A noble lie is necessary for smooth and peaceful governance. In Republic, Plato offers a wide account that seeks to justify the use of lies among the societal elite. Using the example of a stratified society that is made up of rulers, auxiliaries, and farmers, Plato emphasizes that a society needs these clear strata for a peaceful co-existence. However, this stratification needs to be solidified and justified by a pack of lies which he calls, The Noble Lie. For instance, the people need to be assured that these strata are not as a result of forces within their control but it is the will of God that demands so.
It is the will of God that intervenes during birth; so that some people are born with gold entrenched in their souls, others with silver, and others with iron. Apparently, those born with gold make the rulers’ class while the silvers are the auxiliaries and those born with iron are the farmers’. It was believed that if the rulers sired children with silver or even iron they would definitely relinquish their rulers’ status and take the auxiliaries or the framers status depending on the metal in their souls.
The same case applied to those in the auxiliary and farmers’ category that were with gold – they would be promoted to the rulers’ class. To mitigate such scenarios, it was also believed that people from different metal classes should not intermarry – marriage was strictly within the same classes (Pangle, 1988). Fundamentally, the noble lie is comparatively similar with the contemporary religion given that they all aim at piecing the society together so as to avoid unnecessary wrangles.
Religion, like the noble lie seeks to instill a sense of confidence and trust in the supreme deity who is conventionally believed to be responsible for all issues affecting human kind. Though the myth is a work of fiction from a fertile mind, it succeeds in hammering home its message. The noble message is that human beings cannot be morally and socially equal; some will be rulers while others will be the servants to the rulers. Perhaps Plato’s decision to use noble lie was informed by his conviction that not many people in the society are capable of making good leaders, given that good leaders are expected to make smart decisions.
Apparently, those smart decisions need to be laced with “necessary lies” capable of holding the society together even in the thick of temptations (Pangle, 1988). A good example of noble lies applied in contemporary governance matters is the Iraqi invasion by the western world led by the United States and United Kingdom. Ideally, both President Bush and Prime Minister Blair administrations used the noble lie(s) to drum support from the public that indeed an Iraqi invasion was justified. Following the September 11, 2001 attacks, Americans developed a feeling that terrorism needed to be fought even no matter the consequences.
On the other hand, the British public like very many others at the time, particularly non-Muslims had great fears on Saddam developing weapons of mass destruction. These situations provided the best opportunities for the Bush and Blair Governments. For instance, it was very easy for the Bush administration to tie up a few truths (fighting terrorism) with the big lie, that Saddam Hussein was giving refuge to terrorists to justify an invasion. On the other hand, Blair had an easy time convincing the British public that invading Iraq would rid Saddam Hussein of the deadly weapons of mass destruction.
Both lies were indeed “noble” given that they were based on the notion that a toppled Saddam Hussein leadership would create a peaceful world to live in (Postel, 2003). The main reasoning behind Plato’s conception of a stratified society is that a society needed all categories of people for it to be productive. Leaders provided ideas responsible for holding the society together while the auxiliaries provided the critical guarding services to critical personalities and places, with the farmers providing the menial labor for various activities.
To him, the lie did not matter or even loose morality given that people believed that their “God” was responsible for putting a different metal in each individual’s soul and bloodstreams before s/he was born. If the people believed, just as religion demands of them in God then the society will be more governable in a “just” manner (Mason, 2004). Similar sentiments are shared by Pfaff (2003), when he argues “that the essential truths about society and history should be held by an elite, and withheld from others who lack the fortitude to deal with truth. Society, Strauss thought, needs consoling lies. ”
Ideally, this was a conviction based on the notion that the auxiliaries and farmers alike were not fit to enjoy explicit freedom or even capable of cushioning the potential shocks in the event they were told the “truths. ” Or even as Urdaibay (1) asserts, There are different kinds of truths for different kinds of people. There are truths appropriate for children; truths that are appropriate for students; truths that are appropriate for educated adults; and truths that are appropriate for highly educated adults, and the notion that there should be one set of truths available to everyone is a modern democratic fallacy [that] … doesn’t work.
After all, Plato reasoned that any attempts to tell them the truth would be an exercise in futility as they would not understand the gist of any truths given that their iron coated souls and bloodstreams undermined their potential for grasping truthful things – they could only understand lies which were laced with some elements of nobility.
It is only to assert that if they realize the truth behind the laws of nature that are taught to them that, “the right of the superior to rule over the inferior, the master over the slave, the husband over the wife, and the wise few over the vulgar many” they will definitely revolt against the set social norms and order (Mason 2004). In fact, those rulers should be those people who know and acknowledge that there is no morality or ethics, and that oppression should be applied among the masses to ensure no one challenged the big lie.
Strauss galvanizes this argument by asserting that, people should not told about such fundamental truths and that selective teaching should be encouraged in order to keep the masses within the limits of noble lie(s). And that the masses need not be taught beyond what they ought to know (Postel 2003). Work Cited Mason, John, G. Leo Strauss and the Noble Lie: The Neo-Cons at War. Available at: http://www. logosjournal. com/mason. htm/ accessed on July 24, 2010. Pangle, Thomas, Ed.
The laws of Plato by Plato. University of Chicago Press, 1988. Pfaff, William. “The Long Reach of Leo Strauss,” Op-Ed, International Herald Tribune, May 15, 2003. Postel, Danny. Noble lies and perpetual war: Leo Strauss, the neo-cons, and Iraq, October 16, 2003. Available at: http://www. opendemocracy. net/debates/ accessed on July 24, 2010. Urdaibay, Alan. Atheism Central for Secondary Schools, 1999. Available at; http://www. eclispe. co. uk/thoughts/noblelie. htm/ accessed on July 24, 2010.
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