Plato and the Soul

‘What is a soul?’ asked Maia.

‘It’s like a ball of light of different colours burning inside each one of us’ replied a boy.

And who thinks they have a soul?’ she asked.

All hands in the air.


To introduce pupils to the philosopher Plato

To think about his idea of the tripartite soul and the question of justice

To reflect on and make our own tripartite soul

Setting and materials

  • Classroom.
  • Powerpoint for images of Thinking, Doing and Wanting.
  • A4 piece of card for each child on which there was an image of a human figure overlaid with 2 layers of tracing paper. This allowed for each part of the soul to be drawn or written on. The figure as a whole showed the separation and interconnections of each part.


Leading the workshop was one of our graduating students, Maia Pritchard, (see student testimonial). Maia introduced the children to Plato (or Pluto and play-doh as some children liked to call him) and his idea of the soul and facilitated a discussion around the idea that thinking about truth, beauty, goodness and justice and about who we are and how we live as human beings is what it has always meant to think philosophically.

This was intended to build on the already strong philosophy for children (p4c) element of the school’s curriculum which we have participated in on prior visits. The listening and speaking skills of children from reception to year 6 are developed across a broad range of classroom topics and activities so that they were not only keep to talk and respond to difficult questions but demonstrated the ability to think deeply and carefully in their conversations with us and their friends.

The three parts of the soul; reason, spirit and desire, were then explained as follows:

  • The thinking part is the part which seeks to know what truth, the good, the beautiful and justice are.

  • Spirit is the courageous part of the soul which must work with thinking to help us act ethically in the world and so to work for a fair society.

  • Desire is that part of us which needs and wants things but which doesn’t have to think very much.


Continuing this discussion in small groups with our students the children made a representation of their own three-fold soul. The purpose was to show the separation and interconnections of each part as it makes a ‘whole’ person.

We were both surprised and inspired by the depth of thinking during this activity. It was indeed, a soulful afternoon…