Section 5.

The soul of the world is framed on the analogy of the soul of man, and many traces of anthropomorphism blend with Plato’s highest flights of idealism. The heavenly bodies are endowed with thought; the principles of the same and other exist in the universe as well as in the human mind. The soul of man is made out of the remains of the elements which had been used in creating the soul of the world; these remains, however, are diluted to the third degree; by this Plato expresses the measure of the difference between the soul human and divine. The human soul, like the cosmical, is framed before the body, as the mind is before the soul of either—this is the order of the divine work—and the finer parts of the body, which are more akin to the soul, such as the spinal marrow, are prior to the bones and flesh. The brain, the containing vessel of the divine part of the soul, is (nearly) in the form of a globe, which is the image of the gods, who are the stars, and of the universe.

There is, however, an inconsistency in Plato’s manner of conceiving the soul of man; he cannot get rid of the element of necessity which is allowed to enter. He does not, like Kant, attempt to vindicate for men a freedom out of space and time; but he acknowledges him to be subject to the influence of external causes, and leaves hardly any place for freedom of the will. The lusts of men are caused by their bodily constitution, though they may be increased by bad education and bad laws, which implies that they may be decreased by good education and good laws. He appears to have an inkling of the truth that to the higher nature of man evil is involuntary. This is mixed up with the view which, while apparently agreeing with it, is in reality the opposite of it, that vice is due to physical causes. In the Timaeus, as well as in the Laws, he also regards vices and crimes as simply involuntary; they are diseases analogous to the diseases of the body, and arising out of the same causes. If we draw together the opposite poles of Plato’s system, we find that, like Spinoza, he combines idealism with fatalism.

The soul of man is divided by him into three parts, answering roughly to the charioteer and steeds of the Phaedrus, and to the (Greek) of the Republic and Nicomachean Ethics. First, there is the immortal nature of which the brain is the seat, and which is akin to the soul of the universe. This alone thinks and knows and is the ruler of the whole. Secondly, there is the higher mortal soul which, though liable to perturbations of her own, takes the side of reason against the lower appetites. The seat of this is the heart, in which courage, anger, and all the nobler affections are supposed to reside. There the veins all meet; it is their centre or house of guard whence they carry the orders of the thinking being to the extremities of his kingdom. There is also a third or appetitive soul, which receives the commands of the immortal part, not immediately but mediately, through the liver, which reflects on its surface the admonitions and threats of the reason.

The liver is imagined by Plato to be a smooth and bright substance, having a store of sweetness and also of bitterness, which reason freely uses in the execution of her mandates. In this region, as ancient superstition told, were to be found intimations of the future. But Plato is careful to observe that although such knowledge is given to the inferior parts of man, it requires to be interpreted by the superior. Reason, and not enthusiasm, is the true guide of man; he is only inspired when he is demented by some distemper or possession. The ancient saying, that ‘only a man in his senses can judge of his own actions,’ is approved by modern philosophy too. The same irony which appears in Plato’s remark, that ‘the men of old time must surely have known the gods who were their ancestors, and we should believe them as custom requires,’ is also manifest in his account of divination.

The appetitive soul is seated in the belly, and there imprisoned like a wild beast, far away from the council chamber, as Plato graphically calls the head, in order that the animal passions may not interfere with the deliberations of reason. Though the soul is said by him to be prior to the body, yet we cannot help seeing that it is constructed on the model of the body—the threefold division into the rational, passionate, and appetitive corresponding to the head, heart and belly. The human soul differs from the soul of the world in this respect, that it is enveloped and finds its expression in matter, whereas the soul of the world is not only enveloped or diffused in matter, but is the element in which matter moves. The breath of man is within him, but the air or aether of heaven is the element which surrounds him and all things.

Pleasure and pain are attributed in the Timaeus to the suddenness of our sensations—the first being a sudden restoration, the second a sudden violation, of nature (Phileb.). The sensations become conscious to us when they are exceptional. Sight is not attended either by pleasure or pain, but hunger and the appeasing of hunger are pleasant and painful because they are extraordinary.

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