The Noble Lie: Plato's Republic Essay

1718 words - 7 pages

The concept of the noble lie begins with Plato in the Republic, where in search of an ideal state he told of a magnificent myth^1.The society that Plato imagined was separated into a three tier class structure- the Rulers, Auxiliaries, and the labor or working class. The Rulers, he said, would be selected from the military elite (called Guardians).The rulers would be those Guardians that showed the most promise, natural skill, and had proven that they cared only about the community’s best interests. The Auxiliaries were the guardians in training, and were subject to years of methodical preparation for rule. The lower class would be comprised of the workers and tradesmen, who being the most governed by their appetites, were best fit for labor. The introduction of the "noble lie" comes near the end of book three (414b-c)* Where Plato writes "we want one single, grand lie," he says, "which will be believed by everybody- including the rulers, ideally, but failing that the rest of the city".* The hypothical myth, or "grand lie" that Plato suggests is one in which, the Gods created the people of the city from the land beneath their feet, and that when the Gods made their spirit the precious metals from the ground got mixed into their souls. As a result some people were born with gold in their souls others with silver, and others with bronze, copper,or more even common metals like iron and brass. It was from this falsehood that the first phylosophical society’s social hierarchy was established. The myth goes as follows: Those the Gods made with gold in the souls were the most governed by reason, and who had a predisposition to contemplation which made them most suitable for rule. Those with silver in their souls where the most governed by their passions, and thus were made to be the guardians of the city, And those with the lesser metals in their souls where made to engage in all the economic activities, through which all the people's appetites where satisfied-the farmers were there to grow food, the bakers where to bake, blacksmiths, and carpenters, etc., were all there to fulfill the needs of the city.
Plato benevolently conceived of such a system in order to establish a more perfect state, and to use also as the foundation from which to form a more sound social and moral order, one that would make the most of the capacities of each individual with in his republic. Plato was not concerned that the story he told was false, he was more focused on the inner more metaphorical truth. He knew that if the people truly believed that the Gods Put different metals in their souls, then they would then accept the social order that it entails, and thus live in a more stable and socially just society. In Plato's time each member of the ideal city would be inculcated even indoctrinated with this story from birth. So that the citizens of the republic learn to internalize its message, and thus are less likely to question their duty to the city. Henceforth I plan to...

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