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Reading the Letter from Birmingham Jail

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by

Scott Crothers

on 15 February 2018

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Transcript of Reading the Letter from Birmingham Jail

The Letter from Birmingham Jail
We have seen Socrates' claim that the unexamined life is not worth living.

He believed the only way to live the examined life was to be deeply self-critical.

In 1963, Martin Luther King will draw on Socrates to argue that the only way to achieve a just society is by challenging it internally.

Common Sense
What would Socrates say about appeal to "common sense?"
Central Criticisms
Demonstrations are wrong because they:

1. Incite violence. This is why they are "unwise."

2. Led by outsiders. Authors claim the problems being addressed here are local and require a local solution.

3. Ignore negotiations with the newly elected city leadership. This is why they are "untimely."


Key Philosophical Claim #1
Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

Do you think this claim is true?

Why or why not?
Key Philosophical Claim #2:
The only way to bring about social justice is by creating social tension.

Do you think Dr. King is right about this?

Why or why not?
Key Philosophical Claim #3:
Some laws are just and some laws are unjust.

Is Dr. King right about this?

Why or why not?
Key Philosophical Claim #4:
We are morally obligated to obey just laws and morally obligated to break unjust laws.

Is Dr. King right about this?

Why or why not?
Putting it together:
P1: Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

P2: Some laws are unjust.

P3: We are morally obligated to break unjust laws.
_______________________________________

C: Therefore, we must break all unjust laws, wherever they may be.
Application:
What are the unjust laws today?

What are our obligations toward them?

Are we acting like the "white moderate?"

Is Dr. King right that the "moderate" is more harmful to social justice than the extremist?

Discuss.
Full transcript