Education and selection of the guardians Notes for February 4

Main points

We talked about Plato’s views of education and the “noble lie” of the myth of the metals. Plato’s educational program has more to do with developing character than teaching facts or technical knowledge. I said that I saw a lot to like about his “aesthetic” approach to moral education.

We also discussed the advantages and disadvantages of Plato’s attempts to curtail the imaginative literary representation of negative thoughts and behavior. The usefulness of confronting truth with falsehood is something we will return to when we read Mill.

We ended by noting that Plato had given the guardians a role in governing the city without explaining why such a role exists at all. The case for the guardians, remember, had to do with repelling external threats, not in policing the city.

Plato will have an explanation of why leaders are necessary. It has to do with the analogy between the city and the soul, our next topic.

The myth of the metals

You would think that this is designed to keep the non-guardians down. But it isn’t. These are lies meant to keep the guardians in line.

How does this bear on our assessment?

On the one hand, it isn’t meant to work against the interests of those who believe it. On the other hand, it does apparently cut against the interests of the guardians.

Plato will try to show that this is not so, but, in my opinion, the problem of showing that the best life for the guardians involves playing their role in the city is one that he never solved.

This page was written by Michael Green for Social and Political Philosophy, Philosophy 33, Spring 2008. It was posted February 4, 2008.
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