Chapter

The Ring of Gyges

David Gauthier

in Morals by Agreement

Published in print May 1987 | ISBN: 9780198249924
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191597497 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/0198249926.003.0010
The Ring of Gyges

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Is a rational morality a necessary evil—a mean between what an individual would judge best—bettering his situation at whatever cost to others, and worst—having one's situation worsened at other's pleasure? It would seem that Glaucon's fable of the ring of Gyges may be applied to our account of morality. And indeed, matters may be worse—a contractarian morality such as we have developed may seem to be a tool for the clever and strong to use in domination, using the language of cooperation to conceal the reality of exploitation. If we understand ourselves on the model of economic man, treating all basic motivation as exemplifying asociality and all human relationships as contractual, we may find these conclusions hard to escape. Even though we could understand the rational arguments in support of morality, our feelings would be engaged only by our own concerns, and we would lack any affective capacity for morality.

Keywords: affective capacity for morality; asociality; contractarian; economic man; ring of Gyges

Chapter.  10061 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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