Inner Void: Gyges’ Ring of Invisibility

Myth Reading Group

Thursday 30 November

12.00-1.30pm in Room 5S.3.8

We are very pleased to announce that Fliss Rich will lead a discussion of the myth of Gyges’ ring as rendered in Plato’s Republic


The Ring of Gyges (Ferrara, sixteenth century) by Anonymous (Wikimedia Commons, source: Dorotheum).

As discussed this term, on a cosmic level, the Void is invisible and intangible. Invisibility is also part of the concept of an omniscient God in the New Testament and the Koran, and is the essence of karmic law in Hinduism and Buddhism.

The tale of Gyges of Lydia, about a shepherd who uses the ring of invisibility to seduce the queen and become king himself, gives us the opportunity to apply the concept of the Void to the individual soul (inner void). In Book II of Plato’s Republic, it is used to explore human nature, choice, and agency within a just society. Do we act justly only as a result of social pressure? How would we act if we had magic or divine powers?

For a discussion of choice and agency and a comparison of the Ring of Gyges to two key stories in Plato’s Republic (the allegory of the cave in Book VII, and the myth of Er in Book X), see Bernard Suzanne’s article.

Please also see Don Adams’ Chapter (optional reading) in Introducing Philosophy through Pop Culture, Ed. by W. Irwin and D.K. Johnson (Wiley-Blackwell, 2010).





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