You express a great deal of anxiety over our willingness to break laws. This is certainly a legitimate concern. Since we so diligently urge people to obey the Supreme Court's decision of 1954 outlawing segregation in the public schools, it is rather strange and paradoxical to find us consciously breaking laws. One may well ask, How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?" The answer is found in the fact that there are two types of laws: there are just laws, and there are unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that "An unjust law is no law at all." Now, what is the difference between the two? How does one determine when a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law, or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas, an unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just.
Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. Of course, there is nothing new about this kind of civil disobedience... It was practiced superbly by the early Christians, who were willing to face hungry lions and the excruciating pain of chopping blocks before submitting to certain unjust laws of the Roman Empire. To a degree, academic freedom is a reality today because Socrates practiced civil disobedience.
Martin Luther King, Jr. Excerpted from "Letter from A Birmingham Jail" Describe how EITHER "Plato" or "Aristotle" would respond to Dr. King's position. In answering, be sure to consider and discuss the following issues: Would the Philosopher agree or disagree that breaking laws in this case is justifiable? Are some laws just and some unjust? What is Justice? What is a "just" law? Is it ever OK to disobey the law, even if the law is unjust? Anything else about the philosopher's theory that you might be able to apply to the question. Remember don't just say things like "Well because of the theory of the forms..." You MUST explain any part of the philosopher's theory you use in your answer. There is no right or wrong answer as to whether Plato or Aristotle would agree or disagree with Dr. King. Use your answer to display a clear and thorough understanding of Plato or Aristotle's philosophy and an ability to apply that knowledge.
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