Avshalom Schwartz - Falsehoods and Lies in Plato’s Republic (Job Talk Practice)

Mon, Nov 2 2020, 11:30am - 12:50pm
Avshalom Schwartz

This paper provides a new interpretation of the Republic’s Noble Lie. It argues that the first half of the Lie—often overlooked by readers of Plato—is crucial for our understanding of Plato’s solution to the problems of stability and legitimacy in the ideal city. It shows, first, that while Plato rejected some forms of falsehood in politics, he nonetheless recognized the necessity of falsehood in the ideal city and advocated for its use in the upbringing of the guardians. This, however, stands in tension with his claim that the philosophers are completely free of falsehood and thus poses a potential threat to their legitimacy. The first part of the Noble Lie, this paper argues, resolves this tension by naturalizing the falsehoods which the guardians received during childhood and thereby masking their false nature. Thus, it provides a crucial ideological justification for the legitimacy of the philosophers’ rule


I am a political theorist and Ph.D. Candidate in Political Science at Stanford University.

My research focuses on the political imagination, the conceptual history of the imagination, and questions of legitimacy and political stability in classical and early modern political thought.

My dissertation, Democratic Phantasies: Political Imagination and the Athenian Democracy, offers a new theoretical perspective on the role played by the imagination in politics. It identifies the unique dynamic of imagination in democratic Athens and explores the ways in which the challenges posed by the imagination have informed and shaped Plato’s and Aristotle’s critiques of democracy and their construction of alternative political regimes.

I am also interested in the role of imagination in the history of philosophy, especially in classical, medieval, Renaissance, and early modern scientific and political thought. My work in this area has focused on Hobbes’s theory of the imagination, its historical and intellectual context, and its relationship to his political thought.

I am currently a Ric Weiland Graduate Fellow, and a former graduate fellow with Stanford’s Center for Ethics in Society and the Stanford Basic Income Lab. In 2020, I received an M.A. in classics from Stanford University. Before coming to Stanford, I received a B.A. in political science and economics and an M.A. in political science from Tel Aviv University, both Summa cum Laude.