, because her irrational part “overpowers” her rational part.

In this paper I aim to clarify the nature of the irrational part of the soul, through uniting the psychological theories of Book IX and Book X. In the process, I uncover some interesting features of Plato's critique of contemporary Greek tragedy, which is said to corrupt audiences by strengthening their irrational part. 

Sponsored by Philosophy. Contact: Sandy Saari, +1 507 412 9076