I've been enjoying the Pop Culture-themed midterm reports in Intro to Philosophy. Heard yesterday about "Family Guy," the brilliance of which I have yet to discover, and "Twilight" (same). Josh's "Matrix" report reminded me how hard it used to be to make Leibniz's monads seem remotely plausible, even by Hollywood standards, before 1999.
Monday it was "Alice in Wonderland" and "Lord of the Rings," towards both of which I was much more favorably disposed. Must be generational?
Allen's take on Tolkien's masterpiece, in particular, resonated. Naturally I thought of Plato's "Ring of Gyges":
Gyges was a shepherd in the service of the king of Lydia; there was a great storm, and an earthquake made an opening in the earth at the place where he was feeding his flock. Amazed at the sight, he descended into the opening, where, among other marvels, he beheld a hollow brazen horse, having doors, at which he stooping and looking in saw a dead body of stature, as appeared to him, more than human, and having nothing on but a gold ring; this he took from the finger of the dead and reascended. Now the shepherds met together, according to custom, that they might send their monthly report about the flocks to the king; into their assembly he came having the ring on his finger, and as he was sitting among them he chanced to turn the collet of the ring inside his hand, when instantly he became invisible to the rest of the company and they began to speak of him as if he were no longer present. He was astonished at this, and again touching the ring he turned the collet outwards and reappeared; he made several trials of the ring, and always with the same result-when he turned the collet inwards he became invisible, when outwards he reappeared. Whereupon he contrived to be chosen one of the messengers who were sent to the court; where as soon as he arrived he seduced the queen, and with her help conspired against the king and slew him, and took the kingdom. Suppose now that there were two such magic rings, and the just put on one of them and the unjust the other; no man can be imagined to be of such an iron nature that he would stand fast in justice. No man would keep his hands off what was not his own when he could safely take what he liked out of the market, or go into houses and lie with any one at his pleasure...
"No man," really? Guess I just still have an artificially-inflated opinion of myself, but I think I'd find better things to do with a ring like that than rape and pillage. Wouldn't you? (OK, I admit I'd probably get out to more ball-games and movies.)
No wonder Plato made his utopian republic so restrictively authoritarian, and entrusted it to Philosopher-kings.