The main idea of Socrates refusing to escape from prison is the belief in justice and knowing to differentiate wrong from right and good from evil, which is also not easy today and wasn’t easy for the last couple of centuries.
In the olden days the person didn’t have much of a choice when discerning wrong from right, the opinion of the government was what mattered, but as personal liberties started to expand, people were given freedom of choice and that is when the breaking of the law became the boundary between wrong or right, no one could be punished for immoral acts anymore, only for illegal ones.
This boundary however, makes the committer of immoral deeds stay out of jail but it does not make him or her into a complete person with strong moral principles, it just shows that one has to balance the letter of the law with one’s personal beliefs. Therefore, it is important to first respect the rights of others, as according to the letter of the law, and then to promote one’s beliefs in a non violent manner in order to promote democratic social values.
This idea is at the base of Socrates, Martin Luther King and many more. This idea of moral philosophy favors tolerance and understandings as the base of social interaction, in a society that functions in a communal system where the goods are shared. An idea that has proven utopian in the social sense, due to the economic system and the greedy human nature, but the moral ideas have survived and have influenced millions that use them as the base of the moral philosophy.
Justice and injustice
During the time of Socrates incidents of injustice were common because every man had the right to do whatever he or she deem right as long as he or she had the ability to get away with injustice exempt from punishment. As a result, the stronger few had to enjoy life at the expense of the weak majority (Annas 112).
Socrates defends himself against the claim of impiety or not believing in the gods in whom the city believes. He uses the process of cross-examination to make Meletus agree that the charge against him is false. Although he succeeds in this part, the jury finds Socrates guilty and sentences him to death.
In this regard, it may be said that Socrates’ general way of defending himself against the charges may not be a good one. However, I think the defense of Socrates is a good one. This paper proposes that despite the subsequent penalty of death of Socrates, his general defense is considered a good one.
Justice should be able to make an individual both good and bad self consistent. It is also supposed to make the society harmonious internally for peaceful coexistence without necessarily having to interfere with the happiness of any individual. It should abhor any irrational and selfish activities which only drive people towards being individualistic. Any acts by individuals should have the interests of the public taken care of so as to bring happiness to the majority.
Justice is not external but is something that should be carried in the soul without interference from outside. If it therefore exists in the soul, it does not depend on convention, chance or external force. This makes justice natural and not artificial because as an inward grace it is entrenched in the human soul (Ferrari, p88). With that in mind, justice is justice regardless of the existing external conditions.
Any form of interference to an element is considered unjust and is therefore wrong. When the spirit, reason and appetite agree that they should all be governed by reason, the individual in question is said to have justice within him/herself.
When there is a good relationship between the state and the people then justice will prevail. Justice should not exist in the society to serve the ones in power but it should be there to bring unity and peaceful coexistence in the society. That is the only rationale that the state can use to bring happiness to the majority.
Without a proper justice system the divide between the rich and the poor will continue to grow which can eventually lead into a frustrated society. The only way to save a state from these frustrations would be the restoration of order and it is only possible if the government is caring (Rosen, p120).
The larger part of it however is easily visible in the society than it is in individuals but this should not be misconstrued to mean that it doesn’t exist at the individual level. At the individual level, justice should be regarded as a human virtue because it governs us and makes us both good and self consistent. In the social context, justice is a social realization that creates harmony within the society.
This explains why Plato considers justice as specialization since it ensures that an individual performs his or her duties efficiently without necessarily having to interfere with the others. This will ensure that everyone will be happy in the long run. I totally agree with this because I equally believe that justice lies in the principle of non-interference. There can never be justice when others suffer because they want to make others happy like in the case of Socrates.
Annas, Julia. An Introduction to Plato’s Republic. New York: Oxford University Press, 1981. Print.
Ferrari, Fiona. The Cambridge Companion to Plato’s Republic. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007, Print
Rosen, Stanley. Plato’s Republic: A Study. Connecticut: Yale University Press, 2005. Print