Ring of Gyges: A Retelling Term Paper

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" But to live in a state of asocial injustice does not prevent one from being slaughtered by wild beasts, even if one is stronger than one's fellow men. Nor does it prevent the populace and army mutinying against even an invisible king, whom they might fear because of his strange powers and alien physical status. (360c-d)

Still, Glaucon asserts, thus, "if you could imagine any one obtaining this power of becoming invisible, and never doing any wrong or touching what was another's, he would be thought by the lookers -- on to be a most wretched idiot, although they would praise him to one another's faces, and keep up appearances with one another from a fear that they too might suffer injustice." But while it is true that such a power in another world inspire fear, this does not necessarily mean that every invisible shepherd would prove a Gyges, a man with a particular and previously humble set of experiences, if the man's own experiences had not been so socially oppressed and humble. (360c-d) Plato would counter, given his division of society into three categories, that Gyges merely proved himself unfit to rule as a philosopher king, and clearly marked himself out to be best fit to be a shepherd, rather than a ruler.

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It may be true that most of "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," but Plato would suggest that does not mean every person practices justice involuntarily, nor does, a modern social thinker might counter, that does not mean that injustice will invariably occur if men and women are treated justly before given such an opportunity. (359c)

Term Paper on Ring of Gyges: A Retelling Assignment

Socrates responds, using Gyges as an example that good behavior must not be in response to laws, but must result out of an individual's desire and striving to do good, rather than by "laws and mutual covenants." Hence, Socrates puts forth, later in the "Republic" a belief that a philosopher-king ought to rule, rather than the strongest of all, or the rule of the masses, whose will is unpredictable. Socrates suggests that when what "is ordained by law is termed by them lawful and just," and "affirmed to be the origin and nature of justice" it can only be 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;" thus making justice tenuous and dependant upon something that may fall, such as a state, or turn evil, like a leader, or be perverted in the name of justice, like a system of laws (359b) Thus, rather than law, character and strength in character must be the ultimate judge of fitness.

The bullying nature of the Gyges myth becomes evident when the teller of the Gyges tale asserts that "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," in other words it would be mad not to take advantage of Gyges' situation. Glaucon, the storyteller, is providing through Plato's mouthpiece a gloss of the Sophist's vision of the world, that justice is mad for the strong, and protects only the weak, but Socrates argues that true strength is needed to lead a truly virtuous life and such a strength is of character and an inner, moral compass of justice, not of sheet might. Socrates believe that character is innate and inborn, and thus it is most just that the best, rather than the most violent should rule, although modern psychology might be more apt to see Gyges' excesses as a product of social conditions as well as his lack of an ability to be a Platonic philosopher king. (Stoll, 2004)

Works Cited

Plato. "The Republic." Book II. Translated by Benjamin Jowitt.www.plato.Evansville.edu

Soll, Ivan. "Plato." World Book Online Reference Center. 2004. World Book, Inc. 27 Nov. 2004. . [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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