The Nature Of Justice In Plato's Crito

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Within Plato’s Crito, there is dialogue between Socrates and his long-time friend Crito regarding the nature of justice and how one should act in the face of injustice. Crito offers to help Socrates escape prison to evade execution, yet Socrates argues it is wrong for him to escape in response to the injustice he has been dealt. Dealing with the relationship between an individual and a state’s laws, this dialogue is the foundation for inquiry into arguments for being a law-abiding citizen, whether law breaking is justified and the purpose of the state. This shall be explored, however the argument for obey laws only if they are just is more robust.

When talking with Crito, Socrates discusses principles pertain to acting without causing harm
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The Laws in Crito does not show a desirable conception of citizenhood; individuals being placed below the state in a hierarchy (Cr.50e5-51a5). This hierarchy compares the state and its citizens with a master and slaves (Cr.e7-51a2). This allows for the state to act as an individual’s superior furthering the justification for suffering to be inflicted upon citizens at the state’s whims. The injustice against Socrates was that Socrates faces execution wrongfully, and the Laws seem to acknowledge that Socrates has not violated any laws and is innocent, yet it was the men at the trial who decided to execute him (Weiss, 1998). A state that operates under this hierarchy does not deem justice as something applied equally; harm can be done to individuals if the majority agree upon it and retaliation is seemingly unwarranted (1998). The position of power allows the ‘master’ state to dictate how justice operates and ‘slave’ citizens must acquiesce. This implies that the powerful in a society, as in those who have most control over how the state operates, can oppress its citizens and impose societal ideals as they see fit. Just as Henry David Thoreau argues in Civil Disobedience (1849), individuals must not allow the state to turn citizens into apathetic “agents of injustice” who are complacent to abuses of power. It is logical …show more content…
Weiss (1998) demonstrates in Socrates Dissatisfied the lack of Socratic values of emphasis on individual freedom and using reason to understand how to act in a just way within the oration of the Laws. Socrates advocates for reasoned philosophical inquiry (Cr.46b3-6) and trusting opinions of experts (Cr.47c8-d5), due to the epistemic responsibility of experts to guide those lacking expertise; such as a doctor giving medical advice to patients (Cr.47b2-3). This shows that morality being dictated by the state does not serve citizens well as it is not a moral expert. Indeed, Socrates may not have argued for violence as an adequate response to a dysfunctional state as it would violate his principles of returning injustice with injustice (Cr.49b-e). However as Weiss (1998) notes, the Laws focus on disobedience in the face of suffering and not disobedience as a form of protest against injustice. Without violent revolutions states can still change drastically over time to accommodate the needs of the society, which Socrates would surely see the necessity of this. The Laws do not reflect his views, but are a rhetorical device used by a philosopher who cares for his friends lawless soul (Weiss,

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