Truth as a Value in Plato's Republic

In: Phronesis
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  • 1 Philosophy Department, King's College London, Strand, London WC2R 2LS, UK

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To what extent is possession of truth considered a good thing in the Republic? Certain passages of the dialogue appear to regard truth as a universal good, but others are more circumspect about its value, recommending that truth be withheld on occasion and falsehood disseminated. I seek to resolve this tension by distinguishing two kinds of truths, which I label 'philosophical' and 'non-philosophical'. Philosophical truths, I argue, are considered unqualifiedly good to possess, whereas non-philosophical truths are regarded as worth possessing only to the extent that possession conduces to good behaviour in those who possess them. In the non-philosophical arena it is an open question, to be determined on a case-by-case basis, whether falsehood is more efficacious in furthering this practical aim than truth.

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