Last Updated 09 Apr 2020

Plato and Moral Authority

Category Morals
Essay type Research
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Kathryn Kelsven Dr. David Sgarlatta Humanities 253 December 21, 2012 Comparing Two Readings After reading Plato’s Apology and Leviticus 17-27, I found several differences in the way people are judged for the crimes they have committed as well as, by what are actually considered crimes or sins. I want to explore these differences by asking two questions to each reading: What kind of behavior constitutes as a sin or a crime? What is the source of moral authority behind laws and legal judgments? In Plato’s Apology, what constitutes as a sin or a crime?

Socrates was accused of being a “doer of evil, and a corrupter of the youth, and he does not believe in the gods of the state, and has other divinities of his own” (Apology 1). These are all things that Meletus has brought Socrates to court for. These are all these that are considered to be a crime to Meletus and the Athenians throughout Apology, as Socrates proves this by continuously taking each item he is accused of and asking Meletus and the Athenians if they believe it to be true. In Leviticus 17-27, what constitutes as a sin or a crime?

Throughout the reading there are several different times where the LORD speaks to Moses and tells him to let the people know that if they do not follow his command then they are disobeying him. In Leviticus chapter 22:1-2, it states. ” The LORD said to Moses, "Tell Aaron and his sons to respect the sacred offerings which the Israelites consecrate to me; else they will profane my holy name. I am the LORD. ”(Leviticus 22). Here, disrespecting a sacred offering is considered a sin. There are also many other examples of what is considered a sin.

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In chapter 19:4, “"Do not turn aside to idols, nor make molten gods for yourselves. I, the LORD, am your God. ”(Leviticus 19). In this case, you should not worship idols or make idols because that would be going against the LORD who is your God. Also in Chapter 17:3-4 it says, “Any Israelite who slaughters an ox or a sheep or a goat, whether in the camp or outside of it, without first bringing it to the entrance of the meeting tent to present it as an offering to the LORD in front of his Dwelling, shall be judged guilty of bloodshed; and for this, such a man shall be cut off from among his people. (Leviticus 17). In this section, anyone who does not first present his killing as an offering is automatically considered guilty for bloodshed and is cut off from the people. All of these examples show what are considered sins in Leviticus, and there are many more. In Plato’s Apology, what is the source of moral authority behind laws and legal judgments? Socrates is brought before judges. After asking Meletus what he means by calling him an Atheist, Meletus says, “I assure you, judges, that he does not believe in them; for he says that the sun is stone, and the moon earth. (Apology 3). Meletus is trying to prove to the judges, being the ones that will make the ultimate decision of what happens, that Socrates does not believe in any gods. In the very beginning of all of this, after Socrates makes his opening statement, he says, “Tell the judges, then, who is their improver; for you must know, as you have taken the pains to discover their corrupter, and are citing and accusing me before them” (Apology 1). Again the judges are to be told something in order to prove a point.

This all shows that in Plato’s Apology the judges are the moral authority behind laws and legal judgments. In Leviticus 17-27, what is the source of moral authority behind laws and legal judgments? In each chapter we see that the very first statement is always “The LORD said to Moses” (Leviticus 17-27). This statement is not only at the beginning of every chapter but it is also throughout the chapters. Each time this statement is made it is followed by a law that the LORD is giving to the people. There will also follow some sort of punishment if that law is not followed. The LORD said to Moses,"Tell the Israelites: Anyone, whether an Israelite or an alien residing in Israel, who gives any of his offspring to Molech shall be put to death” (Leviticus 20). This is a perfect example. The LORD tells Moses what the law is and then follows up with how the people will be punished if not to follow the law; in this case they will be put to death. The LORD is clearly the one and only one to be of any kind of authority when it comes to laws and legal judgments. Both of these readings have very different ideas as to what a sin or a crime is, as well as who is the authority on the laws that have been made.

Leviticus is based on there being one authoritarian who decides the laws and decides your punishments if you disobey those laws. In Leviticus you have no way to argue against you convictions. What the LORD says, goes. Also, in Leviticus there are several different criteria for what is considered a sin as compared to Apology, where there are just a few things brought up that are considered to be a sin or a crime. Apology is based off convincing the people or the judges of what is right or wrong and letting them decide your fate. You have a chance to fight for yourself and prove yourself to be innocent.

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