The Noble Lie and Religion

Tapey
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The Noble Lie and Religion

Not sure where to put this but here seems good.

For the purpose of this thread assume atheism is the correct choice. and assume that religions are formed with good intentions. I may be wrong but we don't know otherwise at least to me knowledge.

 

Today in my philosophy class an interesting topic came up. At the moment we are studying Platos republic. And today we were looking at The noble lie. This is basically a lie a myth that the society would be told to introduce the idea of specialisation to the society.

 

For those that don't know The myth is that the gods put a little bit of metal in every persons soul. Gold, silver and bronze. Gold means you are fit to rule , you are ruled by reason. Silver means you are destined for the auxillary, in the words the millitary, you are ruled by will/honor. Bronze means you are ruled by your desires and are fit to be part of the ordinary citizens, farmers, merchants, traders, artisans etc. Now obviously this is a lie but is for the greater good in order to create the just society.

 

Now it accord to someone in class that religion and the noble lie have alot in common, although they say to differant things. Although some atheists may loath to admit it religions like christianity do add extra insentive to be a moral person atleast what woiuld be moral in the times they came into being, with the whole hevan and hell thing. So at the time of there creation was this lie for the greater good? Forget about what has happened since then at the time was it for the greater good? bare in mind they were better inline with the morals of the time then. So is a lie to the entire society justified if it is for the greater good? And do you think it would be for the greater good?

Whatever goes upon two legs is an enemy.
Whatever goes upon four legs, or has wings, is a friend.
No animal shall wear clothes.
No animal shall sleep in a bed.
No animal shall drink alcohol.
No animal shall kill any other animal.
All animals are equal.


Wonderist
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Tapey wrote:Although some

Tapey wrote:
Although some atheists may loath to admit it religions like christianity do add extra insentive to be a moral person atleast what woiuld be moral in the times they came into being, with the whole hevan and hell thing. So at the time of there creation was this lie for the greater good? Forget about what has happened since then at the time was it for the greater good? bare in mind they were better inline with the morals of the time then. So is a lie to the entire society justified if it is for the greater good? And do you think it would be for the greater good?

Two things:

First, there are 'lies' that we believe in for social good. A good example is 'money'. What the heck is money, but a kind of mutual agreement that a *symbol* is itself valuable? To prop up this 'lie', we have a whole bunch of other 'lies' that we all mutually agree in like 'government' and 'rights'.

My argument in relation to this observation is that such 'lies' are not actually lies, but cultural and social artifacts and systems. They physically exist *because* we believe in them. They are entirely *made of* our beliefs. Money exists and has value, because humans believe in it, keep track of it, and assign value to it. The dollar bill is a tangible representation of a 'dollar', but the 'dollar' itself is just an idea. Nevertheless, ideas actually exist.

Second, the 'lie' of religion and the Noble Lie are qualitatively different than the 'lies' I described above. They are actual lies, in the sense that they are deceptive and untrue. There is no actual metal in people's souls. There are no actual gods as depicted in typical religions.

The cultural and social artifacts and systems of religion exist, but the claims made by the religious doctrines are false.

The point being that -- if you strip out the false claims while retaining the relevant social systems -- you don't *need* to lie to people to get the benefits of religion. For example, the church used to be the primary source of organized education. But you don't actually need to believe in god to gain the benefits of organized education; hence, secular schools.

The same is not true of 'lies' such as money. To gain the benefits that 'money' gives us, you have to believe (or at least trust) that the system of monetary exchange is going to work. You have to believe in money for it to work. You have to believe in government for it to work. Laws, corporations, even things like stop-lights at a busy traffic intersection, all fall into the same framework of being 'useful fictions'. But, by being useful fictions -- so my argument goes -- they become more than that, they become actual components of a functional system.

Okay, so, back to your question. The Noble Lie is an actual lie. You don't need to believe in it to have a functional society, even an identical society to the one Plato describes. You could achieve the same effect by telling the truth: Society needs specialization in order to function better; some people are better suited to certain specialties over others; etc. No need to invent metallic souls.

Religion, too, is an actual lie.

Okay, so your question simplifies into, "What's wrong with telling actual lies to achieve a social good, even though you don't really need to?" And, I think, the answer should be obvious. Lies do not accurately reflect reality, and so contain some element of deception. Deception leads to wrong action, action intended to achieve result X, but subverted by the mere fact of being based on false ideas into producing inferior result Y. Actual lies do more harm than the equivalent truth.

This becomes especially important in the context of religion, where lie A reinforces lie B and vice versa, producing correction-resistant dogma. Lies corrupt. They infect. They become entrenched, and they spread. When the philosopher king dies, the original justification of the lie dies with him, and the lie becomes completely disconnected from reality and truth. It mutates and becomes a bigger lie. It develops adaptations to defend itself from refutation. It competes against the truth for the precious resource of brain-belief.

In the end, the lie will cause misery and suffering.

A perfect example of the Noble Lie growing out of control and resulting in great suffering is the caste system of Indian Hinduism. The English word 'pariah' comes from the Indian word for the 'untouchable' caste, who were/are doomed from birth to the worst jobs and life-conditions.

The problem with the Noble Lie is that you can't admit that it's a lie. And so, when times change, and 'noble' becomes 'ignoble', you cannot change the lie, because to do so you'd have to admit it was a lie. And the lie begins to take on a life of its own.

We should endeavour to eliminate deception as much as possible, especially when it comes to social policy. Go ahead and tell your loved one a confidence-boosting white lie, but don't base your government on the idea that nobody's ass looks fat in those jeans.

Religion is in the same boat. You don't need god to be good, etc.

So, getting back to your specific question about whether it was good 'at the time'. Perhaps it was the best we could come up with at the time in order to spread pro-social cultural ideas that are today spread via secular institutions. If so, we've moved on from that time.

On the other hand, just because something is successful, doesn't mean it's 'good' from a human perspective. The Black Death was a damn successful plague, after all. It's possible that without certain popular religions like Christianity, we would actually be further along than we are today. Just because people are socially cooperating doesn't mean they are experiencing a good quality of life. The pyramids would never have been built without slave labour. Doesn't make slavery 'good' or the life of a slave something to get nostalgic about. Did we really need the pyramids? They are basically enormous tomb stones. Amazing, sure. Enduring, no doubt. Inspiring even, if you suspend certain judgments. But necessary? Probably not. Good? Overall, it's debatable.

The better alternative to religion is secularism. My guess is simply that we didn't have a sufficiently developed secular philosophy at the time, and so religion was the only choice. It certainly doesn't excuse the negatives of religion, though. Before scientific medicine, we had folk medicine, most of which is crap. Maybe it had a beneficial placebo effect 'at the time' in some/many cases, but that doesn't excuse things like trepanation, blood-letting, and other harmful practices. And today, we're still struggling with the shadows of such 'noble lies' in the form of superstitious 'alternative' medicine claptrap, and anti-vaccine nutbars. Religion is the same. Whatever benefit it had is long obsolete, replaced by secular alternatives.

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EXC
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Tapey wrote:Now it accord to

Tapey wrote:

Now it accord to someone in class that religion and the noble lie have alot in common, although they say to differant things. Although some atheists may loath to admit it religions like christianity do add extra insentive to be a moral person atleast what woiuld be moral in the times they came into being, with the whole hevan and hell thing. So at the time of there creation was this lie for the greater good? Forget about what has happened since then at the time was it for the greater good? bare in mind they were better inline with the morals of the time then. So is a lie to the entire society justified if it is for the greater good? And do you think it would be for the greater good?

The original lie was believing anyone could be motivated by "the greater good" rather than their own selfish interest. Morality is a completely BS concept. Someone convinced others they were concerned about "the greater good" in order to take advantage of them. So, I don't believe anyone can be motivated by "the greater good".

“Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful.” Seneca


Tapey
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natural wrote:Tapey

natural wrote:

Tapey wrote:
Although some atheists may loath to admit it religions like christianity do add extra insentive to be a moral person atleast what woiuld be moral in the times they came into being, with the whole hevan and hell thing. So at the time of there creation was this lie for the greater good? Forget about what has happened since then at the time was it for the greater good? bare in mind they were better inline with the morals of the time then. So is a lie to the entire society justified if it is for the greater good? And do you think it would be for the greater good?

Two things:

First, there are 'lies' that we believe in for social good. A good example is 'money'. What the heck is money, but a kind of mutual agreement that a *symbol* is itself valuable? To prop up this 'lie', we have a whole bunch of other 'lies' that we all mutually agree in like 'government' and 'rights'.

My argument in relation to this observation is that such 'lies' are not actually lies, but cultural and social artifacts and systems. They physically exist *because* we believe in them. They are entirely *made of* our beliefs. Money exists and has value, because humans believe in it, keep track of it, and assign value to it. The dollar bill is a tangible representation of a 'dollar', but the 'dollar' itself is just an idea. Nevertheless, ideas actually exist.

Second, the 'lie' of religion and the Noble Lie are qualitatively different than the 'lies' I described above. They are actual lies, in the sense that they are deceptive and untrue. There is no actual metal in people's souls. There are no actual gods as depicted in typical religions.

The cultural and social artifacts and systems of religion exist, but the claims made by the religious doctrines are false.

The point being that -- if you strip out the false claims while retaining the relevant social systems -- you don't *need* to lie to people to get the benefits of religion. For example, the church used to be the primary source of organized education. But you don't actually need to believe in god to gain the benefits of organized education; hence, secular schools.

The same is not true of 'lies' such as money. To gain the benefits that 'money' gives us, you have to believe (or at least trust) that the system of monetary exchange is going to work. You have to believe in money for it to work. You have to believe in government for it to work. Laws, corporations, even things like stop-lights at a busy traffic intersection, all fall into the same framework of being 'useful fictions'. But, by being useful fictions -- so my argument goes -- they become more than that, they become actual components of a functional system.

Okay, so, back to your question. The Noble Lie is an actual lie. You don't need to believe in it to have a functional society, even an identical society to the one Plato describes. You could achieve the same effect by telling the truth: Society needs specialization in order to function better; some people are better suited to certain specialties over others; etc. No need to invent metallic souls.

Religion, too, is an actual lie.

Okay, so your question simplifies into, "What's wrong with telling actual lies to achieve a social good, even though you don't really need to?" And, I think, the answer should be obvious. Lies do not accurately reflect reality, and so contain some element of deception. Deception leads to wrong action, action intended to achieve result X, but subverted by the mere fact of being based on false ideas into producing inferior result Y. Actual lies do more harm than the equivalent truth.

This becomes especially important in the context of religion, where lie A reinforces lie B and vice versa, producing correction-resistant dogma. Lies corrupt. They infect. They become entrenched, and they spread. When the philosopher king dies, the original justification of the lie dies with him, and the lie becomes completely disconnected from reality and truth. It mutates and becomes a bigger lie. It develops adaptations to defend itself from refutation. It competes against the truth for the precious resource of brain-belief.

In the end, the lie will cause misery and suffering.

A perfect example of the Noble Lie growing out of control and resulting in great suffering is the caste system of Indian Hinduism. The English word 'pariah' comes from the Indian word for the 'untouchable' caste, who were/are doomed from birth to the worst jobs and life-conditions.

The problem with the Noble Lie is that you can't admit that it's a lie. And so, when times change, and 'noble' becomes 'ignoble', you cannot change the lie, because to do so you'd have to admit it was a lie. And the lie begins to take on a life of its own.

We should endeavour to eliminate deception as much as possible, especially when it comes to social policy. Go ahead and tell your loved one a confidence-boosting white lie, but don't base your government on the idea that nobody's ass looks fat in those jeans.

Religion is in the same boat. You don't need god to be good, etc.

So, getting back to your specific question about whether it was good 'at the time'. Perhaps it was the best we could come up with at the time in order to spread pro-social cultural ideas that are today spread via secular institutions. If so, we've moved on from that time.

On the other hand, just because something is successful, doesn't mean it's 'good' from a human perspective. The Black Death was a damn successful plague, after all. It's possible that without certain popular religions like Christianity, we would actually be further along than we are today. Just because people are socially cooperating doesn't mean they are experiencing a good quality of life. The pyramids would never have been built without slave labour. Doesn't make slavery 'good' or the life of a slave something to get nostalgic about. Did we really need the pyramids? They are basically enormous tomb stones. Amazing, sure. Enduring, no doubt. Inspiring even, if you suspend certain judgments. But necessary? Probably not. Good? Overall, it's debatable.

The better alternative to religion is secularism. My guess is simply that we didn't have a sufficiently developed secular philosophy at the time, and so religion was the only choice. It certainly doesn't excuse the negatives of religion, though. Before scientific medicine, we had folk medicine, most of which is crap. Maybe it had a beneficial placebo effect 'at the time' in some/many cases, but that doesn't excuse things like trepanation, blood-letting, and other harmful practices. And today, we're still struggling with the shadows of such 'noble lies' in the form of superstitious 'alternative' medicine claptrap, and anti-vaccine nutbars. Religion is the same. Whatever benefit it had is long obsolete, replaced by secular alternatives.

Im assuming you are at least familar with platos republic, sounds as if you do.

This pretty much sums up my own thoughts on the matter, however it is interesting to note that plato knows this. He says that eventually his society will become unjust. Its the way of the  world everything is getting worse. And so it is with religion at least in my mind. Where plato and I differ is I don't think it has to be that way, I think things can get better but if you start with a lie that lie is just going to have to grow and things are gona go downhill..

Whatever goes upon two legs is an enemy.
Whatever goes upon four legs, or has wings, is a friend.
No animal shall wear clothes.
No animal shall sleep in a bed.
No animal shall drink alcohol.
No animal shall kill any other animal.
All animals are equal.


Tapey
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EXC wrote:Tapey wrote:Now it

EXC wrote:

Tapey wrote:

Now it accord to someone in class that religion and the noble lie have alot in common, although they say to differant things. Although some atheists may loath to admit it religions like christianity do add extra insentive to be a moral person atleast what woiuld be moral in the times they came into being, with the whole hevan and hell thing. So at the time of there creation was this lie for the greater good? Forget about what has happened since then at the time was it for the greater good? bare in mind they were better inline with the morals of the time then. So is a lie to the entire society justified if it is for the greater good? And do you think it would be for the greater good?

The original lie was believing anyone could be motivated by "the greater good" rather than their own selfish interest. Morality is a completely BS concept. Someone convinced others they were concerned about "the greater good" in order to take advantage of them. So, I don't believe anyone can be motivated by "the greater good".

Why hello thrysimacus

 

If you havent read platos republic.... this is pretty much what plato is arguing against. And yes it is a very hard thing to argue against and I don't think there is a good enough answer to defeat it entirely. But even so i like the idea of morality so I disagree.

Whatever goes upon two legs is an enemy.
Whatever goes upon four legs, or has wings, is a friend.
No animal shall wear clothes.
No animal shall sleep in a bed.
No animal shall drink alcohol.
No animal shall kill any other animal.
All animals are equal.


Marquis
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natural wrote:The Noble Lie

natural wrote:
The Noble Lie is an actual lie.

 

Interestingly, this concept was used - with some success, one might argue - by a certain professor of political science at the University of Chicago, Leo Strauss, who were to become the spiritual father of 'neoconservatism'. He maintained that "liberal culture" was nihilistic in both methodology and consequence; and that people need strong, simple symbols to relate to, such as nationalism and religion. His followers were later to be an active part of the governments of Ronald Reagan, as well both the Bushes.

"The idea of God is the sole wrong for which I cannot forgive mankind." (Alphonse Donatien De Sade)

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