The question of whether people should treat the others in a way they are treated by them has always been rather controversial. On the one had, it seems fair to do wrong in return, for if a person does something evil, he/she has to be punished for this. On the other hand, however, this in no way promotes public good because, if every person follows such a system, the evil will continue breeding evil and there will be no place for the good. In his moral argument at Crito Socrates expresses an idea that “neither to do wrong not to return a wrong is ever correct, nor is doing harm in return for harm done” (49d). By this argument Socrates aims to convince people that doing wrong in return only contributes into the society’s injustice. Socrates succeeds in making moral argument at Crito convincing for obeying the state and its laws through drawing parallels between the state and the parents, though calling for people’s patriotism, and though pointing at the possibility of choice which each state offers to its citizens.
We will write a custom Essay on State Obedience in “Crito” by Socrates specifically for you
301 certified writers online
Firstly, Socrates’ moral argument about wrong-doing is convincing for obeying the state and its laws because Socrates draws a parallel between the relations of a person with his parents and the state with its citizens. This allusion creates an idea that every citizen owes his/her state, just like all the people owe their parents. For instance, when discussing the significance of laws, Socrates states, “We have given you birth, nurtured you, educated you; we haven given you and all other citizens a share of all the good things we could” (51d). This creates an idea that doing wrong to one’s state is inappropriate because, even if the state has wronged a person, he/she has no right to blame it for this for together with wrong-doing the state has brought the good to this person. Drawing parallels with family relations, as Socrates does it, facilitates the comprehension of this idea. For instance, the parents that have “nurtured” and “educated” their children meant them only good; they gave the children a chance for life and provided them with all the means to make this life better. However, the parents, just like other people, are capable of making mistakes, and this does not mean that their children should do them wrong in return. The parents did their best to improve their children’s lives and it is rather ungrateful to punish them for wrong-doing. The same goes for the state and its laws: the citizens are expected to obey these laws for they are meant to do good to them; when, for some reason, the contrary occurs, the citizens should not stop obeying them or try to destroy them for those were the state and the laws that begat them. Therefore, Socrates succeeded in making his argument convincing through drawing parallels between the state and the parents.
In addition, Socrates’ argument convinces the readers that one should obey one’s state and its laws through calling for patriotic feelings of every person as a citizen. Socrates believes that every citizen should be loyal to his/her country, “You must either persuade it or obey its orders, and endure in silence whatever it instructs you to endure, whether blows or bonds, and if it leads you into war to be wounded or killed, you must obey” (51b). This means that patriotism should be an integral feature of every citizen and that the law of the state should be of great authority for all the people. The history abounds with examples of how people sacrificed their lives for their states. The brightest ones are those people who fought for their states during the wars. On the one hand, the states did wrong by putting the lives of their citizens at risk for their own purposes; on the other hand, however, the states got convinced that their citizens were loyal to them. People whose hearts are felt with the desire to improve the life of their state will never think of disobeying the state or its laws for their primary objective is to give them as much as they received from it and to express their gratitude for courage, obedience, and decency which their state nurtured in them. In this way, Socrates makes his argument convincing through evoking patriotism in each citizen and through appealing to their conscience and the duty they have to fulfill to prove their worth to the society.
Finally, Socrates’ moral argument convinces people to obey the state and its laws through giving them a possibility to show where they are wrong. The laws of any state do not emerge from nowhere; as a rule, they are a result of the state’s going through an ardent fight for social, political, and economic rights and freedoms. It is not for nothing that the law prohibits or allows certain things or actions. The laws of any state are well-balanced and, if they are not, they are altered or amended by the government. These amendments and alterations appear because of reporting of the laws being incorrect or unfair. This is what Socrates is trying to prove by his argument. He states that a person is expected to either obey the existing laws or to prove that these laws are wrong. Simply doing wrong in return is senseless either in life in general or in citizen-state relationships, “… the one who disobeys … neither disobeys us nor, if we do something wrong, does he try to persuade us to do better” (52a). Though the state imposes its laws on the society, it is never categorical in this imposition and it always gives its citizens choice, “Yet we only propose things, we do not issue savage commands to do whatever we order; we give two alternatives, ether to persuade us or to do what we say” (52a). Thus, Socrates’ moral argument that doing wrong in response for somebody else’s wrong-doing convinces the citizens to either obey the state and its laws or to persuade the government that they are wrong and by so doing to offer corrections.
In sum, Socrates’ argument is applicable not only to personal relations but to the relations between citizens and their states. The philosopher’s stating that one should never do wrong even if somebody did wrong to him/her convinces the people to obey the state and its laws. This is achieved through Socrates’ drawing parallels between the state and the parents, as well as calling for patriotism and proving that people have the power to change the laws they consider wrong. In this way, Socrates’ argument regarding wrong-doing contributes greatly into the people’s obeying their states.
Cooper, J.M. and Hutchinson, D.S. Plato: Complete Works. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, 1997.