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What did Plato think about human nature?

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Quick Answer

Plato viewed human beings as inherently rational, social souls burdened by imprisonment within their physical bodies. The soul disposition of an individual soul, fixed for eternity, determines the type of human the individual will be in life. The human body, limited and constantly responding to need, is an obstacle to the soul's full realization.

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What did Plato think about human nature?
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Plato divides the human being into two component parts: the body and the soul. The body is seen as the temporary constraint upon the soul, reducing the full scope of its understanding to that which can be perceived through a narrow mortal lens. He sees death is the triumph of human nature, the soul’s liberation from such limiting circumstances. The soul component of a human being is, therefore, as immortal and unchanging as the Ideas.

Plato further distinguishes among three aspects of the human soul: reason, spirit and the appetites. Reason, which Plato believes should ideally dominate over the other aspects, is responsible for the earnest search for knowledge and understanding. From spirit, a human derives the ambition for symbolic accomplishments, including honor and social status. From the appetites come those drives that are material to the human body, including all yearnings for food, drink, shelter, sex and survival. The cumulative effect of the spirit and the appetites make humans social beings, as only social cooperation allows mankind to meet all of its physical and symbolic needs while specializing its occupations to the propensities of individual souls.

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Related Questions

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    What is the good life according to Plato?

    A:

    Plato contends that the good life is lived by fulfilling the natural function that all things possess. Plato believed that any object, animal or man has a natural function. Discovering that function is the first step in living the good life, and it is followed by acting on that function.

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  • Q:

    How are Plato and Aristotle similar?

    A:

    Plato and Aristotle are similar in that they both contemplated man's existence in the world and the significance of that existence. They both tried to understand what it means to be aware of one's existence and how that existence is related to that of others.

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  • Q:

    What is the major contribution of Plato?

    A:

    The Republic, a philosophical work produced in 380 BCE and still discussed in modern curriculum, is one of the more commonly known contributions of Plato. The Republic addresses justice and politics. Another contribution of Plato is The Academy, an institution at which students could study astronomy, biology, mathematics and politics.

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  • Q:

    What are the differences between Plato and Aristotle?

    A:

    The primary difference between Plato and Aristotle lies in their beliefs about what was most authentic about existence. Plato believed that ultimate reality is not present in everyday experiences. Aristotle thought that the everyday world is more authentic than Plato's otherworldly set of ideals.

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