In this paper, I will argue that Martin Luther King’s views about civil disobedience makes him more reliable compared to Plato’s beliefs because Martin Luther King utilizes emotional language and concrete examples to build his credibility and gain the trust of others. Furthermore, I will discuss Plato and Martin Luther King’s viewpoints about disobeying the law and how each of them establish their own credibility. In King’s speech, “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” King discusses the prevalence of racial segregation and discrimination, and believes it is important to disobey the laws if that is necessary to establish equality within the African community. In the speech entitled “Crito” by Plato, Socrates believes it is essential to follow all laws and regulations to avoid committing an immoral act.
In order to emotionally connect with the audience and deliver an effective argument, Martin Luther King Jr. shares his own personal revelations regarding how he and his family had been victimized by the growth of racial segregation (Course Reader King). For instance, King’s letter uses morbid imagery to illustrate the deprecating behavior Blacks faced: 'when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will... drown your sisters and brothers at whim... seen hate-filled policeman curse, kick, and brutalize... your black brothers and sisters with impunity... you will understand why we find it difficult to wait [to take an] action' (Course Reader King 4). King uses this personal example to encourage individuals to work toward eradicating segregation and help all individuals, irrespective of their color, to unite together. King also displays empathy and his words show that he is able to relate to those who may have faced similar situations. This establishes a strong sense of trust among his readers, allowing them to better understand King’s argument (Course Reader King).
Furthermore, Martin Luther King Jr. implores that individuals participate “in [a] nonviolent campaign” to help combat the suppression individuals have endured (Course Reader King 3). In addition, Martin Luther King Jr. provides another example where he states that 'when you suddenly find your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six-old daughter why she cannot go to the amusement park... and see tears welling up in her little eyes when she is told... [that the park] is closed to colored children' (Course Reader King 4). Through the use of emotional language, Martin Luther King Jr. explains how stereotypes can be misleading (since they only contain partial truths) and advises them to expand their perspectives. This example increases Martin Luther King Jr.'s credibility because when emotions such as compassion and empathy are expressed, the audience is able to envision and understand the pain and suffering these individuals had been through. Moreover, Martin Luther King Jr. reiterates his beliefs about the need to disintegrate unfair laws through peaceful and nonviolent methods in a consistent manner, which further strengthens his credibility (Course Reader King).
Throughout the speech, Martin Luther King Jr. emphasizes that it is very important to not follow unfair laws, especially when the growth of racial segregation is rapidly increasing. In his speech, King recommends following four different steps in order to prevent the prevalence of segregation and discrimination: “[Gathering reliable information] to determine whether injustices are [present], negotiation, self-purification, and direct action” (Course Reader King 3). For the first step, individuals should gather important and reliable information that highlights the presence of unfair treatments and determine if this information is harmful to the human population (Course Reader King 3). For the second step, individuals should discuss about racial segregation and come to a consensus of whether the information portrayed is accurate or inaccurate; and provide alternative solutions if there are no agreements between each groups (Course Reader King 3). For the third step, “self-purification,” Martin Luther King suggested to reiterate the following “questions, are you able to accept blows without [any retaliation] and are you able to endure the ordeals of jail?” (Course Reader King 4). For the last step, Martin Luther King Jr. recommended to take a “direct action” in a peaceful manner if there are no agreements between the members of each groups (Course Reader 4). By remaining hopeful and maintaining a persuasive tone, Martin Luther King utilizes concrete examples and emotional language to develop a sense of trust among the audience; this will eventually help lessen the negative impacts of segregation. This indicates that Martin Luther King Jr. is more credible and trustworthy because since he provides first-hand knowledge (series of steps mentioned above), his arguments appear stronger and powerful.
Furthermore, Martin Luther King Jr. advises individuals to not develop preconceived judgements for any ethnic groups and explains that eventually “oppressed people [will not] remain oppressed forever… the urge for freedom will eventually come” (Course Reader King 6). When emotions such as empathy and compassion are expressed, this enhances Martin Luther King Jr.’s credibility; this makes his arguments sound and more persuasive since he has been able to connect with the audience in an emotional manner. Additionally, King argues that it is important to not follow the laws if that is necessary to help create equality and justice among the African community, through “nonviolent” methods (Course Reader King). Although many proponents would argue that it is not justifiable to disobey the laws for any particular reasons (even if the protest is performed peacefully and nonviolently), some individuals believe that during certain situations when the case (segregation) is very extreme, it is important to not follow the laws.
According to the article entitled Crito by Plato, Socrates emphasized that it is important to follow all laws and regulations, which is shown when he states that “one must never do wrong… nor must one, when wronged, inflict wrong in return, as the majority believe, since one must never do wrong” (Plato 49). Socrates explains that if an individual has harmed another human being, regardless of whether it is done intentionally or unintentionally, one should continue to respect the laws. Furthermore, Crito believed that “[he does] not think what [Socrates] is doing is just, to give up [his] life when [he] can save it, and… [believes that Socrates is] betraying his sons by going away… when [he] could bring them up and educate them” (Plato 45-46). Crito emphasizes that it is important to consider about the well-being of one’s family and persuades Socrates to escape his imprisonment by refusing to follow the laws (Plato). When Socrates emphasizes that it is important to always follow the laws, even when it causes his friends and family pain, this indicates why his strategies are not strong; and therefore, increases Martin Luther King’s credibility. For example, if an individual who was starving, stole fruits from a vegetable garden without the owner’s permission, then the law may state that this individual should be imprisoned. In this situation, Martin Luther King may suggest educating this person that stealing is not correct and give him a second chance. Perhaps, the reason may be that this individual had chosen to steal in order to feed his young starving children. This example depicts that perhaps it is possible that individuals may have committed wrongful acts during some point in their lives, and this will cause Martin Luther King to gain the trust of many others. This indicates that Martin Luther King’s strategies are stronger which makes him more credible and trustworthy, since he can relate to those who have faced these situations.
In order to further strengthen his argument, Crito reiterates his beliefs by stating that Socrates' children 'will probably have the usual fate of orphans [and suggests that] one should share with them to the end toil of upbringing and education' (Plato 46). Despite Crito's advice, Socrates refuses to disobey the laws because he believes that all regulations must be respected regardless of whether they are fair or unfair (Plato). For example, Socrates provides an example of the “human body”, where he explains that when an individual performs exercises, he should only listen to the teachings of the instructor who has expertise in that particular field (Plato 47). He further concludes that if this individual refuses to '[obey] the one, and disregards his opinions... then the harm is [inflicted] to his body' (Plato 47). Socrates uses this analogy to explain that if an individual cares about the beliefs of the majority and ignores the views of the instructor, then the individual is causing more damage because one is not following the advice of the instructor and focusing more on what other people would say (Plato 47). Although Socrates provides an adequate amount of examples, Martin Luther King Jr.’s views are more credible regarding civil disobedience, since his strategies and arguments are stronger.
In conclusion, Martin Luther King’s views regarding civil disobedience are more credible than Socrates’ beliefs because King utilizes emotional language and concrete examples to support his arguments. By remaining hopeful and optimistic, Martin Luther King Jr. encourages individuals to disobey the laws because he can relate to other individuals who may have also experienced segregation. Ultimately, this displays that Martin Luther King Jr.’s views are more credible than Socrates’ views about civil disobedience.