justice and civil disobedience philosophy

Topics: Law, Plato, Martin Luther King, Jr. Pages: 4 (1362 words) Published: February 26, 2014
Civil disobedience is one of the most important rights given to every citizen. Through civil disobedience citizens are able to aperture their feelings against the government and have right to legislate changes that they feel are necessary for the contentment of the entire society. What responsibilities does a virtuous citizen have to follow the law? Socrates in Plato’s “The Crito” and Martin Luther King, Jr. in his “Letter from Birmingham Jail” answer this question from a contradictory perception. According to “Crito” (399 BCE) Socrates declares that no matter what, it is his duty to follow the law of his city, Athens. However in King (1963), St. Thomas Aquinas argues that “a just law is no law at all”(King, 399) . These two contradicting opinions on this subject matter tell us that there is no evidence of perfect justice. It is authoritative that citizens practice civil disobedience in the face of unjust laws. This will not only make the government aware that its citizens will not obey all laws undeniably and without respond, but it is also important for every citizen to use his or her disobedience as a way to help create a more just society. In Plato (399 BCE), Socrates argues that a citizen who had profited greatly from his city should obey all laws regardless of their fairness or aims. When Crito comes to Socrates in jail with his plan and plenty of money to help him escape from prison, to live his life again in a town other than Athens, he gives pretty good reasons for why Socrates ought to leave prison, including his responsibilities to his family and friends and to continue work. However in response, Socrates counters each of his reasons very concisely, but also concludes with the point that his main responsibility is to do what is right. Therefore the question comes down to, not what is beneficial or what would make his family and friends happy but to do what is right. The question, Socrates says, is “what is the morally correct thing to do?” Though,...

References: King, M.L. Jr., (2000). Letter from the Birmingham jail. (Original work published 1963)
http://www.stanford.edu/group/King/frequentdocs/birmingham.pdf
Plato, (2008). The Crito. Excerpted in F.J Church (Ed.) Plato to Derrida (sixth edition.). “Crito “ (pg. 38-46)
(Original work written in 399 BCE)
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