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Plato's Myths

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It is Plato's conception that lies should be told, and that vital information should be withheld, if one hopes to achieve prosperity and order within a given city. Although Plato's notion of censorship might merit labels such as exaggerated, unethical, or cruel, the basic underlying principle is somewhat similar to the socially accepted form of censorship practiced in modern Western culture. In order to fully grasp this theory it is imperative that we identify the different means through which Plato attempts to achieve optimal censorship, and thus a regulated society. The two instances in which a desire to repress reactions from the population through censorship are most evident are the discussions concerning the noble lie, and the stories to be told to young guardians.

Plato conceives of censorship as a tremendous tool to be utilized in molding the moral and intellectual principles of the population. Moreover, Plato emphasizes the need for the employment of censorship towards the guardians throughout their youth because "it's a that time that it (an individual) is most malleable, and takes on any form that one wishes to impress upon it". (377, b)Plato then goes on to explain, justifiably, that the most simple method to relate information to young children is through story telling.

It is a common consensus amongst modern educators and Plato alike, that the stories of Homer and Hesiod are by no means suitable moral models for children to follow. However, in this time period, these works represent the closest equivalent to religious scripture because they portray the actions of the God's. It is Plato's belief that education will only have its desired effect when it is purged of the violence and hatred that is depicted in the works of Homer. Reason leads one to believe that we tend to imitate the characters by which we are entertained. It is then the task of Plato to formulate new stories that correspond to desired characteristics of the ideal guardian, in replacement of those that expose the God's as being "quick to react and hating one another".(378, c) Therefore, it is crucial that the characters involved in Plato's stories display attributes of grace, courage, and virtue.

Plato then goes on to point out specific aspects of Homer that should be remedied in order to render the guardians more virtuous. God's should no longer be depicted as being able to change forms because it is a type of blasphemy against them, and frightened children would not properly develop the virtue of courage. Furthermore, death cannot be described as something that is altogether undesirable. Any portrayal of the after life should not include fear provoking images, or "those names of thingsÐ'.... that makes everyone who hears them shudder". The resulting scenario should be a population that is not frightened by death and able to live according to virtue under any circumstances.

All things considered, the reassessment of religious legends from a more honorable perspective stands as an appropriate and fitting way to help produce a more disciplined population. However, it is hard not to interpret a complete overhaul of stories to which people are faithful and devoted as unethical. Although modern historians have obviously discounted the possibility of Greek mythology being accurate in any way, the ancient Greek civilization held strong social allegiances to the characters portrayed. Furthermore, what gives Plato the right to impose morality on the population through the concoction of a series of false accounts? It seems almost hypocritical of Plato to advocate falsehoods after placing much emphasis on the virtue of truth and honesty; however, he views his deceitfulness as beneficial to the common good. Although the morality behind such a move is subject to debate, the formulation of fabricated accounts serve the purpose of shaping the hearts and minds of the public, and thus represents an excellent example of censorship.

A second major instance in which Plato attempts to censor truth from the population through the alteration of perceived reality is found in the noble lie. The concept of the noble lie is first brought to the table in an attempt to maintain a system in which auxiliaries and rulers do not impede on each other's duties and responsibilities. According to Plato, a system in which all individuals are satisfied with their role and function in society can once again, only be achieved through the establishment of falsehoods that are to be accepted as reality by the population. The noble lie is an elaborate myth created by Plato in which the education and upbringing of man were but a dream that lasted throughout his creation. According to this falsity, the making of and nurture of man, his tools, and his weapons all occurred inside the earth that composes his state's territory.

This portion of the legend serves the purpose of creating unity amongst all classes of the population by rendering all individuals "earthborn brothers" (414, e). Furthermore, it emphasizes the importance of taking up arms in protection of the land, "they must plan on its behalf and defend it as their mother and nurse" (414 e).

The noble lie then proceeds to form social divisions that are both justified by, and rooted in nature. The story explains that throughout man's creation, metals are added that correspond to one's social merit and ideal task within society. Gold is used in the formation of the ruling class, silver for auxiliaries, while iron and bronze pertain to farmers and other merchants. These fictitious social partitions are inflexible in the sense no adult can alter their composing metal, but more accommodating to young children due to the fact that their composition is not necessarily a reflection of his families. It is then determined that the close scrutiny and observation of the youth is essential because if an individual is assimilated, or not assimilated, into the correct corresponding social class, the results might be no less severe than the fall of the entire city, "the city will be ruined if it ever has an iron or bronze guardian".

The noble lie represents a well-conceived method of censorship that leads to the development of social order, unity, and a reason to wage wars. However, once again, the means through which these desirable attributes are achieved is tainted with immorality. Plato's grand illusion enforces, by nature, a system in which individual social fate is predetermined by the governing body. This concept lacks ethical validation in the sense that it removes the freedom held by citizens to achieve an honorable and prosperous lifestyle through hard work and determination. This deficiency in an individuals ability

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