Jun 27, The Ring of Gyges: Is Justice Always Self-Interested? Glaucon argued that by nature humans are selfish and unjust, and that justice is not good in itself; instead justice is a consequential good it is only valued for the beneficial consequences.
Noble lies and perpetual war Danny Postel and Shadia Drury discusses Plato and other political philosophers in the service of contemporary theory and practice. This piece is particularly useful as an instance of how ancient philosophy remains relevant.
Ethics - The Ring of Gyges Are you a decent person? Well, what if you suddenly gained incredible power? Are we inherently compassionate? Plato provides a thought-experiment that can tell us much about our ideas of human nature, including our own.
In the Republic, he has the character Glaucon pose a challenge to Socrates. They have been discussing the question "What is Justice? The story he tells acts as a thought-experiment. The question at issue being: When you read the below excerpt, you may be reminded of another story of good, evil, and a ring of invisibility.
The Ring of Gyges, from the Republic, Book II "They say that to do injustice is, by nature, good; to suffer injustice, evil; but that the evil is greater than the good. And so when men have both done and suffered injustice and have had experience of both, not being able to avoid the one and obtain the other, they think that they had better agree among themselves to have neither; hence there arise laws and mutual covenants; and that which is ordained by law is termed by them lawful and just.
This they affirm to be the origin and nature of justice; --it is a mean or compromise, between the best of all, which is to do injustice and not be punished, and the worst of all, which is to suffer injustice without the power of retaliation; and justice, being at a middle point between the two, is tolerated not as a good, but as the lesser evil, and honoured by reason of the inability of men to do injustice.
For no man who is worthy to be called a man would ever submit to such an agreement if he were able to resist; he would be mad if he did. Such is the received account, Socrates, of the nature and origin of justice.
Now that those who practice justice do so involuntarily and because they have not the power to be unjust will best appear if we imagine something of this kind: The liberty which we are supposing may be most completely given to them in the form of such a power as is said to have been possessed by Gyges the ancestor of Croesus the Lydian.
According to the tradition, Gyges was a shepherd in the service of the king of Lydia; there was a great storm, and an earthquake made an opening in the earth at the place where he was feeding his flock.
Amazed at the sight, he descended into the opening, where, among other marvels, he beheld a hollow brazen horse, having doors, at which he stooping and looking in 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 re ascended.
Now the shepherds met together, according to custom, that they might send their 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 chanced 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.
He was astonished at this, and again touching the ring he turned the collet [decorative front of the ring] outwards and reappeared; he made several trials of the ring, and always with the same result-when he turned the collet inwards he became invisible, when outwards he reappeared.
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.
Suppose now that there were two such magic rings, and the just put on one of them and the unjust the other; no man can be imagined to be of such an iron nature that he would stand fast in justice.
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.
And this we may truly affirm to be a great proof that a man is just, not willingly or because he thinks that justice is any good to him individually, but of necessity, for wherever any one thinks that he can safely be unjust, there he is unjust.
For all men believe in their hearts that injustice is far more profitable to the individual than justice, and he who argues as I have been supposing, will say that they are right.
In politics, we give power to others, hoping that they will do what is right. Anyone who gains power without accountability is liable to use it unjustly. This particularly significant right now as the U. Secrecy is a form of invisibility, and for the purposes of power, as effective as a magic ring.
The question "What is Justice?A summary of Book II in Plato's The Republic. Learn exactly what happened in this chapter, scene, or section of The Republic and what it means.
Glaucon appeals to a thought experiment. Invoking the legend of the ring of Gyges, he asks us to imagine that a just man is given a ring which makes him invisible.
and erotically lustful urges. The Ring of Gyges" was an oral legend told to Plato by his brother Glaucon. The story concerned a magic ring that made its wearer invisible. the question is whether the power of anonymity would eliminate morality and ethics in any person, even one of very strong moral beliefs.
Central to it is a tale about the Ring of Gyges, which serves to flesh out the thought experiments of the interlocutors on the nature of the moral subject and their disposition towards justice (the tale also performs a pedagogical function: to make the arguments more accessible to a broader audience, as is Plato’s general didactic style).
The Ring of Gyges: Is Justice Always Self-Interested? on the individual and innovative arguments against justice, Adeimantus was much more concerned with the community, education, and broader. Gyges was a shepherd in the service of the king of Lydia; there was a great storm, and an earthquake made an opening in the earth at the place where he was feeding his flock.
Plato: Ethics - The Ring of Gyges Are you a decent person? Well, what if you suddenly gained incredible power?
Are humans inherently selfish? Are we inherently compassionate? Plato provides a thought-experiment that can tell us much about our ideas of human nature, including our own.