The cognition of appetite in Plato’s Timaeus

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Introduction According to the anecdote on which Socrates, in Republic IV, relies in attempting to show the distinctness of spirit from appetite, Leontius once saw some corpses lying by the side of a public road. He formed an intense desire, probably sexual in character, to take a close look at them. He struggled for a while, trying to resist that desire. He then ran towards the corpses, overcome, as Socrates says, by desire: overcome, that is, by his appetitive desire to take a look at the corpses. The appetitive desire that gets Leontius going is by itself a fully formed motivating condition. Once he is in that condition, all that has to happen for him to start running is for the appetitive desire to overcome the resistance of spirit and, perhaps, reason. Appetite, as it is conceived of in the Republic, needs no assistance from any other part of the soul to get people going. It is equipped with, or has access to, whatever resources are needed to initiate action. Moreover, what Socrates says in the Republic suggests strongly that he thinks that one can deal with objectionable appetites not only by forcible repression, but also by persuading one's appetitive part that acting on appetite now would not be better, or by taming appetite by reason, whatever exactly that may amount to (554c11--d3). If reason is to be able to persuade appetite not to pursue some course of action, or at least to induce a state of calmness in appetite, there must be some form, or forms, of communication between reason and appetite. For instance, reason might call appetite's attention to some painful aspects or consequences of a given course of action, or to an agreeable prospect which might take its attention away from some objectionable pleasure that attracts it.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationPlato and the Divided Self
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages21
ISBN (Electronic)9780511977831
ISBN (Print)9780521899666
StatePublished - Jan 1 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Arts and Humanities


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