Martin Luther King once stated, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Would most people agree with this statement by this highly lauded historical figure? It is very possible that a majority of the people in the world would acquiesce to the powerful words of Dr Martin Luther King. What about those that would disagree with this statement? What would their argument against this utterance be? Is unknown injustice still a threat to justice everywhere? For instance, if someone had the power of invisibility and stole a couple thousand from a prominent individual, would that threat justice? If Socrates was alive in our century, these could very well be the type of questions he might pose. Socrates was well-known for asking questions that nobody really wanted vocalizing because they were thought of as unthinkable. This inquisitive personality ultimately led to Socrates’ death by execution. It is difficult to comprehend how Socrates was still committed to “justice” even though the very government he loved actually put him to death. One may accept Socrates’ reasoning in affirming that to abide by the rules to vindicate your belief in the laws, upholds justice as well as presenting a good-nature rather than foolishness.
If to abide by the laws, would be to preserve justice then laws preserve justice. This statement is a premise that Socrates could have believed in. Many may think that Socrates was a fool to accept his fate and not try to escape. At first glance, it seems like Socrates was beetle headed not to escape. If one takes a deeper look into the mind of Socrates, one might realize that he has a complicated set of morals. Socrates believed in following the laws, but he also has faith in his God. There may seem to be a conflict between both beliefs. In Apology, written by Plato, Socrates states, “Men of Athens, I honour and love you, but I shall obey God rather than you, and while I have life and strength I shall never cease from the practice and teaching of philosophy.” His morals apply to God in conjunction with the laws set by the government in Athens.
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It is fascinating to watch Socrates’ mind work. He follows a natural law of questioning and then when he is facing death by execution, he abides by the laws of the government that condemned him. Socrates takes the martyr’s position that it is better to suffer injustice than to do it; for doing injustice injures the soul, while suffering injustice purifies it. In the Crito, he maintains his conviction that it is just and best to obey the law, even though it means his own extinction. Socrates discussed justice in situations where others, such as Crito, might have thought other considerations were more important because for Socrates justice was apparently most important. Socrates philosophy concerning justice can possibly apply to present-day events as well.
Webster’s Dictionary defines justice as being “the quality of being righteous.” One has to question himself and ask, “What is righteousness?” Is there a definitive answer to that question? If something is viewed as a right, does the opposite view have to be wrong? We each have instilled in us by our parents a set of moral standards. Society sometimes looks at the standards it sets for itself and when someone does something not according to those standards, it seems to be wrong or immoral. For example, the tragedy that happened on Tuesday, September 11, 2001, was certainly something our entire society as well as most of the free world considered to be immoral and wrong. What were the terrorists thinking? Did they feel that their actions were abiding by their own set of moral codes and standards?
Our society never imagined something as horrendous as this terrorist attack happening. We have always thought that we were invincible to these type of events and that our morals were more or less upheld around the country. Unfortunately, we found out Tuesday that some people have a different set of moral codes completely different from our own. In their eyes, they felt that what they did was for a just cause. We could never understand their point of view. Their reasoning just seems obviously wrong to us. Our society sees murder as something so terrible and ghastly that it automatically labels it as unjust or wrong. If we thought about it a little more deeply, we’d find that killing or ending a life is only wrong in certain circumstances. In regards to capital punishment, many people do not see that as a compromise to our societal standards. They see it as something righteous and moral when a person is electrocuted or injected with lethal chemicals for murdering someone else. Many thoughtful questions arise from this scenario.
Is it right to essentially end someone’s life if they themselves murdered another person? When we study history, we learn about the Code of Hammurabi and how immoral those set of laws were. In ancient Babylonian times, they considered it as a form of justice. The famous quote, “an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth,” in some way still applies today. If someone is murdered in today’s society, some states believe that the murderer should have his life ended for his actions. Is not this form of punishment similar to the Code of Hammurabi, which history deems as inhumane? When we question these norms of everyday life, are we ultimately saying that we are immoral in many aspects? Socrates would probably encourage these questions because they make us examine our lives and reflect on how moral we actually are. In many instances, we may find contradictions in our way of life.
From examining Socrates’ reasons in affirming that to abide by the rules to vindicate your belief in the laws, upholds justice as well as presenting a good-nature rather than foolishness, we may agree or disagree. Our society may have a lot of introspection to do. If we question our way of life, we probably will see how we exhibit different strengths and faults. The number of faults may surprise us because of our beliefs in the laws that promote justice. We might find that we’re not as moral as we think we are.
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