People are always talking about the white lie and how this kind of lying doesn’t hurt other people. Other people feel that any lie is one that should not be made. No matter what individuals have to say about lies, Socrates feels that it is necessary to create a noble lie so that his vision of the just state, or kallipolis, can be created. The Myth of the Metals, Socrates myth, in no way contradicts his definition of justice in The Republic.
The so-called noble lie that Socrates puts together is called the Myth of the Metals. This is created to explain to those in the city the reason for their class position. It is brought about when Socrates is talking to Glaucon and they are arguing the manner in which the warriors, or guardian, class should be raised. They conclude that guardians should not obtain or own any possessions’ as it will make each other jealous. In order to calm the guardians urge to obtain gold, the Myth of Metals will be told to them.
In the Myth, it is said the upbringing that the guardians had received, had only been a dream, and they were actually made in the center of the earth, the mother of them all. Everything that they owned including weapons and craftsman’s tools were also created in the same manner. When the time was right, their mother delivered them to the surface so that they could protect her at all costs (414d). This part of the myth describes why the citizens of the kallipolis will defend their land. It still does not satisfy the guardian’s urge to obtain wealth.
The second part of the noble lie will further explains how the jealousy will be controlled. Socrates will say that “the god who made you mixed some gold into those who are adequately equipped to rule, because they are most valuable. He put silver in those who are auxiliaries and iron and bronze in the farmers and other craftsman (415).” This distribution of metals in their blood will convince them that the class they are in is destined to them. It is possible that a child of gold or silver blood will be born to those of copper or bronze blood. In that case, the child will be recognized and raised by the designated class. The same is true vice versa. Because of this noble lie, Socrates will be able to control and keep the designated classes in their places.
The question to be asked is, does this lie follow Socrates’ belief of what justice is? To look at this we must first discover what is Socrates’ definition of justice? After setting up his ideal state, there are three distinct classes of people. Each of these people is best suited for doing his or her job in their area of skill. One cannot perform this task to the fullest however, if it is not the only task that he or she does. For example, a steak knife is best suited to cutting steaks. If it were designed to also spread butter, it would not be as good a steak knife for cutting steak. It is for this reason that each class must do only what it is best suited for them. After this is stated Socrates and Glaucon go on to decide how the rulers should be raised and how the guardians should grow up. All of this is not necessary for the argument at hand, what is justice? “Because what we are looking for seems to have been rolling around at our feet from the very beginning, and we didn’t see it, which was ridiculous of us (432d).” Socrates states that civic justice consists of every class performing the task that they are best suited for.
Up until this point, Glaucon and Socrates have only discovered what justice is in the state. But what is it in the soul? In order to achieve this goal, Socrates feels that it is necessary to identify three properties of the society and then compare them to the human soul. These three parts, appetite, spirit, and rational correspond to the three social classes, producers, guardians, and rulers respectively. They then argue that the human soul is indeed made up of the same three properties. Since both the kallipolis and the human soul are made up of the same three attributes, it is certain that justice in the city must relate to justice of the human soul. In the city, justice is defined as each class doing what it is best suited for. Hence, in the human soul, justice must consist of each part of the mind doing only what it is best suited for and not interfering with the other sections.
Now we are best suited to take on the question at hand, do you think such reliance on lying contradicts Socrates’ conception of justice? It is clear that the Myth of the Metals does not at all contradict what Socrates feels justice is. Justice is the separation of the different parts of the human mind, each doing what it is best suited for. The Myth of Metals does not contradict this definition at all. It in fact shows that the rational part of the brain is doing its job in making a just society. It is even argued earlier in the book, something that is good cannot make something less good. The example given is a musician. Can a musician, through tutoring or teaching a pupil, make that pupil a lesser musician (335c)? The same question can be restated, can someone who creates music that is kind to the ear, be non-musical? Of course not. It is the same with the myth. Can a lie that is meant to create justice, be unjust? The answer remains no.
In order for Socrates to create, to his satisfaction, justice in the kallipolis, he devised the Myth of the Metals. This would make everyone content in being in their place in society so that they would not intertwine with the other classes. After creating this, he discovers what civic justice is and later converts this to justice in the human. It is evidently clear that in no way does the Myth of the Metals contradict the definition of justice that Socrates gives in The Republic.
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