The Enlightened Prisoner and the Immoral Shepard Essay examples

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The Enlightened Prisoner and the Immoral Shepard

The descending movement portrayed in the myth of the ring of Gyges is the exact opposite of the ascending movement depicted in the allegory of the cave, in that it describes the downward movement of a man seeking an excuse to escape responsibility in society while the upward movement illustrates a man who is beginning to understand and embrace the intelligible realm. The story of Gyges implies that we would all be unjust if we knew we could get away with it and the allegory of the cave advocates that we should pursue knowledge, as it will lead to true understanding. Each of these myths teach us the value of bestowing what is good in life. Rather then being deceived by illusions or hiding from responsibility, the most valued way of life can only be attained through an enlightened perspective. The Ring of Gyges is the story of a shepherd, a man who spends most of his time in the midst of nature, with very little social organization. He starts where the ascent of the prisoner from the cave ends, amidst the open air and sunlight. And it is not under the leadership of some human teacher, as is the case with the prisoner of the cave, or as a result of a thought out of his own will that he decides to leave, but by mere chance. It is nature itself, which entices him downward into a chasm in the earth opened by cosmic forces "at the place where he was pasturing" (Republic, II, 359d). And once his curiosity is aroused by the forces of nature, by some exceptional event of momentous proportion, he goes down alone into the cave. He is amazed with the wonders inside and comes upon a hollowed bronze horse containing a rather large corpse. This arrangement is reminiscent of the Trojan horse, an instrument of deceit and war that gave the Greeks victory over the Trojans. Interpreting this further, it can be seen as the purely external "soul" that defines man in a society which cares only for social behavior and external appearance, while he is something entirely different on the inside. Someone who uses such a device finds pride only in its wars and victories and is not ashamed of the evil means it uses to reach its goals. Inside that empty horse, all we see is an unnaturally large man who is merely a material remnant of a person. A scientist can explain the physical composition of man but he cannot evaluate who he was or what he should become. There is no sun in the cave, and the spirit is an undecipherable entity that makes man capable of knowing the intelligible.

The only thing that can be seen on the dead body is a golden ring on his hand. This ring, unlike the chain the prisoners of the cave have to get rid of, which is a consequence of their very nature, is a man-made sign of external wealth, but a wealth that amounts to almost nothing in the face of death. Gyges steals the ring from the dead body and deliberately puts it on his finger, which will lead him to become a traitor who betrays his fellow man rather than a teacher freeing them from their natural chains. Then, by chance, he reveals the rings power by turning it towards himself realizing that he becomes invisible when this is done. This effect will allow him escape responsibility and avoid the consequences of committing injustice. The actual turning of the ring has some inherent meaning as well. In pointing towards the world, he is visible and therefore responsible for his actions because he faces the judgment of the people around him. Whereas if he points it toward himself, he becomes invisible and is therefore only responsible towards himself, making it much easier to ignore any morals he may have had because he can get away with anything without suffering any external repercussions. After leaving the depths of the earth and in full light with his new ring, the shepherd is not even a shadow on the wall in the midst of the assembly of men. His fellow shepherds won't even ridicule him, as do the prisoners in