There are two passages in Plato’s Apology with questions introduced by a verb relating to shame. In 28b, a representative of the Athenian citizens asks Socrates, if he is not ashamed to follow his philosophical occupation even when it might cost him life. Later, in 29d, it is Socrates who asks an imaginary Athenian, if he is not ashamed to care for things of illusory value and neglect those that are really important. The verb used in these two questions apparently refers to two different notions of shame: the first one is marked by fear of being disregarded by the others, the other one is an outcome of endeavour for an inner coherence. The article maps this process of internalization of shame as a transformation of the shame before others into shame relating to oneself. This change of perspective will be documented via two versions of the tale of Gyges and his magic ring (in Herodotus and in Plato). Herodotus’ Gyges acts as an heteronomous agent moved by the will of others; the character in Book 2 of Plato’s Republic, on the other hand, is, thanks to the power of a magic ring, autonomous and immune to the gaze of the other but acts unjustly in the end. The Socratic moral agent in this context appears to be Anti-Gyges, determined to act justly with no regard for external approval or its lack. He does not necessarily disregard shame, but his shame is based on an aesthetics of self and on his power to transform his character by means of care of the self.
Moral emotions, Shame, Socratic ethics, Care of the self, Tale of Gyges