Comparing Letter From The Birmingham Jail To Philosophical Writers Freshmen Final Essay

1302 words - 6 pages

Adrianna Garcia
Professor Weissman
December 5th, 2017
Philosophy Final
In Martin Luther King’s letter from the Birmingham jail, he addresses the claims made against him by the clergymen of Alabama. These clergymen believed King’s demonstrations to be “untimely and unwise,” which King finds to be an odd claim; since they have failed to recognize the recent incidents that have occurred in Birmingham. As King addresses the many claims made by the clergymen, he does so in such a way that reflects the philosophical teachings of Plato, Descartes, Rousseau, and Mill. Although his letter reflects the teachings of these philosophers, the letter also reflects how those teachings are different from King’s application of them within the segregated society.
1a. In a section of King’s letter, he discusses the meaning of just and unjust laws which reflects the teachings of Socrates in the Euthyphro questioning what is holy and unholy. King, like Socrates, believes that a person has a legal and moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, King believed that a person has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. King throughout this section of the letter gives examples of what a just and unjust law can be. For example, King says “a law is unjust when the majority group compels a minority group to obey a law but does not follow the law themselves. A just law is one in which the majority compels the minority to follow and is willing to follow the law themselves.” He’s saying that a law that only the applies to the minority and not the majority is unjust because it exhibits a difference made legal. Whereas, the law is just if both the majority and minority follow it because then it exhibits a sameness made legal. King continues to give more examples of these definitions to point out how he and his followers are not trying to elude the law but rather disobey an unjust law to raise awareness of its cruelty to the people of Birmingham. King is like Socrates in this sense because in the Apology, Socrates questions the people of authority to ultimately raise awareness of the youth within Greek society.
1b. However, King and Socrates differ in the outcomes of their civil disobedience. King is willing to go to jail for his civil disobedience because he has the backdrop of Christianity, the Constitution, and the Declaration of Independence supporting his arguments. In the Crito, Socrates conforms as a result of his civil disobedience and accepts death. This acts as his punishment but also as an effort to keep peace with the society from which he was allowed to thrive in. Socrates doesn’t have a concrete backdrop for his civil disobedience because he only has his thoughts. Also, King is different from Socrates in the sense that when questioning the just and unjust laws he was able to come to a concrete definition of the two, whereas Socrates in the Euthyphro was never able to come up with a concrete definition of what is holy and unholy.
2a. Through...


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