In Plato’s Republic, a dialogue between Socrates and several other thinkers concerns itself with the definition of justice on both a personal and socio-political level. In doing so, the discussion is sidetracked to investigating The Good. In this discussion, Socrates states that “every soul pursues the good,” a statement that conflicts with the other Platonic theory that social order must be gained through a “Noble Lie.” The puzzle is that if everyone pursues good, why is there any need for the Noble Lie?
The existence of the Noble Lie leads modern readers one of two contradictory conclusions. The first is that the desire to know The Good is not as universal as Plato infers, thus making the Noble Lie a necessity in order to keep people from deviating from its pursuit. The other conclusion casts a more devious light on Plato’s entire philosophy, because if people really do pursue the good, then the Noble Lie implies that Plato’s ideal Republic is a façade disguising an institution of caste strictures, brainwashing, and totalitarianism.