Socrates and the Misapprehension of Justice

Topic: Free Speech
Sample donated:
Last updated: April 7, 2019

Socrates’ premise in the Crito that he would be doing Athens an injustice by saving himself is flawed.  The error that Socrates makes concerns the child-parent relationship between citizens and their government.  In Socrates view, citizens are born (like a child) of and for their government and must consider their government’s opinion superior to their own.  This view actually inverts what the proper relationship between citizens and government should be.The Declaration of Independence states that governments are built to secure the rights of citizens.  Socrates’ view is the opposite.  Socrates argues that citizens are nearly slaves of the state; and therefore, should obey the decisions of the state or otherwise they are performing an injustice.

  This is a recipe for a dictatorship.  The Declaration of Independence explains government as an institution of the people; something that is more a less a tool for justice, not justice itself.  If citizens obey their government without question in all situations, the end result will obviously be oppression.  Without considering the opinions of its populace, how can a government ever hope to be just?  Since in Socrates case the government is acting unjust, he has every right to leave.Secondly, Socrates errs in the parallel he draws between governance and parenthood.  His assumption is, like a parent, a government provides bonding elements such as nurturing, sustenance, guidance, and education.  These things a government does not supply.  It may create rules that assist in the acquisition of each of these for its citizens, but it does not assume the personal responsibility that a parent does in actually administering them or acquiring.

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  There is no filial or emotional bond between a citizen and its government that needs to be honored.  Citizens are not participating in government or its rules in order to honor some sacred or emotional bond; they are participating and obeying rules to ensure that chaos does not take place.  Socrates, however, mistakenly elevates the position of the state and claims that he has an almost filial duty to stay.Lastly, Socrates claims that by leaving he will be repaying evil with evil.  Evil is normally that which performs a deliberate harm upon another.  In fleeing, Socrates has performed no deliberate harm to anyone.

  The court and its prosecutors may be angry that he left, but their particular lives will be largely unaffected.  Moreover, his leaving likely would have been taken as an admission of guilt and actually improved the people’s general opinion of the prosecutors.  Socrates may have not wanted to be seen as a coward, or he may not have wanted the people to assume the charges just, but he certainly was not repaying evil for evil.  By escaping and possibly bargaining for a new trial, he may have even prevented the future injustices of other citizens.  The evil in question was not Socrates’, and this being the case, he should have left.Socrates should have left Athens and saved himself.  People are not born to governments as slaves; governments are created out of the will of the people for justice and order.

  They are not parents to which there is some kind of sacred or emotional bond, but merely bodies of rules and people elected to execute those rules.  There was no evil in leaving, no harm, just the extension of the life of an extraordinary man which may have served to further brighten the lives of others, but when governments are left unquestioned and obeyed like parents, transgression of justice do occur and Socrates aided it himself when he did not take the advice of Crito and leave Athens when he had the chance.

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