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Gyges’ Ring: A Reflective Exercise



In Plato’s dialogue, the Republic, his brother Glaucon employs a thought experiment, supposition, or hypothetical scenario to prove his view that human beings follow societal standards of justice (or what is considered morally correct) because they’re forced to do so out of fear of punishment. In other words, they do so involuntarily, not freely. Gyges, with the discovery of a ring that renders him invisible, acts according to his desires, certain in the knowledge that he will not be detected and therefore not suffer any negative consequences.

Your task: Answer the following questions, assuming you also possess Gyges’ ring.


1. What would you do first? Briefly state why you chose this specific action.

2. What would you do generally, that is, as a matter of regular practice? Briefly state why you chose this particular course of action.

3. Do you agree with Glaucon? Do human beings, for the most part, adhere to moral codes involuntarily, only because of the fear of getting caught and paying the consequences?

4. Finally, do you agree with Glaucon’s claim that we all act strictly out of individual self-interest and desire (egoism)? Or is it possible to act strictly for the benefit of another (altruism)?