Philosopher Rulers and False Beliefs

Ancient Philosophy 37 (1):19-37 (2017)
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Many scholars have viewed the noble lie as fundamentally a device for educating the non-philosophers in the Kallipolis. On this reading, the elite and sophisticated philosopher rulers lie to the non-philosophers, who are unable to fully grasp the truth; such lies help motivate the non-philosophers towards virtuous activity and the promotion of the common good. Hence, according to many scholars, the falsehoods of the noble lie play no role in motivating fully accomplished adult philosophers towards virtue. The motivation for this view is that it would seem strange that the wisest citizens, who have knowledge of the Forms, believe something as far-fetched as the myth of the metals.However, this paper challenges this tradition by arguing that the falsehoods of the noble lie are fundamental to the philosophers’ virtuous dispositions. More precisely, this paper argues that the non-reasoning part of the rulers believe the falsehoods of the noble lie and that these false beliefs have positive ethical value because the non-reasoning part of the soul is too unsophisticated to grasp the complete truth. Thus, the non-reasoning part of a philosopher’s soul requires false beliefs in the same way that non-philosophers require false beliefs.
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