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Socrates On Democracy Essay, Research Paper

In Plato?s Euthyphro, Crito and the Apology, we learn of Socrates? highly

critical view of the democracy. Socrates believed that democracy was a flawed

system because it left the state in the hands of the unenlightened and it valued

all opinions as equal. In the Apology, we see how Socrates believed it was his

duty to stand for the law and justice despite the wishes of The Assembly, and

this cold have cost him his life. In Crito, Socrates states to obey the laws of

the State, only if they are just. It could be said that Socrates? views on

democracy and justice is what ultimately led to his death. Socrates believed

poor leaders are chosen, simply on their basis of their rhetoric ability, not on

their ethics or character. He opposed the efforts of the Sophists to teach their

students virtue, knowledge and rhetoric as practical subjects needed by citizens

to participate in the institutions of Athenian democracy. His belief on

knowledge and virtue was that these required ?absolute definition? which was

to be attained through exhaustive philosophical dialogue and debate. He seemed

to offend many Athenians with his negative dialectic method; revealing

people?s ignorance and inability to give definitions of truth and virtue. He

believed the citizen?s lack of knowledge made it impossible for the

citizen?s to vote properly for their leaders or for the leaders themselves to

even run. In the Apology, Socrates did not want anything to do with the Thirty

Tyrants and he crossed them to the extent that his life might have been in

danger, if they had not been overthrown. Socrates was against the trying of the

admirals from the battle of Arginusae. He was the only one to refuse to do

anything contrary to the laws. In his view it was his duty to stand for the law

and for justice despite the wishes of the Assembly, so he did, at risk of

prosecution or death. In Crito, Socrates believes that an Athenian is obligated

to obey the orders of the state or its officers, unless he considers those

orders unjust, ?in which case he may protest its injustice, but must consent

to punishment if his protest proves unavailing.? Socrates? continued to

honor his commitment to truth and morality even though it cost him his life. In

the Euthyphro, Socrates asks ?is the pious loved by the gods because it is

pious, or is it pious because it is loved by the gods?? (10A). This question

can be restated as does the state prohibit this action because it is unjust, or

is it unjust because the state prohibits it? Does this ultimately mean then that

actions become right or wrong because of society?s approval or disapproval? In

the Apology, Socrates states the only opinion that counts is not that of the

majority of people, but rather that of the one individual who truly knows. The

truth alone deserves to be the basis for decisions about human action, so the

only proper approach is to engage in the sort of careful moral reasoning by

means of which one may hope to reveal it.


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