One of the great examples of ethics and morals in all of literature comes from Plato who wrote about the Ring of Gyges in The Republic, Book II, starting at paragraph 359a.
The story goes that Gyges was a shepherd in the service of the King. In a most unusual circumstance he came upon a dead man, removed the man’s ring, and discovered that it made him invisible. He conspired to take the periodic report of the shepherds to the King – once there he seduced the Queen and eventually took control of the Kingdom by conspiring with the Queen. Plato continues the story:
Suppose now that there were two such magic rings, and the just put on one of them and the unjust the other; no man can be imagined to be of such an iron nature that he would stand fast in justice. No man would keep his hands off what was not his own when he could safely take what he liked out of the market, or go into houses and lie with any one at his pleasure, or kill or release from prison whom he would, and in all respects be like a God among men. Then the actions of the just would be as the actions of the unjust; they would both come at last to the same point. And this we may truly affirm to be a great proof that a man is just, not willingly or because he thinks that justice is any good to him individually, but of necessity, for wherever any one thinks that he can safely be unjust, there he is unjust. For all men believe in their hearts that injustice is far more profitable to the individual than justice, and he who argues as I have been supposing, will say that they are right.
For this discussion, address the following:
1. Create a personal ethical philosophy and explain from which philosophies you created it and why the contents are important and meaningful for you. List its precepts.
2. Take your personal ethical philosophy statement and use it to work through the famous case of the Ring of Gyges. This story raises the question of what sanctions prevent people from just taking any liberties they are inclined to take. The whole subject of ethics, seen in large scale, is that of accepting and living under moral standards.
3. What would you do if you had that second ring?
4. What else within this course helps