Moral Obligation Essay

1263 words - 6 pages

Moral Obligation

In the "Crito" written by Plato, the argument of whether or not it is morally right to escape prison is in question. At the beginning of the dialogue, Crito offers Socrates an escape though Socrates has already made up his mind and quickly refuses this opportunity. For Socrates believes that though he may have been convicted for the wrong reasons, the laws are just. In this essay, I will examine both arguments given by Crito and Socrates.

Crito does not start with very strong arguments to persuade Socrates. His first argument is that if he does not escape, he will not only lose a close friend, but people will be left to believe that instead of using his money to ...view middle of the document...

The just laws were not who put him there, it was the jury. Though he may not accept the verdict, he must not return the wrong action by doing another wrong. For if he did he would not only be harming the laws of Athens, but he would be harming his own soul. He believes that to abandon the principles he has always held before him would be devaluing the life he has lived. That Socrates can not do, because a life is not worth living if one has a ruined soul.
After Crito states that he has not yet changed his mind, Socrates moves forward with his argument, this time bringing forth an imaginary conversation as though the laws of Athens were standing in his prison cell with him. They would ask what gave him the right to attempt to destroy them and the state, for they are who brought him to existence, nurtured him, and educated him. He was never kept there against his will. He had the freedom to leave at any given moment, but he did not. He raised his children here, and never once challenged or tried to persuade change to these laws that were put before him. He has only benefited by his city. For these reasons given, Socrates feels bound to abide by the laws. He feels that he made an agreement to obey, and though it may not have been an agreement one signs, it certainly should not be one that should be taken for granted. For he believes that if he were to break this agreement, he would be setting a poor example for the people of Athens, an example that may be followed by others. If he were to escape, he would be destroying the laws and city, and a city cannot survive if its laws are meaningless to its own citizens.
If we were to compare Socrates in Plato's "Crito" and Martin Luther King, Jr. in his "Letter from Birmingham Jail", we could assume that these two individuals were both trying to decide whether it is moral or not to disobey laws. Both believe that there are just and unjust laws, however, they have very different viewpoints as to following them . Socrates believes that the value of laws should be preserved. If he had broken the law and chose to escape prison, his actions would have harmed the laws by causing them to no longer have meaning. He feels there is a certain relationship between each citizens and their state, that the state guides its citizens with laws. If one law is broken, what is to say that the other laws would not be harmed as...

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