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Plato's Unjust Idea of Justice

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Plato's Unjust Idea of Justice

Plato makes it difficult for us to believe in and accept his idea of what justice is. Through the extended metaphor of his 'ideal' society he attempts to help us fully understand what justice is, but as Plato does this he uses examples that appear to advocate the use of lies in order to establish and sustain his "ideal society", as long as they are in the best interest of the state. It seems counterintuitive to use lies in order to define justice because after all, justice is synonymous with fairness and honesty. In this essay I will assess whether or not it is acceptable to use examples that advocate injustices (such as leaders perpetuating enormous lies to their people) in order to show what justice is.

A 'noble lie' is a lie knowingly told by rulers in order to maintain social harmony. Plato did not believe that most people possessed the necessary wisdom and knowledge to look after their own society and that the most intelligent people, the philosophers, had to guide the rest of the people. These lies are told so that the rulers may continue ruling while the citizens are kept ignorant to the truth. He asserts that justice is very much rooted in the principle of specialization whereby everyone does the job that he or she is best suited to and harmony is achieved. Plato makes it clear that the rulers possess wisdom and knowledge that far surpasses that of the average citizen and therefore they are privy to information that citizens could not understand. He maintains that these are the only people who have the knowledge and wisdom necessary to rule the society. In 'The Republic' the most prevalent example of the 'noble lie' is 'The Myth of the Metals' (414d). In this 'noble lie' everyone in the society is led to believe that they have a particular metal mixed in with their soul. There are three different metals: gold, silver and bronze. Those who are fit to rule have gold souls, the auxiliaries, the soldiers of the state have silver souls, and those who are fit to be ordinary citizens have bronze souls. The rules on the mixing of metal classes are very strict. A person with a certain soul type may never do the work of someone with a different metal. The purpose of this myth is to make sure that the people in the society stay true to the principle of specialization. To Plato, this is the most important part of establishing justice in a society. This myth ensures social harmony among classes because everyone knows what they can and can not do as well as what is expected of them. But the question still remains, is it necessary to lie to the people in order to achieve this social harmony?

Some will argue that this question is irrelevant due to the fact that Plato only created this 'ideal society' to show what justice is. It is simply a means to an end and it does not matter that there are examples of injustices in the making of the society. However, I still maintain that if this is supposed to be an 'ideal' society that gives a clear explanation of justice then surely it should at least function as a somewhat just society if it were to be put into practice. As far as I am concerned, the society fails to do that. I believe that if this 'ideal' society were to exist it would not last very long. I believe that there could be a revolution in the society if these 'noble lies' were ever uncovered, or the people became suspicious of them. Shouldn't ruler transparency be a key function of a just society?

In this day and age if a ruler of a country told one of these 'noble lies' to its citizens and the lie was uncovered then we could expect very serious repercussions from the lower classes. One clear distinction between rulers of Plato's ideal society and the rulers today is that rulers of Plato's society are the best philosophers, the wisest and most knowledgeable of people. Rulers

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