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Groundhog Day is a movie created by Harold Ramis. It explores the question “what would you do if you lived a life without consequences.” This relates to the argument proposed by Glaucon in Plato’s Republic. He argues that “living an unjust life will bring more happiness than living a just one.” To explain his view, he offers the story of Gyges’ ring. This is the story of a man who receives a ring that allows him to turn invisible and do anything he desires without fear of consequences. This character is extremely similar to Phil Collins the main character of the movie how parallels the story of Gyges’ ring closely. Both men have the ability to use this supernatural occurrence to live unjustly and do the things proposed to them by their id, but that they could not do before because of social conformity and fear of the law. Or these men could use the power to live justly. One major difference being that Phil Collins will reset entirely erasing the acts of the previous day. We can see the drastic effect this detail has on Phil. He starts small gradually building up to larger crimes. I will be arguing that while Glaucon is correct in assuming that if given the opportunity people would live unjustly, ultimately Plato’s argument for the just life will produce a life filled with Greater happiness.
Glaucon explains his argument to Plato by stating. That the only reason a majority of people chooses the live a just life rather than an unjust one is because they are afraid. They are afraid of being caught and punished by the law. It is this fear that keeps people on the just path it outweighs the satisfaction that would be gained from living unjustly. He muses that if given the opportunity knowing there would be no consequences for their actions, men would without hesitation begin living out their wildest dreams and fantasies. This argument does seem to hold some merit. In the instance of Gyges ring that is exactly what happens. Additionally, at the start of the movie when Phil first enters the time loop this is exactly what we see him doing. He steals, speaks crudely, and lust after women. He repeats this cycle, again and again, living as if there will be no tomorrow. However, he begins to break down psychologically as the movie progresses. After repeating the same events again and again he begins to grow discontent, as he has lived out all his fantasies. At this point, Phil is brought to a low point just wanting the “day” to be over. He commits suicide for an untold amount of days trying to break the cycle. It, of course, ends in failure, believing that death no longer has any power over him he boldly starts referring to himself as a god. He attempts to prove this by sharing the knowledge of people and events he had learned from his countless repeats. His conscious and sense of self had deteriorated so much that he no longer even viewed himself as a human.
Plato’s counter-argument to Glaucon is that true happiness is gained by living a just life. He defines the just life as one that seeks justice, courage, moderation, and wisdom. Essentially Plato is arguing that the just life is living selflessly for the benefit of others and the good of the city not for yourself or your own personal gain. As stated in Plato’s Republic if the teachers teach, the guardians guard, the rulers’ rule, and the people labor than the city will flourish, and individual pleasures will come naturally. This is the mentality that seems to draw Phil out of his shattered frame of mind and back to his senses. He decided to stop living for himself and started helping those around him. He learned to play the piano, gave money to the poor, saved someone from choking on their food and so on. He even falls in love and it is this selfless attitude and vow to unconditionally live the woman he fell in love with that finally breaks him out of the cycle and allows him to return to the normal flow of time.
If I were to pick a side to agree it would be Plato. I think it is much more rewarding to live a just life for other than an unjust life for yourself. The reason for my reasoning is this. Even though Phil did at first live out his dreams and fantasies at first and seemed to be enjoying his newfound freedom. But this was only a temporary happiness, once he ran out of ideas and had committed several crimes, he began to grow discontent and feel empty. He started to lose his sanity and began to kill himself an untold amount of times in an attempt to break his cycle. But we see that when he stops living for himself and stopped chasing after the temporary pleasures. Instead, he took time to notice the people he had walk past who knows how many times. He learned to play the piano; he helps fix broken down cars he even learned to ice sculpt. It was only when he stops living for the temporary and starts investing in the lives of those around him that he finds true happiness. It is true that Glaucon was right assuming human would live unjustly if given the opportunity to get away with it. However at the end of the day the just life proves to produce a life filled with more happiness. Not only for oneself but those around you as well.
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