Socrate’s “noble” Lie

Socrates in Plato’s Republic, he proposes a “noble lie” in the fictional account of his proposed republic and its three classes. He talks about a society where different people contains different types of metal. Rulers contain gold, auxilliaries silver, and farmers bronze and iron. In this society, if children of rulers have silver or bronze, they would be demoted to lower classes, and auxilliaries or farmers born with silver and gold would be promoted. Socrates claims that even though this is false, if believed by the people, it would result in an orderly and just society since it explains the origin and the importance of the three classes.

It had seemed really ridiculous to me at first that Socrates, a man who seeks justice to such an extreme, would be ok with the idea of a “noble” lie. So I wondered to myself, how is this “noble lie” of his different from the “white lie” that we often tell to not hurt a friend’s feelings? The only a minor difference in that the “nobility” of Socrates’ lie from the “white” in our lies is that while we’re afraid the truth might hurt someone’s feelings, Socrates actually think the lie itself will be the active source of good outcomes. However they’re basically the same that in both cases, it has been determined that the truth isn’t worth as much as a lie. In the end, a lie is a lie, it can’t be justified. Or can it? Although I personally believe that a lie can’t be justified, I can think of many instances where I’m tempted to believe that it is. A minor example would be telling someone that he/she sounds really good on the instrument during a feedback when truthfully, it wasn’t that great. A more extreme one would be trying to comfort a dying patient telling him that he’s getting better when he’s really not. If we ourselves are tempted to think we’re “decent” for telling a white lie, how much more can it be understood that Socrates would think his lie is “noble”, a lie that is good in itself because it contributes to the good of the mass. However, because of our first reactions against Socrates’ claim that a “noble lie” can be just, I think it is rather clear that most of us, whether consciously or subconciously, still distinguishes lie as a deceit, even if it seems to be for a noble cause.

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One Response to Socrate’s “noble” Lie

  1. rmcmanmo says:

    the taking over of any regime always must start with a small moment of deceit. I think Socrates is actually just show the truth to that statement. Without deceit, one could argue, we have no sway over one another as we all stand fully informed and making the truly best informed decisions.

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