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La fonction du thumos dans la République de Platon

Abstract : Thumos is hardly definable for two reasons. First, one cannot separate the tripartite psychology from its political locus, that is the tripartite polis ; second, the tripartite psychology cannot be taken as a platonic dogma : it receives several meanings not only from the Republic to the Laws, but also in the very same dialogue, as C. Gill points out in his paper. As F. M. Cornford already showed, thumos is the “weak point” of the city-soul analogy, a psychic part created ad hoc to fit the tripartite city, but eventually referring to a fundamental aspect of social life and behaviour: “Self respect”. Similarly, M. Vegetti found three shifts in the city-soul analogy, two of them being explicitly caused by a certain interpretation of thumos, for its function in the psyche is hardly understandable without referring to the social structure in which the individual acts. The Homeric origin of thumos shows that thumos is deeply linked with the ideology of honour and shame, and Plato’s aim in the Republic is to use thumos’ energy, in neutralizing it and converting it into a new frame of values. As A.-G. Wersinger showed, Plato uses two distinct psychological models in the Republic : a first one centered on the Homeric thumos (Rep. III), and a second one, founded on an erotic psychology, which is responsible for a new function for the thumos. Following this path, I’ll try to explain Plato’s strategy of converting the meaning of thumos, which is taken to be a function of valuing things. In doing so, we can understand how a misuse of thumos is responsible for the corruption of the philotimos’ character, but also, conversely, how thumos is naturally the target of preliminary education. The aim of this paper is to show how this “weak-point” of tripartite psychology is coherent with Plato’s aim of leading non-philosophers to virtue.
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Olivier Renaut. La fonction du thumos dans la République de Platon. Notomi, Noburu; Brisson, Luc. Dialogues on Plato's Politeia (Republic), Academia Verlag, pp.179-188, 2013, 978-3-89665-538-7. ⟨hal-01551272⟩

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