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Comparing the Role of the Noble Lie in the Iliad and the Republic

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The Role of the Noble Lie in the Iliad and the Republic

Lie –

2 : something that misleads or deceives

Noble –

5 : possessing, characterized by, or arising from superiority of mind or character or of ideals or morals

(Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

The very thought of a noble lie is contradictory, yet Plato uses it as the basis for stability within his perfect republic. The concept that a lie so deeply ingrained in society will allow it to remain peaceful is generally thought to be unique to Plato. This is because Plato’s idea of the noble lie is one that is at the very root of society – one that is accepted as a truth. What makes Plato’s Noble Lie such a hallmark of knowledge is that it has never been tested,
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Conversely, when a soldier is filled with angst and attempts to strike down a more powerful being – an immortal – or when an immortal influences a mortal by asserting his or her power, war breaks out.

Achilles, in Book I, proclaims, “Remind [Zeus] of that, now, go and sit beside him, grasp his knees . . . persuade him, somehow, to help the Trojan cause, to pin the Achaeans back against their ship, trap them round the bay and mow them down” (484-488). If Achilles had not believed that immortals were more powerful, he would not have attempted to directly influence his mother Thetis – a goddess. To preserve the integrity of the lie, Achilles couldn’t even exist. His existence is proof that the noble lie is untrue, as he as the offspring of a mortal and immortal, and possesses powers greater than the common mortal. If Achilles did not exist, the Iliad, a story about his wrath and anger, could not exist – meaning there would be peace between the Achaeans and Trojans. However, the noble lie within the Iliad still remains; mortals and immortals should not interact. Because Achilles appeals to his mother, the war continues.

Although the means to the ends may be different when comparing the the role of a noble lie in the Iliad and the Republic, the ends of the lie remains the same. Plato introduces the lie by writing:

“Could we,” I said, “somehow contrive one of those lies that come
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