How would you answer the problem posed by Glaucon in the Ring of Gyges story? If someone is capable of doing whatever they want with impunity, do you think there are many reasons why they should care about being good and just? Ultimately, what are the real reasons why we should care about justice?
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Glaucon who was Plato’s brother wasn’t satisfied in the manner in which Socrates had defeated Thrasymachus. Hence the requests Socrates to elaborate further on the topic of justice. He begins his argument with Socrates by illustrating the three different kinds of good things and states that all good things are desirable for one of the reasons given below:
- All good things are liked for its worth but not for its consequences (i.e., harmless pleasures)
- All good things are liked for its consequences but not for its worth (i.e medicine or money).
- All good things are like for it’s worth as well as for its consequences. (i.e., knowledge or health)
He then proceeds to ask Socrates the definition that best suits justice. Socrates provides the three definitions of justice:
- Justice is seen to be valuable in itself and regardless of its consequences.
- Justice seems to be good because behaving justly produces good consequences
- Socrates’ own position is that justice belongs to the third definition of good things i.e all good things are desirable for its worth as well as for its consequence.
Glaucon agrees with the first definition of Socrates and argues that injustice is ultimately more preferable in itself than justice. He proves his argument with the story of the “Ring of Gyes”.
The story begins with Gyes who was a just person, who was a shepherd for the king of Lydia. There exists a violent thunderstorm and an earthquake opens up the ground where Gyges’ flock was feeding. Inside this opening, he observed a bronze horse with doors and inside these doors, he also saw a dead body with a golden ring on the finger. Gyges pulled the ring from the dead man’s finger and came out of the chasm.
He later joined his fellow shepherds to make a regular report to the king about his sheep. As he sat among others, he happened to turn the setting of the ring towards himself to the inside of his hand. When he did this he became invisible to all and they went on talking as if he had gone. He wondered at this and fingering the ring, he turned the setting outwards again and became visible. When he realized this, he then agreed to become one of the messengers sent to report to the king. He then seduced the queen, killed the king with the help of the queen’s help and took control of Lydia.
From the above story, we can agree with Glaucon that justice is not practised out of the free will. We as humans behave justly, not because we prefer justice to injustice but due to fear of the consequences of behaving unjustly. The rule of justice is now followed only after the agreement made by all members of our society.
From this, we can understand that, if a person is doing things with impunity, then such persons need not be good and just. This is because, even if such a person tries to be good and just, he or she will not get all the rewards of life. He or she will be defamed, poor and live a life full of suffering, but if he or she continues to be unjust, then they can live a life of healthiness, fame, power, happiness and respect. So the best way such kind of persons can live their lives is by being unjust.
The advantages of being unjust can be seen in today’s world wherein we observe our politicians doing things with impunity and they seem to be living a life full of courage, richness, happiness and power whereas on the other side we also observe the disadvantages of being just from the common man point of view. Since the common man has been just, he ultimately has to live like a coward, simpleton, unambitious, without happiness and he is the biggest looser’s in life.
Finally, on a personal level, I do not think there are many reasons why we should care about justice. This is because of the following reasons: –
> Being just always never makes anyone happy. It is also misinterpreted that being just acquires many benefits such as good marriage, good job, reputation, and rewards in life. But this again is not true because in real life many good people suffer, and the wicked prosper. For example, the just person always gets less salary for the job that he has done but the unjust person is paid more for the job that he has done.
> Being unjust benefits us more than being just. For example, just by paying Rs500/-an unjust person is benefited by getting his driving license easily and quickly than a just person.
> Even the laws of today do not prevent injustice in our society. The unjust persons always get away from punishments and at times just people are only punished. The laws seem to be an exception for the unjust. For example, if a police officer does not collect “Hafta” from a Hawker and give it to his senior, charges of negligence or corruption are always laid on him but if he performs the above, he is rewarded with medals and promotion in his job. He thus has a better standard of living.
> An unjust person always has a better life than a just person and he enjoys the benefits that come to him more than what the just person enjoys.
> A person who is unjust progresses in life whereas a person who just always remains where he was in life. In other words, his status remains unchanged.
Thus from the above, one can conclude that the key to happiness and better rewards in life is to be unjust and not just.
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