Plato, a classical Greek philosopher and mathematician, had a way of persuading and explaining his theoretical beliefs by creating stories that demonstrated his point. The allegory of “The Ring of Gyges” appears in the second book in Plato’s The Republic as a means to prove that being moral is in our long-term interest, because it is the only way to be truly happy. In Plato’s book, the character Glaucon tells the story of a Sheppard, Gyges, who comes across a ring one summer, while watching over his sheep as they grazed in the mountains. Naturally, Gyges tried on the golden ring, and while playing with it he turns it so the stone faces inward. In doing so, Gyges becomes invisible, and upon turning the ring outward again he reappears. Gyges realized he had a ring, which gave him the power to become invisible whenever he pleased (Seth & Franco 90). This opened the door to a world of great temptation where consequences virtually did not exist (Melchert 146).
With this newfound power, Gyges begins to steal with the help of the ring. He now has the power to take anything he wants, but monetary objects are not enough to please him; Gyges desires sex, wealth, and when he wishes to remove people who serve as obstacles, he murders them (Seth & Franco 91). This allegory aims to discern whether a moral person is a happy person. Gyges represents human nature, which is tested when given the power to do anything he pleases without the worry of consequences for committing the offenses (Melchert 146). Throughout this story, Plato poses several philosophical questions:
That those who practice it [justice], practice it constrained by want of power to act unjustly, we might better perceive if we...
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... will show people why being good is truly good for them, and this alone is what will bring a good, happy life. Simply going through the motions is not sufficient, but the only way to illuminate this to people is through education (Boyd 48). This is why Plato’s ideal society has the educated, virtuous philosopher kings at the top. Some people find reward in being or doing good deeds, which is why they choose to be good. Educating the soul illuminates the goodness of virtuous living beyond finding reward. Virtue ethics can show why being good is good intrinsically for them not just for making live easier. With an educated soul one would see that a great man or woman is not one who has more than others and is better able to indulge one’s desire or appetite for pleasure (Seth & Franco 91). An increase in empowerment most often leads to destruction rather than virtue.
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