Analysis of Plato’s View of Falsehoods

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In Plato’s republic he creates a utopian city by the name of Calipolis as both an example and a thought experiment to be employed while showcasing his views on society and the nature of just government. In his mind the creation and maintenance of a just city is dependent on a number of things. This city must have a clear class system in which the citizens are content in their station in life or the very least led to believe that it is the best they can possibly attain. The classes within this system must be clearly defined and be pervasive in all areas of life. Plato divides his society into three main classes, guardians, auxiliaries and the artisan class. Among the uppermost ranking are the perfect rulers of Plato’s mythical city, the philosopher kings.

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In order to maintain the strict class system and thus maintain a platonic form of justice within Calipolis, Plato invents series of creation myths and deliberate falsehoods to maintain order. One of the more important of these such falsehoods is the “myth of the metals”. In this myth Plato states that all citizens of Calipolis are born with a certain metal in their blood. The ruling class of guardians is born with gold in their blood, the auxiliaries have silver and the artisans have bronze. This places everyone into a category of aptitude that cannot be disrupted and thus instills a certain form of order to the city.

In Plato’s mind “the myth of the metals” is a form of acceptable if not necessary falsehood or government sponsored lie. He believes that to maintain a just city the guardians must use falsehoods to ensure that the citizens do not become dissatisfied with their lot in life and then create disorder. “But what about spoken falsehood? Is it not sometimes and on some occasions useful, and not then detestable? Can we use it, for example, as a kind of preventive medicine against our enemies or, when anyone we call our friend tries to do something wrong from madness or folly.” Plato sees these deliberate lies as useful to the ruling class in order to alter public perception of reality and allow for the select few at the top to have more ideological control than otherwise possible in a totally transparent society.

Although Plato argues for the deliberate selection of lies that are to be told by the ruling class, proper justice cannot last for very long under these conditions. By instilling the power to select which lies are told and what areas of life they greatly impact, gives far too much power to one set of individuals. It is possible in theory that the rulers of Calipolis (a mythical utopia) would be able maintain a series of just lies over an extended period. In a non-mythological setting however, this system would break-down into total authoritarian injustice rather quickly. This shift would take place as those in power, being human and thuis having their own flaws, and base appetites as Plato refers to them, would create falsehoods that directly benefit them and disadvantage the rest of society. Throughout history, powerful and intransparent ruling parties have created some of the most blatantly unjust and tyrannical societies through the extensive dissemination of falsehoods and government sponsored lies. Somewhat recent examples of this are the rules of Hitler, Stalin and currently Kim Jong Un.

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