Socrates’ Disastrous Implication

At 390 c, Socrates invokes a double standard seemingly very contrary to his prior discussion of justice, peace, and virtue. Here, he claims that the ruler of the city has the right to lie to its citizens at times of emergency, whereas the individual should never be untruthful in any situation.

I believe that this is a very ironic statement, in that it goes against much of what Socrates stands for. As a supporter of the power and importance of individualism, this claim that the collective is worth more than the individual in the long run is highly contradictory to much of what he has philosophized before.

Although this is a small point from the several selections we were instructed to read, I cannot help but say that I am very surprised by this claim and somewhat discouraged by it. Socrates has always struck me as a philosopher that encourages the individual to find his or her own path in life and then follow it based off what he or she holds dear in this life, and the value system he or she has created. I would never have expected him to say that the individual must adhere to the will of the city rulers for the greater good, especially if it goes against him or her’s beliefs, and create such a double standard between the collective and the individual.

In my opinion, both the city rulers and individual should be challenged to always be truthful. Just because the city has some control over the lives of its citizens, such as in creating policy and enforcing it, and protecting its people, it should not be given free reign to impose practices based upon deception and dishonesty, even if it is seemingly in the best interest of the people at the time. If the government is told that it is acceptable to lie in times of emergency for the sake of the “greater good,” or collective, such direction would prove disastrous, as it could assume total power, leading to corruption and tyranny in the future.

Although I found the majority of the selected reading to be very thought-provoking and beneficial, I have to say that I was concerned about Socrates’ statement concerning deception, and the city rulers’ right to it when they think it is “necessary,” as its implication degrades the liberty of the individual and allows the government the possibility of assuming total power and forming a tyranny that further damages such free will.

One response to “Socrates’ Disastrous Implication

  1. I strongly agree that Socrates’s elitism is detrimental to a healthy and thriving city. If the guardians are allowed to make up myths about the origins of the city and how the social classes are decided by “metals”, then the city is ultimately founded on a lie. This reminds me of The Giver by Lois Lowry, where a seemingly utopian city is actually a forced-egalitarian dystopia. In the process of making everyone equal, they force everyone into the same nuclear family setting with siblings of the opposite gender. Like the guardians in The Republic, the rulers know the true history of the state but keep it secret among themselves in order to maintain order. Only by leaving the city are people about to see the real world for what it is. What the rulers are doing is keeping knowledge away from the people and forming an education system that maintains the common people’s ignorance.

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