Reconciling The Divergence Of The Nature Of Man Between Classic And Modern Thinkers

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Reconciling the Divergence of the Nature of Man between Classic and Modern Thinkers Within Book 2 of Plato’s work The Republic, Socrates’ companion Glaucon describes the tale of the ring of Gyges, challenging Socrates on the nature of man. Within the ring of Gyges scenario, Glaucon posits that when an individual has the power granted by a ring of absolute invisibility that grants impunity, “no one […] would be so incorruptible that he would stay on the path of justice or stay away from other people’s property, when he could take whatever he wanted” (Plato 360c). Glaucon’s question presupposes a pessimistic attitude towards human nature, that individuals only act justly due to societal pressures and retribution. Plato grapples with this idea throughout his work, providing the contention that justice is a state of the soul and that individuals that abuse the power of the ring of Gyges end up suffering due to an imbalance of the soul. Plato ultimately utilizes Glaucon’s argument to frame a major theme within The Republic, a question of the natural tendency of human nature. This question has not only driven the works of Plato, but also of later thinkers including Aristotle and Thomas Hobbes. Each of these authors provides distinct ideas regarding what the authors believe to be the natural state of the human condition. The authors’ beliefs about humanity can best be read in their assessment of what constitutes the natural state of human existence, such as Hobbes’ state of

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