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Saturday, September 17, 2011

Essay on Plato's The Ring of Gyges

            Plato’s the Ring of Gyges provides a discussion about why people do good and why people avoid evil.  It was made as a response to the dialogue between Socrates and Thrasymachus who was beaten the Socrates when the he insisted that Justice is in the interest of the stronger or might is right.  Plato, speaking through Glaucon, was not satisfied with the explanation given by Socrates.  He also sought to emphasize that no man is so virtuous that he will be able to resist the temptation of being able to do anything he wishes because of the power of invisibility. (Michael Davis 2)

            Plato, speaking through Glaucon made the following arguments.  No man wishes to do good and that if individuals choose to do as they wish a just and unjust man will follow the same path which is to do evil.  Plato added that the only reason why men actually do good and avoid evil is because it is in their best interest to do good.  He explained that men do good because there is nothing to gain by doing evil.  Doing good is therefore seen as an act of compromise precisely because doing evil has negative consequences.  Doing evil means that a person may face sanctions and penalties such as imprisonment, civil liability, and bad reputation in the community.

            Based on the Ring of Gyges, Plato wants to say two things.  The first is that when persons are given the discretion to do whatever they want, a good person and a bad person will do the same thing which is to do evil.  This is because evil is inherently more pleasurable for a person than to do good.  Thus, when a person does not need to think about the consequences of his actions, he will naturally follow what is more pleasurable for him which is to do evil.  The second is that despite the fact that evil is more pleasurable persons are forced to make a compromise by doing good and avoiding evil because evil has negative consequences.  Because the society has laws, customs and traditions which everyone is enjoined to observe, individuals are forced to make the decision of doing good.  Thus, the only conclusion that can be derived is that we do good and observe justice because of its consequences.

            The Ring of Gyges made me reflect about my possible choices and actions should I suddenly acquire extraordinary power.  A person need not have a ring that gives him the option to become invisible to become powerful.  A politician like a Mayor or a Congressman has power which an ordinary person does not have.  Should I become a Mayor or a Congressman what kind of person would I become? Would I become former Governor Eliot Spitzer who was involved in a sex scandal with a prostitute who was a member of a prostitution ring whom he paid $5,000 a night? Would I also commit the same mistake he did by becoming known as Client 9 of the Emperor’s Club VIP call-girl ring after his phone was tapped revealing that he wanted to be set-up with an American, petite, very pretty brunette prostitute named Kristen.  Would I also become involved and caught having an extramarital affair with a woman in Argentina just like the governor of South Carolina, Mark Sanford.

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             Before the scandal, many people thought that they had a lot of future in the political arena.  Some even considered then winnable for a position in White House.  However, with this power did these politicians make the right decision by following the right path? They did not.

            However, this does not mean that every person will follow the path of injustice in the same manner as these politicians.  While some individuals may decide to do evil given the power they have, some will still make the right decision by following the right path.  For instance, in Ipswich, Australia, a motorist risked his life by swerving his motorcycle and slamming into a building just to avoid hitting a young girl.  His act was considered truly heroic. (“'Heroic' act saves girl's life” 1) In Washington, two individuals were honored on Marc 21, 2009 for their heroic act in saving the life of another individual.  It appeared that James Dean and Phillip Vermeire, upon observing that a vehicle was engulfed in flame, made the decision to help the driver of the vehicle get out of the vehicle by breaking the car’s window and helping the person to get out. (“Two Men Honored for Heroic Act” 2)

            It bears stressing that these individuals were ordinary persons.  They had no political power.  They were just like every one of us.  Yet they made the right decision by following the right path.  Any of these individuals could have been any of one of us.

Thus, the only conclusion that can be derived based on these examples is that while there are individuals who will responsible for committing unjust actions, there will always be some individuals who will be recognized for their bravery and heroic act. We cannot generalize persons by making rules as to how they will behave given a specific situation. 

Personally, I am the kind of individual who strives to be just.  I am the kind of person who gives everyone his due.  As much as possible I try my best to not to commit an act of injustice against any person.  I do these things not because I do not want to be punished for committing an injustice but because it makes me happy to do good.  It also makes me feel good to do good to others.  

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