True in Word and Deed: Plato on the Impossibility of Divine Deception

Journal of the History of Philosophy 58 (2):193-214 (2020)
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Abstract

A common theological perspective holds that God does not deceive because lying is morally wrong. While Plato denies the possibility of divine deception in the Republic, his explanation does not appeal to the wrongness of lying. Indeed, Plato famously recommends the careful use of lies as a means of promoting justice. Given his endorsement of occasional lying, as well as his claim that humans should strive to emulate the gods, Plato's suggestion that the gods never have reason to lie is puzzling. Our solution to this puzzle centers on the fact that, unlike humans, the gods are self-sufficient. Although lying is good for the souls of neither humans nor gods, human interdependency necessitates lies that will prevent material harms and maintain a just order. In contrast, the self-sufficiency of the gods makes it impossible for them to benefit from deception.

Author Profiles

Nicholas Baima
Florida Atlantic University
Tyler Paytas
Australian Catholic University

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