Morality of Disobeying Laws

Powerful Essays
In the articles of “Crito,” by Plato, and “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” by Martin Luther King, Jr., two writers make a case over whether it is moral or not to disobey laws. The question to be answered in our final paper asks whether we agree with what the Laws say about if Socrates was to escape and why we feel that way. It also asks how we think Martin Luther King would have responded to the judgment of the Laws of Athens. In this paper, I will address these questions as well as do a quick overview of each article.

In “Crito,” Plato uses Socrates as a tool to argue the point. Socrates is in jail for “preaching false gods” and “corrupting the youth” by causing them to doubt or disregard the wisdom of their elders. His friend Crito comes to visit and pleads with him to escape from his imprisonment and death sentence. Socrates asks Crito to give him one good reason that will hold up to scrutiny to persuade him, and then he will choose to escape. Crito brings up how people would think of him because he wouldn’t spend his money to get his friend out of jail. Socrates goes on to nullify this argument by saying that opinions of the populace doesn’t matter, only the opinion of the authority should be taken into consideration. Socrates also says that he shouldn’t mind dying considering he had a long and full life. He goes on to point out that, the point of living is not to live long but to live well. Moreover, that to live well, one has to live honorably. He feels that he has lived a good life and if he were to escape, then he wouldn’t be living honorably, thus not making life worth living. Crito gives him a few other reasons including; thinking about his family (who would raise his children?), thinking about his followers (they don’t want him to die), and that the guilty verdict was wrong and unfair (few Athenians really wanted him put to death). Socrates then goes on to explain that his friends would raise his children, as he would wish. Also, he would be a mockery to his followers if he were to go against his own preaching. Lastly, the guilty verdict may be wrong and unfair, but it was the wrongdoing of man and not the laws, so why should he disobey the laws? He feels a state cannot exist without laws that are followed. Because he dismantled all of Crito’s arguments, he proved that there is no reason not to follow the laws. The laws raised him. He...

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... said by King is that, “Society must protect the robbed and punish the robber.” So, although he may have felt that it was wrong for Socrates to be in jail, and that society was punishing the wrong person, he believed that it was like a march and therefore a positive thing for Socrates to do. With this, I feel that he would agree with the Laws of Athens because they are just laws themselves. It was man that put Socrates in jail and made him drink hemlock, not the laws. However, I think that if Martin Luther King, Jr. were in the same position, he would instead try to persuade them differently, as that is one of the choices of the laws.

Overall, I think that Socrates and King see eye-to-eye on this issue, however their reasons for believing so are different. King, on one side, looks at Socrates’ imprisonment as an act to bring thought to this law. Whereas, Socrates sees it as just obeying as he should and being moral. After all, he had his chance to choose banishment, and said that he would rather die than be banished. I would like to conclude with a quote from Socrates, “It is never right to do a wrong or return a wrong or defend one’s self against injury by retaliation.”
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