Knowledge and Virtue in the Myth of Ring of Gyges

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“Everywhere there is one principle of justice, which is the principle of the stronger.” Said by Plato in his work of The Republic, this is a quote that could give a short but concise glimpse of the concerns discussed in Chapter 2. This chapter discusses topics that range from the reasons behind being just and unjust, to the various principles of becoming just, and to the final goal of the “Ideal Good” that every person should strive to attain. All these discussions of becoming just or unjust depend on whether people will have the stronger principles, resolve, and character foundation to overcome their temptations, and ultimately, themselves.

The chapter starts off with the story of Gyges, an ordinary shepherd. One day while Gyges was feeding his flock, a series of mysterious events took place and Gyges ended up with a gold ring. Gyges played around with the ring and he discovered that turning the collet of the ring inwards granted him invisibility. Gyges then proceeds to seducing the queen and killing the king of the kingdom in which he lived in so that he may take the kingdom for his own. The story of Gyges shows the capability of man to do commit mischief given the power. Gyges was an ordinary man with an ordinary life but when he was given the power to take whatever he wanted without getting detected, he took no time in acting upon his urges. This now poses the question, “Why is man just?”. It is discussed in the chapter that “man is just, not willingly or because he thinks that justice is any good to him individually, but of necessity, for wherever anyone thinks that he can be safely unjust, there he is unjust.” (Denise, White & Peterfreund, 2007). Man adheres to laws and regulations not because they want to, but because they need to. If man does not have extraordinary power to willingly disobey laws, he will have to obey authority or else he/she will be punished. However, given the right opportunity to strike and assume power, the character of Gyges proves that man does not need to think twice to decide. Personally, the story of Gyges reminds me of Jafar in the story of Aladdin, where Jafar immediately stopped obeying the Sultan as soon as he got powers of the Genie, consequently overthrowing the Sultan and causing anarchy to the entire city.

The story of Gyges then transitions into the discussion of the differences of justice and injustice in terms of profitability. Plato says that “the just is always a loser in comparison with the unjust” and gives multiple occurrences that prove this point. A point Plato made was that “the just man will pay more and the unjust less on the same amount of income”. This instance is very much reflected in current society in the sense that bigger companies can choose to avoid paying taxes if there’s insider knowledge or even instances of corruption that could sway taxation. Coming from the Philippines, corruption is very much evident in the taxation system and government in general. The Bureau of Internal Revenue in the Philippines is very much notorious for having government employees who take bribes from bigger businesses to help them evade and/or minimize their taxes. On the other hand, smaller businesses do not offer bribes must pay taxes regularly. This now poses an environment wherein the strong become stronger and the weak become weaker. Now, more and more companies try to bribe government officials so that they may stay competitive in the market with minimizing costs while the companies who are weak are ridiculed and start shutting down, proving that injustice is indeed far more profitable than being just.

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