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Socrates, Crime, and Punishment


Yucheng Lu

About Yucheng

I am a second-year Philosophy and Economics student at LSE. If truth be told, I don't particularly enjoy philosophical argumentations any more. I'd rather sit back and see other people argue. I do not have an opinion if there is no need for one. Especially for abstruse fields of philosophy such as metaphysics and epistemology, I'd be quite happy to accept my deficiency as a human being and that maybe my mental faculty simply isn't enough to give answers or even to ask the right questions. I'd rather shut up and live my life. But how then I should live my life? It seems without some philosophy, my life would descend into the world of the mundane, of the unsophisticated, unreflective mass. So long, Socrates, but again, who cares?

A good teacher of mine used to tell me relativism is intellectual suicide. He may well be right. Maybe I have committed suicide. Or maybe silence is the greatest virtue of all.

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Among the most memorable moments in the Apology is Socrates' bold claim that no one does evil knowingly, and, therefore, no punishment is ever necessary. The so-called Socratic Paradox, at its core, is the idea that knowledge of virtue is all that takes to lead a virtuous life, something that modern readers would generally find rather implausible. In this paper, I shall first articulate apparent difficulties with Socratic Paradox and then put up a defence accordingly. By proving that the argument for Socratic Paradox is, in fact, sound, this paper will also explain exactly why the claim that 'no one does evil knowingly' appears counterintuitive to many at first glance. Namely, philosophy in the ancient world was not merely an intellectual pursuit but a way of life. Finally, I will consider this radically different approach to philosophy's impact on our understanding of punishment.

How to Cite: Lu, Y., 2016. Socrates, Crime, and Punishment. Rerum Causae, 8(2), pp.50–57.
Published on 01 Jul 2016.
Peer Reviewed


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