Thumos (also commonly spelled "thymos"; Greek: θύμος) is a Greek word expressing the concept of "spiritedness" (as in "spirited stallion" or "spirited debate"). The word indicates a physical association with breath or blood. The word is also used to express the human desire for recognition.
It should not be confused with the similar Greek word θυμός, which means "anger" (the two words differ in the intonation).
In Homer's works, thumos was used to denote emotions, desire, or an internal urge. Thumos was a permanent possession of living man, to which his thinking and feeling belonged. When a Homeric hero is under emotional stress he may externalize his thumos, conversing with it or scolding it.
Plato's Phaedrus and his later work The Republic discuss thumos as one of the three constituent parts of the human psyche. In the Phaedrus, Plato depicts logos as a charioteer driving the two horses eros and thumos (i.e. erotic love and spiritedness are to be guided by logos). "In the Republic (Book IV) soul ... becomes divided into nous ("intellect"), thumos ("passion"), and epithumia ("appetite"”). To its appetitive part are ascribed bodily desires; thumos is the emotional element in virtue of which we feel anger, fear, etc.; nous is (or should be) the controlling part which subjugates the appetites with the help of thumos." (See Plato's tripartite theory of soul.)
Megalothymia and isothymia
Megalothymia refers to the need to be recognized as superior to others, while isothymia is the need to be recognized as merely equal to others. Both terms are neoclassical compounds.
- The Phi Theta Kappa honor society took the letter theta for thumos, representing the "aspiration" that they seek in their potential members.
- Thymos is the name of an academic Journal of Boyhood Studies .
Thumos and democracy
In his book The End of History and the Last Man, Francis Fukuyama mentions "thymos" in relation to liberal democracy and recognition. He relates Socrates' ideas about Thymos and desire to how people want to be recognized within their government. Problems emerge when other people do not recognize another's Thymos and therefore do not provide the justice that it requires. In order for people to exist in harmony, he argues, isothymia rather than megalothymia must be used to satisfy the human need for recognition. Any system that creates political inequality is necessarily feeding the megalothymia of some members while denying it to others. Fukuyama explains how Thymos relates to history with the example of anti-communism in relation to the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, and China. He states, "We cannot understand the totality of the revolutionary phenomenon unless we appreciate the working of thymotic anger and the demand for recognition that accompanied communism's economic crisis."
- Manliness, a book by Harvey Mansfield (he discusses "thumos" in his 2007 Jefferson Lecture as well )
- Rage and Time, by Peter Sloterdijk
- Will: the conscious mental act that produces physical results.
- Will to power
- Fukuyama, Francis. The End of History and the Last Man. (Francis Fukuyama 2006: New York, NY).
- Christopher A. Faraone, "Thumos as Masculine Ideal and Social Pathology in Ancient Greek Magical Spells," in Ancient Anger: Perspectives from Homer to Galen, edited by Susanna Braund and Glenn W. Most (Cambridge University Press, 2003), limited preview.
- A review of Fukuyama's book, including his use of the concept of thymos in his argument.
- An essay about The End of History that describes megalothymia and isothymia.