Monday, June 8, 2015

Ring of Gyges

Ring of Gyges – Mythical Magical Artefact

The Ring of Gyges is considered to be mythical magical artefact which has been mentioned by the philosopher, Plato in Book 2 of his Republic granting that the owner has the power to become invisible at will. In the story of the ring, Republic considers if an intelligent person would be ethical if he had no fear of being caught and punished for doing injustices.

 The Ring of Gyges originates with a challenge put across by Glaucon, he needs Socrates to defend the just life and wants the defense to portray that justice is essentially preferable to injustice. For the purpose of argument, he proposes to present a defense of justice and starts by asserting that people tend to find it desirable or good to inflict wrongdoings on others though the wrongdoers considered being on the receiving end of offenses as unwanted.

In Glaucon’s reporting of the myth, which is not based on historical fact, an unnamed ancestor of Gyges, a shepherd was in the service of the King of Lydia, who was a historical king, the founder of the Mermnad dynasty. After a certain earthquake, a cave was exposed in a mountainside where he had been feeding his flock and on entering the cave, he observed that it was in fact a tomb with abronze horse having a corpse larger than that of a man, wearing a golden ring. This was stolen by him.

Discovered Power of Turning Invisible 

According to the customs prevailing at that time, the shepherds would meet together and send their monthly report about the flocks to the king. He then arranged to be chosen as one of the messengers to report to the king, the status of the flocks having the ring on his finger and as he sat among the assembly he chanced to move the collet of the ring in his hand when instantly he became invisible to the rest of the assembly.

He got to hear the others speaking about him as if he was not present there. He was surprised and again touching the ring he turned the collet outwards and was visible to them once again. He tried the technique several times and discovered that the ring had the power to turn invisible on adjusting it. He utilised this new power of invisibility to seduce the queen and with her help, he killed the king and became the king of Lydia.

Tale of Gyges Used to Question Imaginative Form of Query

The tale of Gyges is utilised to question an imaginative form of query which is basic for the Republic and is questioned in several other types in the dialogue - `why should one do right if they can get away with doing wrong? It could be an important and a difficult question and the answer to it would take the rest of the Republic together with its state building, philosopher-kings, the cave and the divided line, educational program for guardians the unfathomable perfect number governing all human births as well as the myth of Er, which would not be very convincing.

However Western literature provides us with another option to Glaucon’s query, which takes the premise of the ring of Gyges plainly that, is shorter, simpler and much more entertaining in H.G. Wells’ short novel – The Invisible Man.

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