Desire is a Man's Best Friend?
Socrates delves deeper in his search for justice by expressing his views on the idea of the three different parts of the soul, rational, spirited, and desire. In the previous book, book VIII, Socrates looked at the evolution of government in a society; moving from the aristocracy, to the timocracy, oligarchy, democracy and ending in the tyrannical government. There he argued that each these governments are parts of a system that stems form the ideal government, aristocracy. From aristocracy the governments begin to alter becoming more and more corrupted and further from the ideal, where truth is the guiding force for rule. Instead however ones personal desires become the guiding force, which eventually consumes the ruler, and devastate the government. When desire becomes the pilot of the government the ruler themselves becomes a tyrant. The tyrant is a person who is ruled by his or her own personal desires and means in mind.
A tyrant “is transformed out of a democratic man (571a)” and is a man who lets his appetite, or desires take over the other two parts of his soul. A person who begins to dream about desires and before they know what is happening their desires become a reality because their dreams have evolved in to a concrete idea. To begin with there is “some terrible, savage, and lawlessness form of desire in every man, even in some of us who seem to be ever so measured (572b).” Therefore in every one of us there is a part, a part of the three, which can be allowed to escape and run rampant.
In a recent Hollywood film called the Hulk this very concept is explored. The protagonists desire is genetically manipulated so that as he feels anger he becomes something un-human, a monster with un-human strength. As his desires, or his emotions are triggered he becomes a monster that is ruled by “rage” and “power” and the “freedom”, which both allow. He becomes a slave to his anger and is able to break free of societal restraints that have always agitated him. Upon reflecting on his action he discusses how he likes what happens to him. “What scares me is that when it comes over me I totally loose control, I like it.” He becomes a tyrant, a slave to his desire, his anger, unable to control what he does, but also unable to deny his desire to continue with his tyrannical behavior.
The question one must ask is once there is a tyrannical man is it possible to change that man back to a partially just man. Or is it then possible for the heir the tyrannical man to be just. It is then left to the two parts inside of that man to overcome the tyrannical state. This will happen when his tyrannical part has overexploited his desire and is left to rely on his calculating (rational) and honorable (spirited) to be stronger and resurrect the tyrannical state creating a system that is just and good.