This post has been copied from the Great Ideas Forum
In Book V of the Republic a definition of justice was proposed based on the legend of the Ring of Gaiges. Gaiges found a ring that would make him invisible so that he could obtain information and goods by stealth without fear of punishment or reprisal. Justice is proposed as the compromise between our desire to BE Gaiges and obtain all goods for free and our desire to NOT be his victim. This definition is debated a little in the Republic and then discarded without being formally refuted.
Frankly, that definition of Justice strikes me as perverse and hideous. It was hard to put my finger on what made it so awful to me. Then it hit me: Not all goods could be obtained by Gaiges using his magic ring.
There is a class of goods which cannot be obtained by stealth, theft or coercion: things like bodily strength, wisdom, friendship, love, self-discipline, honesty. Most of these kinds of goods are unlimited in the sense that my intelligence does not detract from yours. My honesty does not subtract from the available honesty to be had. For lack of a better word, I will call these goods virtues.
Just for clarification, note that one can steal money to get into a university, or perhaps to obtain a diploma, but knowledge must be obtained the old fashion way - by ones own effort. Knowlege is the virtue. A diploma or school attendance are not necessarily virtuous. Thus, there is a class of goods which, by their very nature, can only be obtained through what we would call "just" means. Note that we dont' need to agree on a definition of "good", "right", "happiness" or "fairness" to recognize there is something unique about the class of goods I am calling "virtue".
Next post, I will propose a definition of justice based upon the unique properties of this class of goods.
How do you find the definition of justice based on the Ring of Gaiges ?
What would you include in a list of goods that cannot be obtained by stealth, deception or coercion?
Looking at your list, do you sense that there is indeed something unique about these goods. Can you put your finger on what it is?
Is there any correlation between your list of virtues and what makes your life rich and meaningful?