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A book is a literary compass that has the potential to direct our thoughts and actions:

"Everything we read stimulates our mind to think, and what we think determines what we desire, and desires are the seedbed of our actions. Given this iron law of human nature--from reading to thinking, to desiring, to acting--we are shaping our destiny by the ideas we choose to have enter our minds through print." - Fr. John Hardon, S.J., The Catholic Lifetime Reading Plan

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"Every soul that uplifts itself uplifts the world." --Elisabeth Leseur

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Saturday, September 30, 2006

A Second Reading of Plato's Crito

On my second reading of Crito, I think I see Socrates’ arguments, but I am not sure about their universal application. He argues that since he has been lawfully tried and found guilty, he would be wrong to try and escape. This would do harm to the laws, validate the jury’s opinion of him as a bad influence on the youth, and make him a fugitive.

Would it really harm the laws? Or would it simply be an indictment against the jury? On the other hand, Socrates’ escape would imply that an individual has the right to interpret the law and apply the law as he sees fit, which might lead to rampant vigilantism (is that a word?).

And how is Socrates’ situation different from, say, Henry David Thoreau’s? Thoreau broke the law by not paying taxes for what he considered a morally upright reason. Was he wrong to do so, according to Socrates’ logic? Should he instead have put his energies into changing the laws, rather than disobeying them? How about Mahatma Gandhi? Sometimes it takes the momentum of a few law-breakers to force the politicians to change the status quo. Is that morally right?

And where does Catholic teaching fit into this? Should a person who is (in his own mind) unjustly convicted try to escape rather than accept death? That's not what the early Christians did when they were persecuted. They accepted their martyrdom in imitation of Jesus. They knew what Socrates knew: that death is not something to be feared if one has lived an upright life, but rather something that leads to eternal joy. And the early Christians knew something that Socrates could not have known: even if one has lived morally corrupt life, there is still hope if we but turn our hearts toward Jesus and repent.

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posted by Nick Senger at 6:51 AM

Comments on "A Second Reading of Plato's Crito"


Blogger Justice said ... (Wednesday, April 18, 2007 8:17:00 AM) : 

Interesting point about whether HDT was right to break the law. I think unjust laws should be broken, but who decides if a law is unjust or not - that's one of the difficulties.
Robert L. Fielding


Blogger Nick Senger said ... (Saturday, April 21, 2007 5:56:00 AM) : 

Yes, I think you're right, deciding what's just is difficult. When it comes to deliberately breaking a law, I think each person should act from their conscience but also needs to responsibly form their conscience. That's one reason I try to read so many books--to form my conscience.

One of my favorite novels dealing with justice is The Ox-bow Incident by Walter Van Tilburg Clark.


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