The Republic

The “Noble Lie”. It's a lie, but is it noble?

The rulers of the ideal polis. The three classes.

O bviously the rulers of the ideal polis will be selected from the Guardians: some will be better at commanding and others at obeying. The Guardians now thus divide into two - the unselected ones becoming "Auxiliaries" or Soldiers (and we don't hear much more about them). The state will thus have three classes -

  1. Rulers (Guardians proper - the "philosophers")
  2. Fighters (Auxiliaries)
  3. Workers (farmers etc).

People will normally stay in the class into which they are born - although promotion and demotion are compulsory if a child is born into the "wrong" class [how do they find out?]. The "magnificent myth" (sometimes - inappropriately? - translated "the noble lie") will reconcile people to this, by persuading them that the gods have put gold, silver and bronze or iron in the three classes.

How will the Guardians live?

There'll be no private property, no money, no houses of their own. They will live communally in military-type barracks where their food will be provided as wages. (Much like the conditions under which the Spartan ruling class - the Spartiates - actually lived.)

Doesn't sound as if they'll be very happy, says Glaucon.

Their personal happiness is irrelevant, says Socrates - because it is the happiness (eudaimonia, of course) of the whole polis that we're concerned with: this will occur if everyone in the state does their own job perfectly. The job of the ruler is to rule - and there must be nothing to distract him (or her as we soon discover) from this task.


Plato's Republic : Part 4


Censorship, lies and selection - so where's Justice?  [Next Page?]