Forms, Lies, and Triangles

The other night, I was hanging out with Matt and some other people, celebrating the end of classes and having some fun times.  Matt and I started sarcastically talking about justice and the “ideal society”, making fun of Plato and Socrates, when something funny happened; one of the people we were with started taking on the role of Thrasymachus (he didn’t know that that was what he was doing) and argued against the things we were saying.  Matt and I took the position of Socrates, and the debate was on.  After a few minutes, the conversation started sounding a lot like dialogue out of The Republic (well, I guess if Socrates’ friends, for lack of a better word, had a little bit more spine, this is what it would have been like).  We touched on the forms, the form of the good, the city, justice, and the myth of the metals.  His objections very much mirrored the ones that I had in class, from the problems with Socrates’ conception of Justice and its use in the city, to the absolutely semantical nature of the Forms.  However, it was the myth of the metals that made me feel the most uneasy.  My friend jumped all over me for the idea of founding the society on a lie, and I thought of how to defend the statement, but I couldn’t think of anything other than Socrates’ shallow response that the lie was a “noble” lie.  After that one was put on the table, nothing that was said for the rest of the night really meant much to me, and I was stuck on the idea of the “noble” lie.  My conclusion is that this lie is the reason why Socrates is wrong.

I think that a good place to start would be with The Forms and how the lie contradicts the idea of forms.  To begin, I would like to state that the myth of the metals is a lie that has no aspects of truth to it.  There can be no argument of that point.  This means that it is the furthest possible thing from the form of truth.  How can such a thing exist if, as Socrates says, there are no forms for bad things (such as lies)?  The lie without truth would then be the ideal lie, or the form of the lie.  Is it not true that there are lies that have no aspects of truth to them?  What if I were to tell you that I was an alien from another planet, or that I made billions of dollars by investing in a company?  Those statements have no truth in them, therefore they are proof that a lie is not always, as Socrates might say, only something with a little truth in it as can possibly be.  Lies can be completely emptied of truth.  These lies can be much more serious, such as “I did not have sexual relations with that woman”, and “Mission Accomplished”.  If a lie can have no aspects of truth in it, then how can fall under the form of truth?  The above leads me to believe that there would be a form of lies.  The perfect lie, or the lie of lies, to me, would be the perfect deception.  It would have the potential to tear down civilizations, build them (as it is in this case) and ruin lives.

What significance does this have for the myth?  If you agree that the myth is empty of any truth, it means that it is part of a form that does not participate in the Form of the Good.  In turn, this means that the city itself is built on something separate from good.  It is corrupt by its very nature.  So, then, how can this lie that is emptied of all truth, and therefore empty of all good, be a “noble” lie, as Socrates puts forth?

The answer to the above question is that it cannot be.  For the myth of the metals to be a noble lie, it would then have to both participate in the form of nobility, which participates in the form of the good, and participate in the form lies, which do not participate in the form of the good.   Socrates, as a just person, should be able to recognize the depth of the injustice that he is committing, as should the philosopher kings as they rise up the tunnel into the sun that is the form of the good.

To wrap this up, Socrates was wrong about the forms.  Forms of bad things can exist because we have physical manifestations of things that do not have any good in them.  Another conclusion that you could draw for this is that there are not any forms at all, and the physical world is true reality and understanding.  This would mean that I was right all along, and that it was in fact a triangle on the chalk-board.


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