As with all other topics discussed in “The Republic of Plato,” the section in which he discusses the myths of the metals or the “noble lie” is layered with questioning and potential symbolism, possible contradiction, and a significant measure of allusion. In Chapter X of “The Republic,” Plato presents “The Selection of Rulers: The
Guardians’ Manner of Living.” In it, he discusses the necessities of education as they apply to the appropriate selection of and reparation for the community’s leaders.
As in other areas of “The Republic,” Plato carefully outlines the delineations which form the basis for the types of rulers to be installed in the state. “Rulers” (legislative and udicial), “Auxiliaries” (executive), and “Craftsmen” (productive and fficacious) are the titles of the categories and are based, not on birth or wealth, but on natural capacities and aspirations. Plato was convinced that children born into any class should still be moved up or down based on their merits regardless of their connections or heritage. He believes the citizens of the State will support and benefit from such a system and presents the idea in the form of an allegorical myth.
His allegory was based in part on the prevalent belief that some people were literally “autochthonous,” born from the soil, and partly from the stories of the philosopher Hesiod who chronicled the genealogy of the gods and goddesses as well as their accomplishments and exploits. Hesiod’s account of the Golden, Silver, and Bronze races which had succeeded one another before the current to “The Republic’s” age of Iron forms the basis for the myths of the metals. Since the ancient Greeks were convinced that all myths were primarily the work of even more ancient poets who had been inspired by the
Muses, some ther “divine” force, or consciously invented, the lesson in the story of the metals was to be paid attention to in order to learn the important truth (or truths) that form the core of the information to be transferred to the young and untrained mind of the future leaders in training.
“They must have the right sort of intelligence and ability; and also they must look upon the commonwealth as their special concern – the sort of concern that is felt for something so closely bound up with oneself that its interests and fortunes, for good or ill, are held to be identical with one’s own” (The Republic of Plato ...
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...crates takes the allegory of the metals one step further to explain to Glaucon that the future Guardians must even be kept from concerns or desires for silver and metal since, “Gold and silver, we shall tell them, they will not need, having the divine counterparts of those metals in their souls as a god-given possession” (The Republic of Plato X:III-417). He goes on to say that the Guardians are not to come in contact with gold and silver and lays out a plan by which they will neither need or desire the trappings of glory and wealth since they are always clothed in gold and silver and riches as part of their inner being.
He is convinced that if an individual who is a cobbler or a farmer “goes to the bad and pretends to be what he is not” (The Republic of Plato X:III-420) the entire well-being of the state is not in jeopardy. But such is most certainly not the case if the person is a Guardian or Auxiliary. There is no point, Socrates says, in producing a happiness like that of a “party of peasants feasting at a fair.” Such a person who would aspire to such a community “has something in mind other than a civic community” (The Republic of Plato X:III-421). Of course, Glaucon agrees.
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