?#1 Can a Lie be Noble?

View previous topic View next topic Go down

?#1 Can a Lie be Noble?

Post  Architektonikon on Sun Feb 13, 2011 2:41 pm

In the Republic, Plato introduces a strange concept into his politics and what he called the 'beautiful' or 'ideal' city. He finds that the sovereigns of a city or nation must lie to their subjects in order for their society to be just. He, nevertheless, insists that no one class in this society will benefit more than any other. These lies told by the rulers, moreover, are what he calls 'noble lies'. They are 'noble' insofar as they contain the truth, yet they are a lie insofar as the words are false. For example, say we want to teach a child moral responsibility. If we explain a complex theory of ethics or social contract in which we have to follow the laws of the government, the child will simply not understand. Hence, we tell the child the 'noble lie' about Santa Claus. The story or words are false (there is not such thing as Santa) but the message, meaning, or moral of the story is true. Plato, nonetheless, believes that it is not only just to lie to children but to fully mature citizens who cannot understand the complexities of governance, and what is best for the city and its citizens. To put it vulgarly but simply, the masses are dumb and just don't understand what is best for them.

This may sound like an out of date, old fashion, idea. It is not. In fact, this view is held by a large contemporary school of political thought championed by its founder Leo Strauss (not the jeans guy) at the University of Chicago. Why is this an important question to think about? Well, the last political administration in the States had several members of its cabinet who were 'Straussians', for example, Paul Wolfowitz. And, if you remember, they were CAUGHT telling a 'noble lie'. Does 'weapons of mass destruction' ring any bells? To be explicit, the 'reason' (or lie) why the US went to war was weapons of mass destruction, however, as we found out, this was not true. They had a true reason for going to war that, presumably, the masses just would not understand if they were told the truth. Again, going to war was in the best interest of everyone and no class benefits more than any other (whether or not Bush and his cabinet had this 'noble' intention, I do not know). They just needed to lie about it and the lying was just. It appears that the Bush administration has told a 'noble lie' of sorts.

Another example, although it is more fantastic, regards aliens. Let us suppose that aliens exist, and as some conspiracy theorists suggest, the government 'covers it up'. This 'covering up' would be a sort of noble lie on the grounds that the government knows the truth but lies about it in the best interest of the citizens--maybe because knowledge of aliens would cause anarchy or something. Hence, it would be just for the government to tell noble lies to preserve justice and everyone's well-being.

DISCUSSION: Are noble lies really just? Or, is the notion of a 'noble lie' an oxymoron? Should the government really deceive its citizens? Does this violate their civil or natural rights? Despite how the Bush administration seemed tell a noble lie, what, if any, would be an appropriate thing to tell a noble lie about? Are all or some citizens really incapable of understanding the truth? The government, in other words, is supposed to be made of ordinary citizens, is it not? Or are some people really just too 'dumb' to understand some truths?

avatar
Architektonikon

Posts : 58
Join date : 2011-01-26
Location : Canada

View user profile

Back to top Go down

Re: ?#1 Can a Lie be Noble?

Post  Cool Egg Sandwich on Sun Feb 13, 2011 3:44 pm

I think I'll start just by answering the first basic question: Are 'noble lies' really just?

I would probably have to say that a 'true' noble lie is, in fact, just. If for nothing more than the fact that the 'intention' of the lie is just. I think in certain cases, as the Iraq War example you brought up, a potential 'noble lie' may not, in fact, be noble for the sole reason that the intent of the lie was not just, or 'noble' for the purposes of this argument.

Insofar as the noble lie, itself, contains a 'truth', I would argue that it is not a truth at all, but merely a desired reaction / outcome. In order for a 'noble lie' to be an oxymoron the two terms, noble and lie, would have to be contradictory to one another. Since the 'nobility' aspect of a noble lie is merely to produce a desired reaction, and not a truth, it does not inherently contradict with the concept of a lie, which is obvious.

As to the question of whether or not this is a 'violation of civil / human rights', I might be inclined to argue that it is. If, by a people's constitution, they have the right to transparency of government, then one would be inclined to believe that a 'noble lie' would, indeed, be a violation of their rights as a citizen. Obviously there are examples where a government can create 'executive authority' or manipulate a system to protect certain 'classified' information, then I suppose it wouldn't be a violation, at least not legally. But really, that is a whole other conversation regarding a completely separate set of principles.

I don't believe that all citizens are inherently incapable of understanding the more 'complex truths' behind governmental policy, otherwise we wouldn't be right where we are now debating that very point. I suppose those out there who are, in fact, capable are in the minority, which is really only more justification for the use of 'noble lies'.

I know you, Ron. You are hardly an advocate for expansion of basic political freedoms. I think if it were up to you, less than 5% of the United States population would even have the right to vote. The sad thing is, your proposition isn't necessarily bad. In fact, I would agree that most people shouldn't have much authority over their government. I believe that all people have a right to not be oppressed by their government, but I am not completely convinced that all people should have a right to determine their government. To clarify, I do not believe that certain people are inherently 'too dumb' to understand certain complexities of truth; instead I believe there are just massive segments of the population who fall into the 'undereducated category'. Furthermore, since the major trends in America aren't moving toward 'more education', concepts like 'noble lies' become even more relevant in modern society.


Great, now I sound like a frickin' monarchist.

Good job on Round #1, Ron. Looking forward to these 'columns'.




Regards,
Little Green Ghouls of Cool Egg Sandwich (Dylan)
avatar
Cool Egg Sandwich
Admin

Posts : 506
Join date : 2011-01-25
Age : 29
Location : City of Champs

View user profile

Back to top Go down

Re: ?#1 Can a Lie be Noble?

Post  Serenel on Sun Feb 13, 2011 8:26 pm

I dont know if this is directly dealing with what you are talking about.

but i thought of this video when i read your post.

here is a link to it on youtube:



i will post more about this topic though in a short time, i just thought you guys should see the video, its pretty interesting, and pretty well done.
avatar
Serenel

Posts : 469
Join date : 2011-02-13
Age : 29
Location : Maryland

View user profile

Back to top Go down

A little bit more

Post  Architektonikon on Sun Feb 13, 2011 11:12 pm

A great response cool eggs. You hit on one of the central concerns of this question. How do we know who is the one who knows the truth? Or who are the best to rule, that is, who is qualified to lie (because for Plato, there is no moral justification for a regular civilian to lie).

Serenal, the video is you posted hit the nail on the head with regard to my example of the Bush administration. Did you notice Wolfowitz? That was exactly what I was referring to, yet I would hate for our discussion to turn toward discussing how one accesses the Bush administration--the video did enough of that. But, it did highlight how it seems like the administration did let a 'noble lie'. We would have to assume even though they did tell the truth per se, their intentions were to benefit the society. I am sure everyone (not to mention myself) is looking forward to take on the issue. We will wait patiently.

I can give more examples of noble lies, for example, if you have read the Grand Inquisitor, this notion should have seemed quite familiar. I can give Plato's paradigmatic example from the Republic if anyone would be interested. Just let me know. Also, Eggs, one of my friends who I grew up with knows my views, but I will give my opinion much later when the discussion seems to be petering out. I do not want to make this forum a place where I can stand on the proverbial 'soap box'. I am most interested in hearing from you!

Everyone, what do you think?

Kind regards,
Ron


Last edited by rbaumill on Mon Feb 14, 2011 12:32 am; edited 1 time in total
avatar
Architektonikon

Posts : 58
Join date : 2011-01-26
Location : Canada

View user profile

Back to top Go down

@Bush noble lie

Post  Cool Egg Sandwich on Sun Feb 13, 2011 11:23 pm

I'm not so sure the justifications that the American people were given regarding the 'Iraq War' would qualify as a 'noble lie'. Correct me if I'm wrong, but for something to qualify as a noble lie, its intent must be some desirable or moral activity / reaction. In the case of the Bush administration's reasoning for going to war with Iraq, while presented as the threat of WMDs, we cannot be truly sure what the 'real' motivations were.

Let's say for example that the main justifications for war were private American access to Iraqi oil production, and continuation of the American military-industrial complex? In that case, which many argue to be the actual justification behind 'Operation: Iraqi Freedom', the whole 'WMD argument' would be nothing more than a blatant lie thrust upon an ignorant population.

I won't go any further because I want to leave this thread open to others' opinions. As Arch said, "I don't want [to] stand on the proverbial soap-box"


Rgds.,
The Little Green Ghouls of Cool Egg Sandwich, WA Delegate
avatar
Cool Egg Sandwich
Admin

Posts : 506
Join date : 2011-01-25
Age : 29
Location : City of Champs

View user profile

Back to top Go down

Re: ?#1 Can a Lie be Noble?

Post  Serenel on Sun Feb 13, 2011 11:35 pm

People were not put on this earth to be controlled and be pawns of any other person or thing or institution.
I can fully see and understand why a government would lie to its people, however is it the just thing to do? Quite simply, no.
Maybe to a certain Machiavellian point the ends justify the means, but that is dangerous thinking my good sir. It leads to people being able to do horrific things to other people. The road to hell was paved with good intentions, and at times we must decide between the right thing to do, and the easy thing to do.
The easy thing is to just lie to the public, because like you have pointed out, the great mass of people, are rather ignorant, and susceptible to fear mongering, and demagogues.
The right thing to do, is take time to explain things to people, fund the educational system, redo the way we do things when it comes to teaching people, try to effect the culture that has grown in a society to where it may seem that noble lies are needed.
A noble lie is a cop out, its throwing your arms up in the air and giving up on your own people; it’s the path that a lesser man would take because they do not want to take the time to educate the masses.
This is a naïve thought process, I know that, but if we cannot have hope in our fellow neighbors that they can be the best version of themselves, and be an active and knowledgeable part of society. Then we are doomed from the very beginning.
avatar
Serenel

Posts : 469
Join date : 2011-02-13
Age : 29
Location : Maryland

View user profile

Back to top Go down

Plato's noble lie

Post  Architektonikon on Mon Feb 14, 2011 7:14 pm

Here is Plato's own example of a noble lie from the Republic

The 'truth': Plato was convinced that every society is roughly divided into three classes: workers/laborers/craftsmen, soldiers, and rulers. These classes are not a sort of caste system like in feudal times or contemporary India. They are not put into place by convention, but rather people fall into one of these three categories by nature. Some people are born-rulers and some are born craftsmen, and this is due to their psychological constitution. The most serious injustice, moreover, is that someone who has the constitution of one class were to be in the class of another. For example, Plato might say that Hitler had the constitution of a soldier but was working in the class of a ruler. This would explain why he was obviously unjust and was obsessed with military conquest (this is an overly simplistic but all we need for now). So the upshot, for Plato, is that in a just society each member must function within his own proper class. People who have the nature of a soldier should be a soldier, not rulers or craftsmen, and so forth with each corresponding nature.

The Lie: Plato does not think that the populous will be able to understand this truth nor, if they did, why it is better for everyone and no class will benefit more than any other. Hence he tells them the noble lie:

"that the upbringing and education we gave them [the city's children] were like dreams; that they only imagined they were undergoing all the things that were happening to them, while at that time in truth they themselves were down inside the earth being formed and reared, and their arms and other tools were also being crafted. When they were wholly completed, and the earth, which was their mother, sent them up, so that now, just as if the land in which they live were their mother and nurse they must deliberate for and defend it, if anyone attacks, and they must think of the other citizens as brothers and born of the earth" (Republic 414d-e, my translation).

Also when they were down in the earth, Plato says that the rulers will tell them that a god placed a particular metal in their soul. This metal corresponds with there function in society. The rulers receive gold, the soldiers silver, and the craftsmen bronze or iron. This metal, moreover, is the god's wish and cannot be disobeyed. Furthermore, the metal corresponds with which function they are best to perform.

I hope that is clear. I did not want to go into anymore detail than I had to. But I hope you can see how there is the truth and there is a lie. The story is clearly false, but it has the truth in it. So in this case Serenel, do you think this is that unjust? To me, it does not seem so naive, on the contrary, quite brilliant. Whereas I can see how the bush example would seem more unjust. I was only trying to make the question relevant to now. Can you give an argument for why the above is unjust? What does anyone else think about our discussion thus far?
avatar
Architektonikon

Posts : 58
Join date : 2011-01-26
Location : Canada

View user profile

Back to top Go down

Re: ?#1 Can a Lie be Noble?

Post  Cool Egg Sandwich on Mon Feb 14, 2011 7:41 pm

I just wanted to clarify that my point from a previous post doesn't only apply to the 'Bush' example. The concept of the 'truth' is at the root here. And as for the most recent example, Plato's 'noble lie' is only such if one believes that certain people are meant for certain tasks / roles in society.

I just wanted to insert that before I forget exactly what I was trying to say...


Rgds.,
Cool Egg Sandwich (Dylan)
avatar
Cool Egg Sandwich
Admin

Posts : 506
Join date : 2011-01-25
Age : 29
Location : City of Champs

View user profile

Back to top Go down

Re: ?#1 Can a Lie be Noble?

Post  Serenel on Sun Feb 20, 2011 1:25 am

I was not saying that Plato's thought process was naive, i was calling my own that.

I think the problem here is what is considered truth, and a persons definition of it.

to Plato, maybe that was his truth, that everyone is born to do something and excel in a certian area, and they can not do so in other areas.

to me, that is not my truth.

i believe truth is subjective.

i have studied some philosphy, and i know through out its history it has been centered around finding real, organic knowledge and truth, and each school approaches it differently.

however i believe there is no truth, and not in some nilist way, but in a relative way. Everyone's reality is realtive to that person, and how they percieve things. This means that my reality has a different truth to it, then yours.

for me what maybe how the world works, is not true for you, i do not think there is one universal truth, nor do i think one could ever exist.

so i guess what i am trying to come to in a round about way, is that there is no such thing as a noble lie for me, because there should be no reason for anyone to be defined by some arbitrary structores that society places on them.

because it is society that really defines 'truth' as we know it, and since i take that for valid, that means there is no organic truth, it is all artificial, which means truth must then be individualised to each person.

i know this may not make too much sense...sometimes i have a hard time communicating things, so sorry for that, just trying to express my view points.
avatar
Serenel

Posts : 469
Join date : 2011-02-13
Age : 29
Location : Maryland

View user profile

Back to top Go down

The truth?

Post  United Midwest on Sun Feb 20, 2011 11:49 pm

I have to agree with Serenel's view of the truth being subjective. What one believes is the truth varies due to one's own experiences and preconcieved notions. Because of what I have said in the past I've gotten many labels ranging from everything from a "terrorist" to a "patriot" and everything in between. I do not think I am either. My truth applies to me, if someone else accepts my truth as theirs, the experience of choosing it as such makes it again subjective. As for a universal truth, again, it is to our experiences and beliefs. Like the ideas of free will and destiny.

I think I am really going to enjoy debting philosophy and forgive me if I go out on a tangant, I tend to do that sometimes. I'll try to keep my own politcal biases and such at the door.

United Midwest

Posts : 122
Join date : 2011-02-20
Age : 37

View user profile

Back to top Go down

Re: ?#1 Can a Lie be Noble?

Post  Cool Egg Sandwich on Sun Feb 20, 2011 11:56 pm

Central Speaker Berard wrote:I have to agree with Serenel's view of the truth being subjective. What one believes is the truth varies due to one's own experiences and preconcieved notions. Because of what I have said in the past I've gotten many labels ranging from everything from a "terrorist" to a "patriot" and everything in between. I do not think I am either. My truth applies to me, if someone else accepts my truth as theirs, the experience of choosing it as such makes it again subjective. As for a universal truth, again, it is to our experiences and beliefs. Like the ideas of free will and destiny.

I think I am really going to enjoy debting philosophy and forgive me if I go out on a tangant, I tend to do that sometimes. I'll try to keep my own politcal biases and such at the door.

Engaging in discussion and debate is the entire purpose if this thread. I have been inclined to agree, and indeed I think I pointed out that the whole concept is reliant on the concept behind the 'noble truth'. I would say that although truth is largely subjective, there can certainly be some things that are certain. When dealing with particularly nuanced situations, however, there exists the possibility for many different interpretations of a single scenario. This is an interesting debate to have, I really enjoy thinking about both sides of the argument. Whether 'noble lies' can actually exist? Are they just? etc.

Fun times, I look forward to more of these philosophical discussions.

_________________
~The Little Green Ghouls of Cool Egg Sandwich alien
(WA Delegate / Premier)

~Teh Dirty South Boss geek
(Founder)
avatar
Cool Egg Sandwich
Admin

Posts : 506
Join date : 2011-01-25
Age : 29
Location : City of Champs

View user profile

Back to top Go down

On Truth

Post  Architektonikon on Tue Feb 22, 2011 12:17 pm

I am about to post the next topic (as noted in our region board), but it does not exactly deal with truth. If someone reminds me, I will do that on the third one or if everyone is still interested maybe our discussion will just take up there. Here is a quick note on truth. In antiquity there were 3 major 'schools' on truth, as Sextus Empiricus categorized them: the dogmatists (there is a truth), the academics (there is no truth), and his own school, the skeptics. The skeptics held a position of ἀπορία (aporia); to them, it means suspension of judgment, but, more popularly, it is the puzzlement Socrates left his interlocutors in. The skeptical position is a logical one. They thought that there was valid argument on both sides of every argument and subject, both for and against. Fully believing in the truth of valid arguments, then, they were forced to hold contradictory beliefs, e.g., there is a valid argument for and against the existence of god. Thus, the skeptic must both believe and not believe in god. Since, all subjects have a for and an against, they declared aporia, suspension of judgment and gave up both beliefs--and, in turn, every other belief.

The subjective arguments some of you have been pushing are not to far from Sextus' skepticism. For example, he wrote "anyone who says that not everything is relative confirms that everything is relative. For by opposing us he shows that the very relativity of everything is relative to us and not universal" (PH 1.14.139). Get what he means? (A great one, is it not?) Many people, however, think this position and skepticism are far too extreme to maintain.

I used to hold this position, but I have abandoned it. There are far too many instances of truth in the world. I understand that some things appear to be relative, but what of science, logic, mathematics? Bridges are impressive structures, and science must appeal to some sort of truth in order to build them. Sorry, I will stop being crass. lol. Even of the mind, we know things that are true. You cannot cognize anything without implementing space and time. What I mean is that you can imagine an object outside of space, i.e., you can imagine the computer in front of you not there (outside of space). However, you cannot imagine the space out of your computer. The same goes for time.

The predominate position in contemporary philosophy is truth = justified true belief. In any case, that is enough on this for now.



avatar
Architektonikon

Posts : 58
Join date : 2011-01-26
Location : Canada

View user profile

Back to top Go down

Re: ?#1 Can a Lie be Noble?

Post  Sponsored content


Sponsored content


Back to top Go down

View previous topic View next topic Back to top

- Similar topics

 
Permissions in this forum:
You cannot reply to topics in this forum