The Magic Ring
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A philosophy worksheet from the FHSU Scholars Repository.
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The Magic Ring
Glaucon tells the story of the Lydian shepherd, ancestor of Gyges, who finds a ring that makes him invisible, enabling him to do injustice with impunity. The shepherd makes his way to the palace, seduces the queen, kills the king, and seizes the throne. Glaucon asks whether a just person with such a ring would not eventually follow the same path as an unjust person.
If a just person could get away with injustice – could be absolutely undetectable to friends, to enemies, to the law, to spirits, to angels, to any conceivable god or goddess (however absurd this may be theologically) – if a person could do injustice with absolute impunity, would there be any reason not to?
Suppose only one nation possessed nuclear weapons and the capability to deploy them world-wide. Would this nation have any reason not to use its unique capability to have its way in international relations – to secure cheap natural resources, to pressure other nations to adopt political systems it considers congenial, to open overseas markets for its exports, and so on?
Is the tendency of power to corrupt people good reason to set term limits for politicians, and in international relations, to oppose any nation’s hegemony?
Does power inevitably corrupt?
Does a usurper like the Lydian shepherd become the rightful ruler of the nation? What is it to be a rightful ruler other than to be in power?
Philosophy at FHSU Scholars Repository