The following is an interesting excerpt from the book "freakonomics:
"There is a tale, "The ring of Gyges" .. It comes from Plato's Republic.A student named Glaucon offered the story in response to a lesson by Socrates, who, like Adam Smith, argued that people are generally good even without enforcement. Glaucon, like feldman's economist friends, disagreed. He told of a shepherd named Gyges who stumbled upon a secret cavern with a corpse inside that wore a ring. When Gyges put on the ring, he found that it made him invisible. With no one able to monitor his behavior, Gyges proceded to do woeful things - seduce the queen, murder the king and so on. Galucon's story posed a moral question, could any man resist the temptation of evil if he knew his acts could not be witnessed? Glaucon seemed to think the answer was no."

I think the answer is "yes". What do you think?
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11 Responses
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  3. excuse me for the typos

  4. most certainly yes! my life is in dedication to goodness, ability and acheivement. a "Well done" is what i want to hear after i (my mental faculties) am (are) rendered disable... when i no longer breathe in this world, i want people to say this life was worth the time and resources... it has contributed. remaining invisible or being instruments of evil can not do this for me. it would, rather, kill the meaning of my life, and hence, me.

  5. aofufromuofa Says:

    I think the answer lies in how loudness of ones concience. Among my sons friends (17 year olds) I see the tendency to honesty a direct attribute of character. Surprisingly it also is completely irrelevent to accepted norms of society. There are quite a few of his so called "punk " friends who have an innate sense of honesty.

  6. Paavai Says:

    Human beings essentially are propelled towards goodness and it is a Yes from my side

  7. Usha Says:

    I wonder if Man would have a notion of good and bad if he was not influenced by education, religion or social morals. He would, like all other animals,be propelled towards his best interest. What is good for him is "good" and what isn't is bad.
    In the case of the socialised, educated, religious Man, I guess being good is less bothersome than being evil. So most of the time I think we would all choose the path of "good" - safer. But if there was self interest involved and if evil could achieve it and if one could do it unseen, unafraid of being discovered ever, I am not sure how many would be tempted?
    Aofu, I think the youthful rebellion is just a protest against establishment and a statement of non-conformity - most of the time you'd find them very principled about the things they believ in. They want to live according to their rules and are only protesting against imposition of rules.

  8. Paavai Says:

    What you define as "Man" is critical here. I would assume Man is someone who has the sixth sense that is not present in animals. Even the early humans neandrathals have exhibited a sense of judgement, compassion etc.

    It is like this - people submitting false bills in an organization and people not doing it inspite of observing that there is no penalty for this wrong doing. I know of people who forego this despite a dire need for this money in their personal lives. Holocaust victims and survivors who have sacrificed so much even in extreme situations.

  9. Usha Says:

    Thanks Paavai. I agree with you that human history is replete with examples of the greatness to which Man is capable of rising.

  10. It is a purely hypothetical situation we are talking about. And in this hypothetical "no punishment" society where no one is monitored, everyone will try and achieve as much as he or she can. By whatever means necessary. The precondition is that one must have grown up in this environment.

    Let us assume one grows up in our world (where he/she is judged, monitored and preached to) and then let loose in the hypothetical world. THat is a completely different story.

    I don't think man is innately good or bad. I don't think man is innately anything but what he/she is conditioned to be.

    IMO, in the absence of this "monitoring" factor, controlling people to follow a set of norms set by a smaller fraction of the world - becomes a tough task. And thus the concept of an all-powerful omnipotent, omniscient "God" was introduced. Of course, THAT is a whole new can of worms.

  11. I seriously believeve the notion of Good and Bad is in built in us. I know whats good and whats bad, in general. In fact this notion of good and bad is what i always believed to be god. Education, culture, religion, blah blah, if anything try to define this good and bad. And what they accomplish is a dilution and even errors in translation. To understand god you dont need to know a language, donet need any book to follow.