Socrates' Last Error Essay examples

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Socrates' Last Error

In the dialogue, Crito, Socrates justified his decision to accept his death penalty. His decision was praised as principled and just. However, such a view was one of the greatest myths in the history of philosophy. Contrary to the accepted ideas, I wish to show that Socrates’ argument was erroneous, the crucial error being his failure to distinguish between substantial and procedural justice. In fact, the whole of the Crito refers to some deeper problems of the philosophy of law and morality.

The dialogue "Crito" recounts Socrates' last days, immediately before his execution. As the text reveals, his friend Crito proposes to Socrates that he escape from prison. In a dialogue with Crito, Socrates considers the
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The argument can be summarized in the following way:

1. Lawbreaking is unjust, while observance of laws is just, because
2. Laws are just.
3. The laws of Athens are just, even if the legitimacy of laws in general can be questioned.
4. Judicial decisions made on the basis of those laws are just.
5. When finally pronounced, judicial decisions must be carried out.
6. Disrespect of judicial decisions produces the destruction of laws.

Conclusion: Escape from prison is an unjust and therefore morally unacceptable act.

The conclusion that Socrates drew from the premises is sound only if the premises themselves are true, and that is why their soundness must be examined first.

ad 1. The first premise cannot be questioned, because its truth seems incontestable. However, this is true only insofar as the first premise is related to the second one. It is assumed that the second premise ("Laws are just") is correct. Indeed, respect of unjust laws must be morally doubtful, which means that the claim for their observance must be based on some other, additional reasons, of which one of the most frequently quoted was that "even the worst legal system is still better than no legal system at all." A statement like that seems to be based on the fear of anarchy which might be produced by disrespect of laws and legally based decisions. This, however, is also relevant for unjust decisions, which contributes