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Can ANY Falsehood be Noble?
Monday Mailbag: Does the ‘Noble Lie’ Exist Today?
Dear Classical Wisdom Reader,
Welcome to the Monday Mailbag... it’s a time honored tradition here at Classical Wisdom, a moment when we try to bring the past and the present together in sometimes surprising ways. It’s that time of the week when we discuss ancient dilemmas and concepts and apply these philosophical conundrums to our modern day situations. Alternatively, we take current events and see if we can find solutions or new insights using our classical perspectives. Sometimes we get pretty controversial... and try to shake things up ‘gadfly’ style.
No matter what, we always get very fascinating and extremely varied responses....
In part this because our Classical Wisdom readers truly span the political, social, and economic spectrums. We have readers from all over the world, from far flung pacific islands and South African university towns, to our latin representatives spread across the Americas and our European devotees.
What unites us all is our love of the Classics, for ancient wisdom and the immense, profound dedication to knowledge and truth.
And it’s that latter point, Truth (with a capital T) we seek today.
We’ll start with Plato... because that’s always a good place to start. One of the more memorable moments from his “Republic” is the notorious “noble lie” near the end of Book 3 (414b-c):
“How, then, could we devise one of those useful falsehoods we were talking about a while ago, one noble falsehood that would, in the best case, persuade even the rulers, but if that’s not possible, then the others in the city?”
This concept of a single, grand lie, which will be believed by everybody (ideally even those in charge), has been popular throughout the ages and attempted again and again. More notable examples are usually re-defined as propaganda. Government initiatives to make you do what they want you to do.
Sometimes these might be truly evil endeavors - the art of saying an untruth so many times, people believe it, regardless of its falsehood. Other times (and this is what we hope Plato’s had in mind) its purpose is for what those who perpetuate it deem beneficial (nay essential) for the society.
It’s also important to point out that this “Noble Lie” is distinct from the ‘white lies’ or parables that us common folk are more likely to be guilty of. We are not talking about a dash of ‘monster spray’ to help your child go to sleep or the resounding “no” to the problematic question of, ‘does this make me look fat?”
What we are talking about involves scale...and motivation.
Which brings us to today’s question:
Does the Noble Lie Exist today? Can ANY falsehood be Noble? And does the pursuit of Truth mean we should uncloak disinformation, even if it’s for the ‘greater good’?
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