Robert Alan and Kathryn Dunlevie Hayes Professor of Humanities and Professor of Philosophy at Rice University

I have a longstanding teaching and (as yet underdeveloped) research interest in ancient philosophy, which I would like to join to a treatment of certain aforementioned, somewhat neglected topics—such as psychological unity and the “conative” aspect of experience. I have thus far focused my research in ancient philosophy on interpreting the moral psychology of the Republic’s tripartite soul, arguing (in [32]) for an interpretation of Plato’s division of the soul into reason and appetite.


This reconstruction of Plato’s argument, while it may not preserve everything he wants, provides the rudiments of a defensible distinction between rational desire and appetites. The first are experienced decisions that essentially include some conception of the agent’s own good, and have their source in a power to order and integrate one’s motivations.The second—appetites—are felt desires essentially independent of evaluative thought, which in human beings arise and proliferate in a way conducive to internal conflict and chaos.


In an unpublished manuscript [33], I complete this picture by arguing for an interpretation of Plato’s rather underdescribed third part of the soul, thumos (“spirit”). I find in this the germ of an interesting theory of emotional experience (including, paradigmatically, feelings of anger, disgust, shame, and pride). This account recognizes, in “spirited” desires, a type of motivation that (like appetite) may be divorced from one’s rationally endorsed values, but which also naturally respond to one’s values (in a way appetites do not), as well as to the perceived approval and disapproval of others. For this reason, while they are, like appetites, prone to generate destructive inner turmoil, they also act as catalysts for moral development, and are intimately involved in the human craving for honor and respect.

Charles SiewertMy main area of research is philosophy of mind. I am the author of The Significance of Consciousness and have written extensively on consciousness, perceptual experience, phenomenal thought, introspective self-knowledge, and phenomenology. You will find descriptions of my research, and links to publications and presentations on the menu above.

Charles Siewert
December 2011

Philosophy Department
Rice University
P.O. Box 1892
Houston, TX 77251
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Ph.D., Philosophy, University of California at Berkeley, 1994.
B.A., Philosophy, Reed College, 1983.