Internal Struggles Common to All

by Jimmy Akin

in Apologetics, Notes, Philosophy

There is a famous (among philosphers) passage in Plato where there is a particularly good illustration of the kind of struggles we often fight with ourselves–the same kind we read about in the New Testament in passages like “the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak” and St. Paul’s description of his internal struggles in Romans 7:13-25.

I wanted to keep track of the passage in Plato for use in the future, because it shows that these struggles are common to all humans, even the pagan Greeks.

I hadn’t read it since grad school, so I looked it up where it is.

It’s found in Book 4 of The Republic, where Socrates is talking with Glaucon, where we read:

SOCRATES: Well, I said, there is a story which I remember to have heard, and in which I put faith. The story is, that Leontius, the son of Aglaion, coming up one day from the Piraeus, under the north wall on the outside, observed some dead bodies lying on the ground at the place of execution. He felt a desire to see them, and also a dread and abhorrence of them; for a time he struggled and covered his eyes, but at length the desire got the better of him; and forcing them open, he ran up to the dead bodies, saying [to his eyes], “Look, ye wretches, take your fill of the fair sight.”

GLAUCON: I have heard the story myself, he said.

SOCRATES: The moral of the tale is, that anger at times goes to war with desire, as though they were two distinct things [SOURCE].

You can see why this is such a vivid illustration–both wanting and not wanting to look at dead bodies.

Creepy!

But exactly the kind of thing that we all find ourselves faced with on occasion.

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