Philosophy is one of the ways to cognize reality that surrounds people and answer basic questions that emerge in the course of individuals’ thought evolution. Human beings have always wanted to understand the purpose of their lives, reasons for their acts, and solve multiple ethical dilemmas that appear while interacting with each other. Being social creatures, people formed various communities that were united by some common values, beliefs, and perspectives on how their members should act to preserve society’s unity and contribute to its development.
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However, belonging to a group of people also means a certain limitation of freedom as a person has to obey laws accepted by the majority. In some cases, it results in the emergence of conflicts as these laws might contradict the views of an individual. The given dilemma is introduced in Plato’s Crito.
In the given work, the philosopher introduces and discusses multiple concepts important for the life of society and its existence. Being sentenced to death, Socrates is ready to accept this punishment regardless of Crito’s numerous suggestions to escape and avoid this destiny. One of the arguments suggested by him is the existing opinion of the many which will blame Crito for not saving Socrates and helping him to escape (Plato 46).
At the same time, the philosopher introduces the concept of returning a wrong with a wrong and outlines its unacceptable character (Plato 46). Following this belief, Socrates is ready to die because of his own values and acceptance of the necessity to follow a particular ethical code that preconditions individuals’ actions.
Retaliation and Opinion of the Majority
Analyzing the given concept, it is possible to agree with Socrates’ position. In contrast with the popular opinion supported by Crito that retaliation is wrong and evil can be opposed by evil, he states “you were wrong to believe that we should care for the opinion of the many about what is just, beautiful, good, and their opposites” (Plato 48a8-9). This statement refutes the idea that a person should always follow the opinion of the majority, as it can be wrong.
At the same time, Socrates says that escaping the prison will be the wrong action, as it means going against the existing laws. He introduces the idea that “one must never do wrong” even trying to resist unfair decisions of the court as “we have no need at all to take into account whether we shall have to die if we stay here and keep quiet, or suffer in another way, rather than do wrong”. (Plato 49b9; Plato 48d4-6). These assumptions become central to his arguments against escaping prison.
Socrates’ position can be justified in several ways. First of all, evil always generates new evil. Same as wrong actions always result in new wrong decisions and things. It becomes an endless cycle that will destroy relations between people and promote the collapse of the society, as in many cases an offended or injured person will have the desire to make even greater evil to his/her enemy. In such a way, “one should never do wrong in return, nor mistreat any man, no matter how one has been mistreated by him” (Plato 49c9-10).
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It will help to eliminate the circle of hatred and improve relations between people. Second, doing wrong in return to injustice can destroy the fundament of society’s existence. As in Socrates’ case, escape from prison, as a wrong act, will also mean neglecting existing laws. The philosopher states that by this action he can destroy the basis of the city’s existence and the further rise of society (Plato 50a7-b1). It means that human communities rest on a particular social agreement and observation of laws is one of its fundamentals. The Justice System can be unfair sometimes, by doing wrong in return for its decisions will in the destruction of the bonds that keep people together and contribute to further evolution.
Another idea that proves the unacceptable character of the concept of an eye for an eye is the relative character of evil. The classic example demonstrating this statement involves a warrior killing an enemy. From the perspective of his state, he is a hero who acts appropriately and protects his motherland. However, from the murdered man’s mother’s perspective, the soldier committed a great evil by killing her son and should be punished with the help of another wrong act.
This model gives rise to new greater evil. For this reason, Socrates’ concept of the wrong nature of retaliation becomes justified regarding the relative character of various acts and the existence of particular social agreements regulating the life of communities.
Altogether, in Plato’s Crito the important idea of the impossibility of wrong acts and is emphasized. Having his own perspective on how moral individuals should behave, Socrates resists the opinion of the majority outlined by Crito and wants to accept his destiny to avoid destruction of the power of laws and generation of a new evil. This idea remains topical for modern society as individuals face the same challenges in everyday life.