Intrinsic Valuing and the Limits of Justice: Why the Ring of Gyges Matters

In: Phronesis
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  • 1 Faculty of Theology & Philosophy, Australian Catholic University, Locked Bag 4115, Fitzroy Victoria 3065, Australia
  • 2 Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College, Florida Atlantic University, 5353 Parkside Dr, Jupiter, FL 33458, USA

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Commentators such as Terence Irwin and Christopher Shields claim that the Ring of Gyges argument in Republic 2 cannot demonstrate that justice is chosen only for its consequences. This is because valuing justice for its own sake is compatible with judging its value to be overridable. Through examination of the rational commitments involved in valuing normative ideals such as justice, we aim to show that this analysis is mistaken. If Glaucon is right that everyone would endorse Gyges’ behavior, it follows that nobody values justice intrinsically. Hence, the Gyges story constitutes a more serious challenge than critics maintain.

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