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The Ring of Gyges -Plato

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Danish Nadeem

on 6 April 2014

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Transcript of The Ring of Gyges -Plato

The Ring of Gyges -Plato
By: Danish Nadeem

Some questions to start thinking about
In your opinion are humans inherently selfish?
Are we inherently compassionate beings?
What is the Ring of Gyges suppose to illustrate to us?
What is infact justice? unjust?
What "big problems" could arise from what Glaucon is trying to illustrate for us?
Pros and Cons of the Ring of Gyges
How does the story of the Ring of Gyges still remain important to us today?
This story remains important to us today because it concerns what we can expect humans to do with power over others. In politics, we give the power to others, hoping that they will do what is right. If Plato's allegory of the ring is correct, than anyone who gains power without accountability is liable to use it unjustly.
Quick Introduction about the "Ring of Gyges"
Whats the purpose of the "Ring of Gyges"
The “Ring of Gyges” was proposed by Glaucon and he asked Socrates to defend the just life and he wants the defense to show that justice is intrinsically preferable to injustice.
Glaucon starts his argument by saying that people find it desirable to do bad things to others but when bad things are imposed on them they find those undesirable.
When people have been on both ends of misdeeds (giving and receiving), they quickly realize that it’s more painful being a victim is worse than the benefits of being the victimizer.
His thought of justice is a compromise between what is most desirable to the individual, doing misdeeds upon others and what is the most undesirable for the individual which is being a victim.
The Ring of Gyges is from the Republic , Book II
this was written by Plato in 359d -360c
The story is explained, referring to his brother Glaucon who is questioning Socrates using the story of the "Ring of Gyges" story as evidence.
Glaucon disagrees with Socrates and insists that justice and virtue are not in fact desirable in someone
Glaucon offers the following story which suggests that the only reason people act morally is that they lack the power to behave otherwise.
Take away the fear of punishment, and the "just" and the "unjust" person will both behave in the same way: unjustly, immorally.
Do you think that fear of punishment and the "just" and the "unjust" person will both behave in the same way?
Brief Summary of Glaucon's Story of the "Ring of Gyges"
Gyges was a shepherd in the service of the king of Lydia; there was a great storm, and an earthquake which made an opening in the earth at the place where he was feeding his flock. He saw a dead body of stature, as appeared to him, more than human, and having nothing on but a gold ring; this he took from the finger of the dead and reascended. According to custom, he had to sed his monthly report about the flocks to the king; into their assembly he came having the ring on his finger, and as he was sitting among them he changed to turn the collet of the ring inside his hand, when instantly he became invisible to the rest of the company and they began to speak of him as if he were no longer present. Whereupon he contrived to be chosen one of the messengers who were sent to the court; where as soon as he arrived he seduced the queen, and with her help conspired against the king and slew him, and took the kingdom.
- This story has been summarized from http://sites.wofford.edu/kaycd/plato/

Glaucon says if there were two of such rings and both a just and unjust person had the ring, No man would keep his hands off what was not his own when he could safely take what he liked out of the market, or go into houses and lie with any one at his pleasure, or kill or release from prison whom he would, and in all respects be like a God among men. Then the actions of the just would be as the actions of the unjust; they would both come at last to the same point.
Socrates and Glaucon Respond to "The Ring of Gyges
There isn't really a set reason for why the story may have any pros or cons but it does question us to think about our ability think about human nature more.
for instance are humans more prone to doing anything even if its not morally right or unjusticely when given ultimate power and no laws
Many people who have tried to understand this story including professors at Universities and most professors have argued that human nature is a big factor for this
However if we were to look at the pros and cons of justice, we could conclude that having a system of justice has more advantages as opposed to disadvantageous because most people will be treated fairly, however the question that arises could be that is justice always a good thing even if the person perhaps really doesn't deserve it?
The "Big Problem" for Philosophers

The big problems for philosophers on this topic is that it can be argued whether Glaucon's interpretation for injustice is a good one or not because his story of the Ring of Gyges does help us understand that humans can be very selfish and that having a system of "justice" controls us from being selfish people.
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