Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Plato's parts of the soul

I have not had time to formulate a response to John Reynolds comments yet - I regret. However, this should help to explain my confusion with his introduction of Plato in the headship debate.

Here is an excerpt, quickly chosen, to illustrate the parts of the soul in Plato,

    At all levels of this plan can be found a three-step pattern consonant with the threefold structure of the soul introduced in the middle of the middle section of the "middle" discussion : a desiring, passionate, part (which is actually manifold), the epithumiai, which is the "reflection" in us of nature, phusis, matter, biology and the like ; a reasoning part, the logos, which makes it possible for us to get in touch with the intelligible, with order, with the "forms" outside time and space, with the divine ; and in between, an intermediate part, the thumos, akin to the will, the field of choice, judgment, decision-making and the like. *
I am not sure how Reynolds wants us to associate this with the notion that man is the head of the wife. Clearly, for Plato, there was the rational part, residing in the head, and the part of desire or appetite, residing in the belly, and the part of the will, residing in the lungs.

How does this make in clear that head was an authority? It gives us the idea that for Plato reason resided in the head. It does not tell us that man should be the ruler of the wife.

* Bernard Suzanne


Anonymous said...

Of course, Plato's whole point in the Republic is that the "wisdom-loving soul," that is, the reason, must rule the other two parts. This is more or less his definition of a "just," i.e. well-ordered, soul. Plato happens to think of the wisdom-loving soul as residing in the head. From there I suppose he could be made to have some relevance to the debate about the meaning of headship in the NT, but it seems like a bit of a stretch to me.

Suzanne McCarthy said...

Yes, Kenny, I have thought about this a lot. But if reason is the Logos, and the Logos is Christ, then it does not fit the metaphor of head.

Christ is the Logos of God, he is the expression of God. You cannot say that Christ was the Logos (as in "head") of God. Better, just leave Plato out of this metaphor, IMO.

Anonymous said...

I agree that it is better to leave Plato out of it (though there are very few contexts in which you will hear me say that!), but it is important to construct the strongest possible case for this false claim before dismissing it :)

In 1 Cor. 11, Christ is the head of man, and man the head of woman.

Also, if I recall correctly, Plato doesn't emphasize the word logos in this context, at least in the Republic (though it is certainly one of his favorite words); the emphasis is on the phrase philosophe psuche, so in terms of interpreting Plato, Christ as Logos may be a red herring.

Suzanne McCarthy said...

When I first studied Plato I was quite attracted to the whole idea that Christ was the Logos in the Greek sense. However, as you can see, I don't hold to this now.

I thought, correct me if I am wrong, that you once suggested that the male is "reason" (logos) and the female is "passion/feeling." (thumos)

But most likely I am remembering wrong.

I really think now that teh scriptures have more to do with how connected man and woman are/should be, but not in a hierarchic way, not in an Aristotelian sense, but rather, biologically, as interdependent and emotionally connected.

Anonymous said...

I never, that I remember, suggested anything like that in connection with Plato, nor do I remember ever suggesting that men had more reason than women. I did at one time suggest that women have more "passion/feeling" (without any accompanying deficiency in reason, since the two are not opposite ends of the same scale, but rather two different dimensions) than men, but I certainly no longer think this kind of generalization to be helpful or theologically relevant, though it seems to me that, as a statistical generalization, it is probably empirically true and there are in certain cases biochemical explanations for the generalization.

In short, I wouldn't say today, nor would I have been likely to say in the past, anything like that in the present context.

I do think Christ as Logos certainly has Greek attachments, I just think that the attachments are to cosmology rather than theories of the soul. I don't think they are relevant here.

Suzanne McCarthy said...

biochemical explanations for the generalization

Maybe that is what I remembered. Oh well. I'd like to ask more, but somehow it seems like a bit of a red herring.

Yes, I get your last point.