gyges_expanded_notes - Philosophy 122 Merli Plato and the...

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Philosophy 122: Merli Plato and the Myth of Gyges I. Structure. This section of the Republic has three distinct arguments: 1. The first is a genealogical argument (an argument that attempts to reject or defend a thesis based on its origins ). 2. The second is the ring of Gyges argument, which attempts to undermine justice by showing that we don’t really want to be just. 3. The third is the comparative argument: the just person’s life is worse (less desirable) than the unjust person’s life. Let’s look at each in turn. II. The genealogical argument. Basic idea: back in the day, we had no standards of justice. People realized that they had these preferences: (a) it’s best to harm others, take their property, etc., without being harmed in turn (b) it’s worst to be harmed and have your property taken, without doing harm in turn (c) the badness of (b) is greater than the goodness of (a) So they decide that it’s worth giving up on (a) if they get to avoid (b) in exchange. They began to make up standards of justice, laws, rules, and so on, that protected them from (b) but also prevented them from what they really wanted, namely, (a). The genealogical argument concludes that justice is conventional not natural (compare to Hesiod!). It then concludes that justice is second-rate or a compromise or not what you really wanted . If you had the power to do so, the argument suggests, you’d ignore justice. Problems/questions: (a) some of my best friends are conventions—what’s wrong with that? (I.e., how does the claim about conventionality undermine a commitment to justice?) (b) what’s wrong with a compromise? How does the GA affect our view of the value of justice? (c) generally, how does thinking about what I could do if I were different (say, if I were
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This note was uploaded on 04/18/2008 for the course PHI 122 taught by Professor Merli during the Spring '08 term at F & M.

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gyges_expanded_notes - Philosophy 122 Merli Plato and the...

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