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Plato and King: Crito and A Letter from Birmingham Jail

Considering they were written thousands of years apart, it is uncanny how similar Plato's Crito and Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "Letter from Birmingham Jail" are with respect to the ideal of justice. In Crito, Socrates provides a number of arguments justifying his refusal to escape from jail and avoid certain death, even though he argues his sentence is unjust. In "Letter from Birmingham Jail," Martin Luther King Jr. responds to Birmingham clergy who request he stops demonstrating and stirring up civil rights unrest. Socrates and King Jr. both propose a higher form of justice than man-made law as justification for why they would respectively rather die than escape and stay in jail than turn a blind eye to justice.

In Crito, Crito offers to assist Socrates from "certain death;" arguing that Socrates has an obligation to his friends, to himself, and to philosophy to survive (Plato 99). Despite this, Socrates is unconcerned with what people think. Instead, he views the state as making unjust laws, but since he swore to obey those laws he argues "a little more life" is not worth breaking the "most sacred laws" of the city-state (Plato 105). Where he to run away and violate the laws of the state, Socrates would see himself as no better than those who have condemned him. He argues he will not meet "injustice" with injustice of his own. In doing so, Socrates believes he is upholding a higher law than man-made law. Socrates believes the soul is immortal and when he dies he will be judged by a higher standard than that of the state. To tarnish his soul by violating the law, even if unjust, would damn his soul. Socrates is only concerned that he die without doing an unrighteous or unholy thing, since only that can elevate his soul.

Martin Luther King, Jr. also believes in a higher law than man-made law and it is to that law he shapes his actions. King maintains he is in Birmingham and will continue to ...

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Plato and King: Crito and A Letter from Birmingham Jail . (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 04:41, July 04, 2022, from