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Chapter 7 - The Noble Lie

from Part III - Myth and Allegory in the Republic

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  27 July 2023

Malcolm Schofield
Affiliation:
University of Cambridge
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Summary

The ‘noble lie’ is crucial within the political philosophy of the Republic, as the ideology of the charter myth needed to motivate the citizens of the Republic’s good city in general, and the rulers in particular, to care above all for its well-being. I look first at the way lying figured in the Greeks’ imaginary and their political discourse, particularly that of the Athenian democracy; then at ethical dimensions of Socrates’ notion of ‘useful lie’, and his distinction between deception by speech and deception in the soul. What makes the ‘noble lie’ useful is its ability (if believed) to instil in citizens love for their community (not merely calculation that promotion of its well-being is in their own self-interest), through representation of their human identity as membership of a single family, with their core affections and obligations directed to their mother country. It is that sense of basic identity and commensurate obligation, not dialectically based grasp of eternal truth, which will persuade philosophers to take their part in ruling the city. Finally, I tackle the issue – its difficulty highlighted by Socrates himself – of how belief in the narrative is to be secured.

Type
Chapter
Information
How Plato Writes
Perspectives and Problems
, pp. 139 - 162
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2023

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  • The Noble Lie
  • Malcolm Schofield, University of Cambridge
  • Book: How Plato Writes
  • Online publication: 27 July 2023
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108672603.009
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  • The Noble Lie
  • Malcolm Schofield, University of Cambridge
  • Book: How Plato Writes
  • Online publication: 27 July 2023
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108672603.009
Available formats
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To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

  • The Noble Lie
  • Malcolm Schofield, University of Cambridge
  • Book: How Plato Writes
  • Online publication: 27 July 2023
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108672603.009
Available formats
×