Civil Disobedience: Refusal to Obey Gov't Demands & Non-Resistance to Punishment - Essay Sample

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  5
Wordcount:  1269 Words
Date:  2023-07-21


Civil disobedience is defined as the act of refusal by the people to obey commands or demands of the government and non-resistance to consequent punishment and arrest. The practise of civil disobedience is a symbolic violation of the laws of the land that is especially used as a non-violent as well as a way of forcing government authorities to concessions (West). The majority of the individuals who in one hand or the other have committed civil disobedience in the community usually do so accepting the consequences such as death, arrest, and physical assaults.

Trust banner

Is your time best spent reading someone else’s essay? Get a 100% original essay FROM A CERTIFIED WRITER!

It is unlikely high that Socrates engaged in some kind of civil Disobedience as Martin Luther King Jr. claims due to the kind of accusations that were brought against him and the fact that these accusations labeled against him do not broadly apply to some of the societal injustices but instead to him. For a fact, Socrates was held on trial by the Athenian court for crimes for corrupting the youth and by not believing in God (Colaiaco, 2013). According to civil disobedience, it requires an intentional break of unjust law to show how unfairly it legalizes some sort of difference against a small group. When he was given numerous chances to escape into exile, he decided to stay in Athens and abide by the decisions made by the Athenian court of law however unjust or just. This shows his strong sense of belief in matters of civil obedience. Socrates fervently argues against willingly having committed crimes and breaking any laws in the face of Athenian accusers. Since the death of Socrates was as a result of his uttermost obedience to Athenian court and statues decisions together with his philosophy on committing no crimes shows that he was not in any way attempting to exercise civil disobedience.

Moreover, to understand more why the actions of Socrates do not in any way align with the exercise of civil Disobedience as Martin Luther King Jr. claims, it is very crucial to note the goals and characteristics of civil disobedience concretely. For instance, as highlighted in his "Letter from a Birmingham", (West, 2000) one of the important doctrines that drive justification of Martin Luther King Jr. for civil disobedience is the function of civil disobedience as a methodology to seek relevance to and to reform practices and laws that are unjust. In the same note, Martin Luther King Jr. moves his conversation to the approach for differentiating a just law from an unjust law. He visualizes the contrast basing on the argument of man-made law with the religious or moral law. King further went ahead to define the justness of law in the sense that law is dependent on adherence to good or moral principles and on the consequences that it brings or achieves for society and individuals.

From his definitions of the justness of law, Martin Luther King Jr. misunderstood the martyrdom and spirit of Socrates as a philosopher and an intellectual as disobedience. Through his meaning of civil disobedience, Martin Luther King Jr. highlights that an individual must break first the unjust law with a loving and open attitude and must accept the consequence with the intent of depicting the injustice that the law promotes (Colaiaco, 2013). For a fact, Socrates never broke Athenian laws intentionally; he was, however, charged with accusations of crimes he was committing unknowingly. Socrates even suggests committing the said crimes in question to the Athenian court of law rather than simply accepting the consequences of those crimes. In a nutshell, Socrates unknowingly commits such crimes that were accused against him with the goal or intention of being a martyr to illustrate the injustices in the legal system of the Athenian court.

Furthermore, Socrates had no such intention of breaking any laws of Athenian as Martin Luther King Jr. claims as well as his friends who attempted earlier to assist him to escape out of the country. This is best shown by the argument he gave to Crito when he attempted to convince him to move out of the country and live in exile. Socrates suggests that "And life is worth living for us with that part of us corrupted that unjust action harms and just actions benefits..." and "So one must never do wrong...Nor must one, when wrong, inflict wrong in return, as the majority believe, since one, must never do wrong" (West). This means that when an individual does an action that is wrong or unjust, they are causing damage to themselves rather than a third party. According to Socrates, breaking any law even if that particular law is unjust, it represents a wrong action because it subverts the agreements he entered into with the inhabitants of the city.

Additionally, Socrates believes that exile is like a kind of revenge, "a doing wrong in response to being wronged". He did not want to go against the laws of the land by moving out of the country because the laws have been unbearable and created undesirable consequences for him. Socrates had no intention of breaking any laws with an ulterior motive as Martin Luther King Jr. might have visualized. Hence, because civil obedience needs the intentional breaking of such laws to depict the injustice of such a law, Socrates did not act in any kind of civil disobedience. To better refute the claims of Martin Luther King, Socrates answers the accusations labeled against him of corrupting the youth and not believing in God lovingly and openly. He defended his relationship and obligation to the city in the Apology of Plato. While in the court, he introduced himself with the intent of refuting these accusations openly. He argues that "From me, you will hear the whole truth, though not, by Zeus, gentleman, expressed in embroidered and stylized phrases like theirs... for I put my trust in the justice of what I say..." (West, 2000). From the onset, Socrates shows his motive to reject the accusations he was charged against him not to accept any punishment as a result of those charges. This should be an indicator that Socrates did not act on civil disobedience. Also, Socrates condemns his accusers as falsifiers and explains their charges as slander. When answering Meletus on his charges that he corrupted the youth, he incredibly pointed out the rare scenario that men in Athens assist to improve the livelihoods of the youth whereas only one individual corrupts them. Socrates had the intention of drawing attention to the Meletus' ulterior motives on his charges. In essence, Socrates rejects utterly the accusations brought to court against him and contempt Meletus for uttering such baseless claims. His pointed and open rejection on the deposition of Meletus and accounts of his charges hardly loves agreement needed by King's civil disobedience.


In conclusion, according to the case of Socrates in question, laws are significantly faked to justify Socrates' death that shows a significant aspect in the Athenian legal system itself as compared to an aspect with a specific law or group of laws (Colaiaco). His lack of intention together with his strong sense of belief that he knowingly did no wrong is the most relevant convincing component of evidence that his charges were not an act of civil disobedience, but rather strict and strong adherence to his private ideals and beliefs. Thus, Socrates' practices do not, in any case, relate to an act of civil disobedience, as Martin Luther King Jr. claims.

Work Cited

Colaiaco, James A. Socrates against Athens: philosophy on trial. Routledge, 2013.

West, William C. "Socrates as a model of civil disobedience in the writings of Martin Luther King, Jr." Classical Bulletin 76.2 (2000): 191.

Cite this page

Civil Disobedience: Refusal to Obey Gov't Demands & Non-Resistance to Punishment - Essay Sample. (2023, Jul 21). Retrieved from

Free essays can be submitted by anyone,

so we do not vouch for their quality

Want a quality guarantee?
Order from one of our vetted writers instead

If you are the original author of this essay and no longer wish to have it published on the ProEssays website, please click below to request its removal:

didn't find image

Liked this essay sample but need an original one?

Hire a professional with VAST experience and 25% off!

24/7 online support

NO plagiarism