International Studies in Phenomenology and Philosophy

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Keeping up appearances

the moral philosophy of Robert Sokolowski

John C McCarthy

pp. 121-144


There is a pause at the beginning of the second book of the Republic, just after Socrates so deftly muzzles Thrasymachus. Suddenly Glaucon, eager for more, disturbs the calm and attempts to restore Thrasymachus's argument on a sounder footing. Thrasymachus, it will be recalled, foundered because his spirited glorification of injustice was seen to collide with his concern for how he looked to others: the sophist proved to be a sheep in wolf's clothing. Glaucon tries to remedy the deficiencies in Thrasymachus's position by confronting the problem of appearances, and in two ways. In the first place, he confesses to Socrates and the others that his own vindication of injustice is not what it seems. He does not propose to furnish a just argument on behalf of the unjust, but only to provoke from Socrates more fulsome praise of justice. As regards the substance of his argument, secondly, Glaucon resorts to the conceit of Gyges' ring in order to establish that human beings avoid injustice and do the just thing only out of fear of being found out. The spirited young man supposes that justice is successfully defended only if it can be shown to be good "all by itself," i.e., good for a perfectly just man who appears in every way to be unjust. Socrates hints that there is something very contrived about this supposition: Glaucon in fact wants the invisible to be made intelligible, the wholly "in itself" to be also "for us." Nevertheless, he seems perfectly willing to honor the young man's request.

Publication details

Published in:

Drummond John, Hart James G (1996). The truthful and the good: essays in honor of Robert Sokolowski, Springer, Dordrecht.

Pages: 121-144

DOI: 10.1007/978-94-009-1724-8_9

Full citation:

McCarthy John C (1996). Keeping up appearances: the moral philosophy of Robert Sokolowski, in J. Drummond & J. G. Hart (eds.), The truthful and the good, Dordrecht, Springer, pp. 121-144.