►Plato’s “Phaedrus”: “The Allegory of the Chariot and The Tripartite Nature of the Soul”:
In the dialogue “Phaedrus”, Plato presents the allegory of the chariot to explain the tripartite nature of the human soul or psyche.
The chariot is pulled by two winged horses, one mortal and the other immortal.
→The mortal, black horse is deformed and obstinate. Plato describes the horse as a “crooked lumbering animal, put together anyhow… of a dark color, with grey eyes and blood-red complexion; the mate of insolence and pride, shag-eared and deaf, hardly yielding to whip and spur.”
→The inmortal, white horse, on the other hand, is noble and game, “upright and cleanly made… his color is white, and his eyes dark; he is a lover of honor and modesty and temperance, and the follower of true glory; he needs no touch of the whip, but is guided by word and admonition only.”
→In the driver’s seat is the charioteer, tasked with reining in these disparate steeds, guiding and harnessing them to propel the vehicle with strength and efficiency. The charioteer’s destination is the ridge of heaven, beyond which he may behold the Forms, Truth and absolute Knowledge. These essences nourish the horses’ wings, keeping the chariot in flight.
The charioteer joins a procession of gods, led by Zeus, on this trip into the heavens.
The ride is turbulent. The white horse wishes to rise, but the dark horse attempts to pull the chariot back towards the earth. As the horses pull in opposing directions, and the charioteer attempts to get them into sync, his chariot bobs above the ridge of heaven .
If the charioteer is able to behold the Forms, he gets to go on another revolution around the heavens. But if he cannot successfully pilot the chariot, the horses’ wings wither from lack of nourishment, or break off when the horses collide and attack each other, or crash into the chariots of others.
When the chariot plummets to earth, the horses lose their wings, and the soul becomes embodied in human flesh. The degree to which the soul falls, and the “rank” of the mortal being it must then be embodied in is based on the amount of Truth it beheld while in the heavens.
The degree of the fall also determines how long it takes for the horses to regrow their wings and once again take flight. Basically, the more Truth the charioteer beheld on his journey, the shallower his fall, and the easier it is for him to get up and get going again.
►The Tripartite Nature of the Soul and the Allegory of the Chariot
Plato conceives of the soul as having (at least) three parts:
- A rational part (the part that loves truth and knowledge, which should rule over the other parts of the soul through the use of reason)→ The Charioteer represents man’s Reason
- A spirited part (which seeks glory, honor, recognition and victory) →The white horse represents man’s spirit (thymos:θύμος).
- An appetitive part (which desires food, drink, material wealth and sex) →The black horse represents man’s appetites.
Worth noting: In the dialogue “The Republic”, Plato states that justice will be that condition of the soul in which each of these three parts “does its own work,” and does not interfere in the workings of the other parts (Check out this post: “Plato’s “The Republic”: “On the Concept of Justice”).
►Slideshare: Plato’s “Phaedrus”: “The Allegory of the Chariot and The Tripartite Nature of the Soul”: