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Socrates’ Conception of Law and Justice Essay


Socrates’ philosophy had a great influence on shifting thinking from basic scientific principles to matters that would satisfy the soul. Plato, one of his students, recorded many of Socrates’ teachings. Socrates was born in Athens. This is the place where he lived and where he came up with most of his ideas. A great philosopher based his conception of justice on the principle: “The man who is good is just”.

Socrates advocated the idea that justice was good, and that meant that injustice was equal to evil. Furthermore, he emphasized that good was a natural deed and not what man thinks he needs. In addition, he said that a person’s nature was an inner self that needed fulfillment, thus the desire to do good was natural.

Providing the explanation of relationship between good and justice, Socrates presented the example of an ill seeking treatment, and who gets a cure and, is finally happy. He also gives the example of another man, who is completely healthy and is, therefore, happier. The point he makes here is that justice is the cure for evil, and that a man who never commits an evil deed do not need to be punished, and thus, happier than a man punished for his misdeeds (Vlastos 300).

Socrates explains the role of justice in man’s life by stating that men should do harm to enemies when they are evil, and be just to those who are good. He, however, does not accept this chain of thoughts, as, according to his belief, doing harm to others makes more harm to ourselves.

This was the beginning of the concept that individual should not harm anyone, even his enemies. Socrates also explains that men fall into pleasures of doing harm to those who harm them instead of being just. Summing up his idea of justice, Socrates declares that to be a poor man who is just is better than being a rich man with wealth acquired through injustice, because injustice taints the soul.

In the Crito, there is a dialogue between Socrates and Crito in Socrates’ prison cell. Socrates was awaiting for his execution, but Crito notes Socrates’ peacefulness, his calm way, and his lack of fear in front of the face of the death. This leads to a debate, because Crito assisted Socrates’ escape, and he argues that accepting death would be a great victory of his enemies. He also adds that Socrates was responsible for the education of young people and could not leave them behind as orphans.

In his response, Socrates insists that reason will guide his decisions unlike the masses that are dependent on random acts as a guide. He asks Crito what the laws say about his escape, and he proceeds to state that the Laws say that a resident’s position in reference to the municipality was like a child in reference to the parent, or like a slave to his master.

He explains that he made a deal with the Laws by remaining in the city and benefiting from it, and that he could not now condemn it on the basis that he was unjustly accused. He further states that the Laws argue that he accepted to obey the law by remaining in Athens after having attained maturity and raised a family within the city walls. Socrates tells Crito that he does not agree with the Law’s argument, but asks if they should accept it, and Crito says that they should. This brings the debate, and then Socrates is executed.

We can sum up Socrates’ conception of law and justice in the Crito, and the Apology as the understanding of what is good means, and that accepting law as justice is important because we accept the law that governs us, and by residing in the law’s jurisdiction, we are subjected to its implementation.

Works Cited

Vlastos, Gregory. Socrates: Ironist and Moral Philosopher. United States of America: Cambridge University Press, 1991.

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IvyPanda. (2018, November 5). Socrates' Conception of Law and Justice. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/socrates-conception-of-law-and-justice/

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1. IvyPanda. "Socrates' Conception of Law and Justice." November 5, 2018. https://ivypanda.com/essays/socrates-conception-of-law-and-justice/.


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IvyPanda. 2018. "Socrates' Conception of Law and Justice." November 5, 2018. https://ivypanda.com/essays/socrates-conception-of-law-and-justice/.

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IvyPanda. (2018) 'Socrates' Conception of Law and Justice'. 5 November.

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