Socrates: Lying Arguments
Socrates is a man of great controversy. He has been portrayed as many different personalities such as a sophist to a great philosopher to just a vocal old man. The true nature of Socrates is to be questioned. He spoke his thoughts on life and what his philosophy on life was. A couple arguments that he spoke about really stood out about lying. These arguments had brute force and were made very clear through his dialogue. According to his dialogue, he felt that there were two different types of lies.
When a man in speech makes a bad representation of what
gods and heroes are like, just as a painter paints something
that doesn’t resemble the things whose likeness he wished
to paint. (377e)
As can clearly be seen in this sentence, Socrates is pointing out a painter that knows that truth about what he is painting but is making it look different than he knows it as. The painter is doing this to portray something other than the truth to other people because the truth may either hurt him or hurt others. It is more of a protection type, to protect himself or to protect others from coming into harm.
One of Socrates examples of a true lie is shown in the following dialogue that talks about god.
Do you suppose the god is a wizard, able treacherously to
time actually himself changing and passing from his own
form and to many shapes, at another time deceiving us and
making us think such things about him? (380e)
This idea is showing that God is playing with human kind, or appearing as a human form, which he may really not be. This also shows how some feel that God changes with out us knowing and deceives us to make us feel different from what he should be doing. Only God knows the truth of what his form. Socrates does not believe in this type of lie.
Don’t you know, that all gods and human beings hate the
true lie, if that expression can be used. (382b)
Socrates idea seems to show such hatred towards this lie. He is not a big fan towards immoral words and his dialogue proves his point well.
Socrates believes the second type of lie is called a lie in speech. This situation is when one does not know the truth and makes up an explanation for someone or something to be able to function or protect themselves. This is harmful to the person/s told to, along with deceiving the liar’s soul. He also feels lies in speech are told as a substitute for knowledge not known. Socrates states through his words:
For the lie in speech is a kind of imitation of the
affections in the soul, a phantom of it that comes into being
after it, and not quite an unadulterated lie. (382b)
Socrates believes that this is like a front for not knowing the answer to a question. Something that is unknown to you, but you feel that you still must give an explanation instead of feeling na?ve. The phantom part of that expression is where the explanation comes from. It just appears like a “phantom”.
is it also useful, so as not to deserve hatred? Isn’t it useful
against enemies, and, as a preventive, like a drug, for so-
to do something bad? And, in the telling of the tales we
were just now speaking about-those told because we
don’t know where the truth as best we can, don’t we also
make it useful? (382c/d)
This is a great example of the lie in speech due to not knowing what the actual truth is and still making stories up as Socrates was referring to when he was talking about those tales. He was describing how people would tell their children of stories in the past. Yet these people were uncertain of them to begin with so they made them up. Socrates thinks this is bad because children will grow up believing that these tales were true, when their parents actually are “lying to them in their speech”.
My feelings towards lying are very close to the way Socrates feels. I hold some high values in the area of lying. I think Socrates makes some strong points here and I definitely agree with his standards and morals that he presents. With the true lie, I feel you are lying to yourself because you know the truth. There is one case I don’t agree with Socrates on, and that would be for the sake of a person’s life. If the situation were so extreme that someone needs to lie to save a life, I would agree to that. An example of doing something like this would be a hostage situation. The negotiators do what they can in their power when this is someone that is not a guardian to get the hostages free and to end the situation with any harm to anyone. There are trust factors involved there, but sometimes it is necessary to lie I that field. If it is not to the extreme then I think it is just completely ludicrous for someone to lie, with them knowing the truth. I was brought up in a way where you tell the truth no matter what the situation is. Like the saying goes “Honesty is the best policy”.
The lie in speech, it is ridiculous because if you do not know the truth, be honest and say you don’t know the truth. Socrates was right, why waste your time and effort to make up such a story where people in the future may believe what you tell them about the past. For example, if someone had made up everything in “The Republic of Plato” just to be able to tell someone something, philosophy could be based on a lie. So we may not even know if philosophy exists. It could be a made up lie from one person not knowing the truth and making a story up to look good in front of others.