The Danger of Crowd Manifested in Institutions: Injustice A Reflection on Plato Works: Crito  


 Lukisan: Amedeo Modigliani, the Cellist, 1909

                                                            The greatest fear in the world is the opinion of others, and the moment you are unafraid of the crowd, you are no longer a sheep, you become a lion. A great roar arises in your heart, the roar of freedom.



One asks a question about Plato’s works: “Plato or Socrates who has that thinking?” This question challenges us to know who Plato or Socrates was. Plato’s works were written in dialogue and he used the name Socrates who was his teacher as the main speaker. All the works of Plato retold the life and the thought of Socrates. Socrates himself had never written writings. In fact, if someone retells and writes the thought of the other, there must be also the thinking of the writer himself. His thinking intermingles with the thinking of the person whom he writes. Consequently, it is very difficult to distinguish which is Plato’s or Socrates’s thought. That question: “Plato or Socrates who has that thinking” is impossible to be answered. Historians and philosophers never can track the original thinker in Plato’s works. There have been interpretations, explanations, and observations to answer that question. But all of those would have never reached the truth. The original thinker in Plato’s works is still a guess that is buried beneath historical time. But even though the original thinker is never known, Plato works to influence the civilized culture for a thousand years up till now. Plato’s works are not only beauty itself as literature and philosophy but also as a great artist. Plato’s works delineate an intimate picture of a deep relationship between the teacher and the pupil. One general conclusion we can achieve that Plato’s works are pedagogic devices to teach a good and virtuous life.

One of Plato’s works is Crito. Crito is the name of Socrates’s best friend and he was very rich. What did the story tell? Crito visited Socrates in prison by bribing the guards. He as a best friend of Socrates offered Socrates aid to escape from the prison and fled to another country. Socrates himself was in prison because he was accused by the Athenian court that he had corrupted the young Athenians and he had denied the existence of God with his philosophy. And for these reasons the Athenian court imposed the death penalty on him. Of course, he refused the aid offered by Crito. He preferred to stay in prison than to flee. Why? For him, fleeing meant proving to himself that he was guilty and his philosophy was heresy. And the main reason by fleeing, which means he broke the laws. Then the story told his arguments why he refused Crito’s offer to escape. His arguments rose an illumination for many people in his time up till now and also contrary to the argument of the majority.


Philosophical problems and Socrates respond to the problems

Actually, Crito proposed three philosophical arguments to convince Socrates in order to flee with him.  Socrates answered these three philosophical problems with his pedagogic method. Let us see.


  • First problem: ethical friendship

Crito offered to Socrates that Socrates had to escape cannot be separated from ethical friendship. For Crito as a best friend and rich person, he had an obligation to save Socrates from unjust law delivering the death penalty. There are three Crito arguments:

  1. Crito would feel the loss of his best friend if Socrates died.
  2. The opinion of many said that Crito was able to save Socrates’s life with his money then if he did not save Socrates meant he did not care about his best friend and valued the money more than the life of a friend.
  3. For Crito, the argument of the many must be regarded because they could do the greatest evil to anyone who had lost their good opinion. One thing that was quite interesting was that Crito added the term many. By adding the argument of the many, actually, Crito had a belief the argument of the many was the correct one because the majority said it. So, helping Socrates by escaping from prison was the right action.

To answer this ethical friendship problem, Socrates begins by distinguishing between true opinion and false opinion. According to him, one should have to hear a man full of understanding and of wisdom than the crowd’s comments and judgments. He compares this situation with an athlete who is competing in the game. A competing athlete has to hear his trainer who recognizes and trains him well and also has an understanding of sport than the crowds that only made the judgments base on ignorance, emotion, and prejudice. If an athlete has fixed his ear and mind on the comments of the crowd instead of his trainer, he will have failed in the game. The multitude did not have the wisdom and knowledge of the sport. He insists that a man has to hear and has to put himself on the advice of the man who has wisdom and knowledge instead of concentrating on the comments of the multitude. Opinions of the wise are good and the opinion of the unwise is evil. The unwise opinions of the multitude lead individuals to an unhappy life. Wise opinions deliver individual life to a happy and virtuous life.  Who is the wise man? The wise man is the one who has the understanding of just and unjust and he will say what the truth is. The wise man will direct and will teach the way of life rightly. So, the opinions of some men are to be regarded and of another man not to be regarded. Then if our best friend is a wise man, we have to listen to his opinion.

Friendship cannot be separated from ethical aims because friendship and ethical aims have the same goal: to live well. To live well or live justly is a good life that is chiefly valued. This is an honorable one and can be realized only in ethical friendship. Each man who is in the bond of friendship helps each other to reach this goal based on virtue. Virtue itself is only the capital that sustains the friendship. Then based on the disposition of virtue, a best friend will direct and will do supervision the life of his friend. He will examine which the correct one, the truth of one of his best friend’s decisions, of his feeling, of his life. So, openness, trust, and a will to listen are the conditions for the construction of a friendship. Those things once again are the work of virtue. That is why friendship is ethics; it is an ethical bond that brings a happy life

  • Second problem: it is about evil, particularly about an evil action: Should we do evil that good may come?

The second problem has a connection with ethical action. The morality of the crowd is to return evil for evil. Under this frame, escaping from prison is justified because the state has done something wrong for Socrates by the death penalty. But according to him, escaping from prison means revenge on evil by evil. Must one do evil for evil?

For Socrates, injustice is always an evil action and it causes dishonor to him who acts unjustly. Then, returning evil for evil equals doing injustice. The peak of ethical action is: one ought not to retaliate or render evil for evil to anyone even the evil may have suffered on him. If one is injured, one should not injure the other in return. The reason, the effect of doing evil is the same as injuring the self and the other but the evildoer is the most suffered one. The commitment to do evil means to deteriorate and to corrupt the soul so that the corrupted soul reveals one does not live well, it is not a good life, it is not a happy life. The worth of life is not just life, but a good life. Therefore, returning evil for evil (read: revenge) is an impropriate act and one ought never to do wrong for wrong. Revenge itself is a kind of wild justice that produces injustice and destruction. Then the question should one do evil so that good may come is responded: we never do evil for whatever reason.

  • Third problem: one ought to keep the agreement with the state and obeys the law. Keeping the agreement is ethical obedience.

Socrates chose that he stayed in prison than accept Crito’s offer to flee to another country. Crito’s offer implied a benefit for Socrates’ life and Crito’s offers seemingly also were an act of just and ethical obedience. Let us review Crito offers:

  1. Socrates could raise up his children and educates them which is part of his obligation as a father. But by staying in prison, he is betraying the members of his own family, especially the children, who are entitled to the nurture, the guidance, and the education that he could provide by staying alive and doing what is within his power for their welfare.
  1. Remaining in prison also meant that Socrates agreed to suicide facilitated by the state. The court had made a wrongful condemnation then it meant he was wronged by the city. Ironically, Socrates’ accusers had unjustly sentenced him by using the Laws. Of course, it was really an evil action. And Socrates justified the evil acts of his enemy and at the same time, he did not respect the demand for justice by staying in prison. In other words, staying in prison proclaimed a voluntary acceptance of his own death and it was wrong and shameful for Socrates himself.

Therefore, Socrates’s choice would lead to unjust action. But Socrates had chosen to stay in prison. What were the reasons for Socrates to counter Crito’s offers which were seemly right ones?

Socrates explained a different entity between the just law which must be obeyed: staying in prison and the unjust people who put the death penalty on him. One must obey the law for whatever reason. As a citizen of Athena, he had a duty to respect the state and the law because by being a citizen of Athena, he had made an agreement with the state tacitly. This was the consequence of being a citizen. The state with its law had given him existence and identity. Moreover, the state facilitated and nurtured him as a citizen through education, training in music, and the gym. Then, for him, the state was a parent, and to disobey the state was equal to disobeying the parent. The law itself was just and it was not the law that made wrongdoing but the judgment of the crowd. Escaping from prison, it meant breaking the agreement with the state and it is a wrong action. There would be consequences:  Socrates would injure his friend and disgraced himself. This was the injury to his friend: his friend would lose their property, would be deprived of their citizenship, and would be driven to exile because of helping Socrates flee and it meant  it was against the law. The disgrace for himself could be elucidated: his coming to another country would brand him as an enemy because fleeing from prison denoted that Socrates was a subverter of the law. This action was not suitable for the philosopher who admired justice and virtue. By fleeing from prison, he lost his sentiment about justice and virtue. As the philosopher, he had to think first about justice firstly and not the life and the children firstly in order to be justified before God. Staying in prison meant I kept this ethical obligation to the state and to myself which caused the ease of heart. Yes, I was a sufferer but I was not an evildoer; I was a victim but it was not from the law but from unjust men. His words wanted to say that one must keep the ethical obedience that he had made to the state.


Analysis and solution

The story of Socrates has informed us with an indelible memory that institutions such as nation-states and their legal systems can be evil, and can impose unjust action and even violence on their people for many centuries. The main existence of the institution, basically, is to serve the public with its just principle. The reason of nation-state is formed is to bring goodness and to realize justice for its people. Then if the nation-state through their institution builds injustice for their people then it is a miserable thing. The work of an institution that fails to serve the public is a betrayal of nature and the identity of the state itself. One of the causes which put the institution infringes on its identity is called mobocracy.

The definition of mobocracy is the power controlled by the mob, that is, the crowd and multitude which are colored and are fulfilled by emotional feeling and irrationality manifested in legal action. In mobocracy, like in Socrates’s moment, there is no more individuality but only the homogeny of the crowd. Homogeny is a success because, in the breath of mobocracy, everyone thinks, and feels and acts in the same destination. But unfortunately, under the same umbrella of passion, they execute the men which are judged as heresy or who are not in the same taste and thought as them. Then the wage is the destruction and the injustice. So many people are victims of mobocracy. The punishment which is imposed on Socrates was that kind of mobocracy through the state- institutions.

For this reason, in Socrates’s case, it is very debatable how far one can truly differentiate the laws of a state from the people who apply them. The people and the state ruling that Socrates must be punished equal to the fact that the law and the crowd intersect one another to form injustice. The people executed the injustice through the law and in the same line the law infiltrates the crowd to justify its injustice action. In the mobocracy, it is odd to assert that the Laws are just and must be respected and that the people are unjust and should not be respected as Socrates said.

To tackle mobocracy and to put state function in its best performance, it is quite interesting to turn to Ricoeur’s thinking about the institution. His statement: aiming at the good life with and for the other in just institutions is very helpful to reform and repair the institutions in order to serve their natural function: to realize justice for the people. The main concern behind his statement actually refers to the good as obligatory and good predicate applied to action. He wants to underline that good as obligatory and good as predicate applied to action arises ethics and morality. Ethics is the aim of life so that ethics has a teleological perspective meanwhile morality is the articulation of ethics aims in the moral norms. By its norms, morality is the medium to help ethics to legalize its aim. Morality is determined by the obligation to respect the norm and that is why it has a deontological view and a universal claim. Reviewing this definition, for him, morality is the actualization of ethical aim and in this sense also, ethics encompasses morality[1] meaning self-esteem -that is ethics- is more important than self-respect -that is moral- and self-respect is under which self-esteem appears in the domain of norms[2].

What is aiming at the good life?

Aiming at the good life wants to prove the primacy of ethics over morality. Ethics’s goal is to achieve a good life or to live well and for sure this is the ultimate end of our action. Therefore, a good life or to live well has to be done and to be concreted in praxis because the good only can be brought by action. As an action, the good produce standard excellence which allows us to characterize the good itself for encompassing our action, for example how to be a good doctor, a good student, a good teacher, etc[3]. This standard excellence is a practice and it provides a compass to the good because it helps us to give a sense to the idea of internal goods immanent to a practice. Internal good realized in a practice according to Mcyntre facilitates initial support for the reflexive moment of self-esteem. The necessity of self-esteem is required as our trust to appraise our actions which means we appraise ourselves as being their author[4]. Good life aiming at the good life carries all of the action which is directed to a good life and has their end in a good life. Clearly, toward self-esteem, the effort to direct our actions to a good life and to bring our actions to the end in good life reflects our power and deliberation because we are the author of our actions. Then through our power and our deliberation, we search for adequation between our life ideals and our decisions which is the result in practice later on. This adequation between the ideal life and the decision is a vital one and leads to attestation. The logic of this attestation works when we are the being the author of our own actions and of our own discourse that becomes the conviction of judging and acting well in the approximation of living well. But that attestation has to hold with and for the other because living well is not separated from with and for the other.

What is with and for the others?

Aiming good life with dan for the others happens in the bond of friendship. The richness of friendship starts with solicitude and solicitude itself is self-esteem. In making the ethical aims to be a reality: to live well, solicitude and self-esteem cannot be separated one from another because they are the foundation of a friendship which is the pillar of man’s relation in social life. The good life as the ethical aim cannot deny the human relation because the man being is the being that opens to others; a coexistent being. For this reason, a good life presupposes friendship which leads to a happy life. The friendship itself shapes a transition between the good life reflected in self-esteem and solicitude in the form of solitary virtue and justice rooted in the virtue of human plurality belonging to the political sphere. Friendship requires justice because friendship also penetrates political life.

Self-esteem is the primordial reflexive moment of aiming for a good life. Friendship itself gives a contribution to self-esteem fully. The reason is that the self-esteem in friendship shapes reciprocity of self-esteem between the men who each esteem themselves. Then, similitude is the fruit of the exchange between esteem for oneself and solicitude for the other. This exchange authorizes us to say that I cannot myself have self-esteem unless I esteem others as myself. As myself means that you too are capable of starting something in the world, of acting for a reason, hierarchizing your priorities, evaluating the end of your actions and having done this, of holding yourself in esteem as I hold myself in esteem[5]. The peak of similitude is the esteem of the other as oneself and the esteem of oneself as an other[6]. Through self-esteem, a friend can be defined as another self. This mutual relation of esteem opens the function of solicitude in the relation: solicitude adds essentially the dimension of lack. Lack means that we need friends, the need of friends because this need has to do not only with what is active and incomplete in living together but also with the lack which is connected to the very relation of the self to its own existence. This lack only can be handled only in friendship. A friend has the role of providing what one is incapable of procuring by oneself. Here we see that there is a lack that has to be fulfilled and that is why the lack dwells at the heart of the most solid friendship[7]. The drive and the willingness to realize the role of friendship in overcoming the lack is called solicitude. Because solicitude and self-esteem are so fundamental in friendship, they form solitary virtue. This is the beauty of friendship and it is a royal road to the actualization of a good life or to live well.

Friendship is called the royal road because goodness is at one and at the same time the ethical quality of the aim of action and orientation of the person toward the others could not be held to be good unless it was done on behalf of the other. For Levinas, as quoted by Ricoeur, the term: on the behalf of the other reveals that the other is the master of justice because his face forbids murder and gives command of justice. Others are present at all stages or under the interiorized form of “alterity” which allows reflexivity.  Reflexivity stimulates a consciousness that the self is summoned to responsibility by and for the other. Responsibility for the other and justice is the reason why giving solicitude a more fundamental status than obedience to duty.

The consequence is that friendship has two goodness: external good and internal good. The friend is thought the greatest of external goods because a friend alone can direct the familiarity of shared life. Moreover, the life together shared by a few people gives way to the distribution of shares in a plurality on the scale of a historical, political community. This distribution of shares by life together means the justice rooted in the virtue of human plurality belonging to the political sphere. Justice has a crucial interest to develop a just distribution in political and social life. The friend is also considered the greatest of intrinsic good because friendship works toward establishing the conditions for the realization of ethical goals in life[8].

But before these two advantages of friendship are gained, one has to have a friend and to have a friend, one has to have a predisposition: to be friends, they must be mutually recognized as bearing goodwill and wishing well to each other. Bearing goodwill to each other bears a perfect friendship. Aristoteles said, “Perfect friendship is the friendship of men who are good and it is alike in virtue; for these wish well alike to each other qua good, and they are good in themselves, and later: And in loving friend men love what is good for themselves; for the good man in becoming a friend becomes a good to his friend[9]”. Here we see the mutuality of goodness by control of the predicate good applied to agents as well to actions. The crown of mutuality of goodness is equality and equality places friendship on the path of justice. Through mutuality of goodness, friendship borders on justice[10]. But, of course, friendship is not justice to the extent that the latter governs institutions and the former interpersonal relationship. Justice presupposes equality so equality itself is presupposed by friendship. Then justice constitutes another “point of application” for ethics. Equality as part of justice needs the formalization incarnated in the institution.


What is in just institutions?

The idea of the institution is the bond of common more, not the constraining rule[11] so this idea makes the institution more flexible and it is not rigid to formulate and execute its policy. Then, an institution can be defined as living together that belongs to the historical community -people, nation, region, so forth so that it is a structure irreducible to merely interpersonal relations[12]. The existence of the institutions proves that living well is not limited to interpersonal relationships but extends to the life of institutions that cover the life of many people. The friendship which has a density of arbitrary interpersonal relations now is fixed on constant and formal relations in the institutions so that the friendship is not to be threatened any longer by arbitrary interpersonal relations. The institutions keep the goodness of friendship on determinative ethical aim by its structure. Therefore, the institutions are an ethical primacy of living together.

But what are the just institutions? It can be guessed from the title that justice must be the spirit of the institutions. The reason is justice is the first virtue of social institutions as truth is of a system of thought[13] (John Rawls).  As the first virtue of social institutions, justice must be implied in the notion of the other. Here, the other is not only you to whom I relate and recognize but also the other is other than you. The other is a plurality that has an extension to all who are left outside of the face-to-face encounter of an I and you that is called the third party. Even, the third party includes those who are never a face like animals, plants, and nature. Clearly, the grasp of justice for the third-party means of justice extends further than face-to-face encounters. The scope of the institutions loads you and me also the third party so that no one and nothing is left behind.

Of course, the institutions have a power that is never the property of an individual; they belong to a group and remain in existence only so long as the group keeps together. It is the people’s support that binds power to the institutions and this support is the condition of the consent that brought the laws of institutions into political and social existence. But what kind of power belongs to the institution? The answer is the power in common and it is not power in relation to domination that inclines to coercive and abusive power. Power in common can be specialized that it is a power, as wanting to live and act together, that brings to the ethical aim, the point of application of its indispensable third dimension: justice. By inserting justice into the structure of institutions then justice has permeated and has covered social life formally.

Justice itself has two directions: toward the good with respect to which it marks the extension of interpersonal relationships to institutions and toward the legal, and judicial system conferring upon the law coherence and the right of constraints[14]. The direction of justice reveals that justice completes virtue, it is conformity to the law in the sense that the laws command us also to do the acts corresponding to all other virtue, justice thus becomes the relation to others, in respect of all virtue. These directions of justice pave the goodness as the existence of an institution including goodness as obligatory and goodness as a predicate applied in action. For sure, goodness legitimated by justice is crucial to safety preservation and institution in general. Indeed, goodness in the form of justice opens the possibility to build rules that could coexist with situated, ad hoc decisions (Hortense Blazin, Franck Guarnieri).

In two directions of justice, justice refers to the idea of belonging which associates with fair shares or just shares.  The fair shares pinpoint to an infinite mutual indebtedness which is hostage whom Levinas has explains it meanwhile just shares are voiced by John Rawls thinking of the mutual disinterest for the interest of others[15]. That fair shares put in the hostage of mutual indebtedness wants to empower each person to do justice from their inner life that produces an obligation to the other. Just share of the mutual disinterest for the interest of others is an active action to realize justice. All of these produce capacity and predispositions to build a good life under the institutions.

Consequently, it is in a specific institutional milieu that the capacity and predispositions that distinguish human action can blossom. The individual becomes human only under the condition of certain institutions, and the obligation to serve the institutions is a condition for the human agent to continue and to develop self-esteem and solicitude. We see that all men with that kind of state of character make themselves disposed to do what is just and make them act justly and wish for what is just. Justice has become the character of every man through the institution.

But what is justice? Fairness is the key concept of justice because fairness characterizes the original situation of the contract from which the justice of basic institutions is held to drive. Fairness is another name for the sense of justice because fairness is needed when there is a quarrel to solve the conflict of justice. The sense of justice legitimates that fairness is the good itself applied in the political dimension in taking a decision. Fairness as the sense of justice ponders the decisions taken connected with the problem of justice. Hardship and conflict escort in pondering the decision will be taken. But fairness traverses the hardship and conflict resulting from the application of the rule of justice. Socrates’ case is a relevant example. Nowadays, the quarrel has shifted to the product of the law of institutions and whether it is suitable for morality. Moreover, the example of hardship and conflict happens when the legislator fails the people with their product of law and has erred by over simplicity. This is the nature of fairness: in correcting omission; a correction of law where the law is defective. Public debate and the decision-making that result from it form the only agency qualified to correct the omission that today we call the legitimatization crisis (Hortense Blazin, Franck Guarnieri). The nature of fairness also relates to the protection of individual rights.  But, the protection against the abuse of the other is vain if specific measures are not taken that guarantee a minimum capacity to act in fairness. In another respect, if the specific measures of fairness are taken with maximum capacity to act that is freedom then fairness remedies justice.

Justice as fairness has two forms that are distributive justice and reparative justice. What are they? The background of distributive justice is a problem of inequality. The unjust are correlatively synonymous with the unequal. The unjust man is one who takes too much in terms of advantages (wanting to have more) or not enough in terms of burdens. This fact we call unequal and it is unequal shares that we deplore and condemn[16]. From this setting, distributive justice tries to tackle it. Distributive justice is in fact extended to all the kinds of advantages capable of being treated as shares to be distributed: rights and duties, on the other hand, benefit and burden. The spirit behind this is that the concept of distributive justice is put at the points of intersection of the ethical aim and the deontological perspective. The reason is that distributive justice places the good life as an ethical aim and morality as a deontological perspective. The intersection of ethics and morality rise a deliberation and practical wisdom or universal rule with a singular situation to be held in facing the distribution problem. Deliberation is the process through which practical wisdom, the ultimate stage of practical humanity, can be achieved (Hortense Blazin, Franck Guarnieri).

The setting of restorative justice opens that there is a problem that the crime is not only to break the law, but it also damages and causes harm to people, relationships, and the community. The harm and the causes unite each other in the form of suffering.  Suffering is not defined solely by physical pain, nor even by mental pain, but by the reduction, even the destruction of the capacity for acting, of being able to act, experienced as a violation of self-integrity[17]. Justice as restorative wants to repair the harm caused by crime and justice requires repairing that harm. It is done by encountering so that the parties can decide together. The people most affected by the crime should be able to participate in its resolution. The hope is the transformation: it will bring a fundamental change in people, relationships, and communities. The responsibility of the government is to maintain order and for the community to build peace.

But before distributive justice and reparative justice can be actualized, the principle of justice has to be respected and internalized legally in the law of institutions. The principle of justice, however, can become the object of a common choice if and only if the original position is fair that is equal. Then, equality becomes the heart of institutions in order for the institution to be able to do justice. That is why Ricoeur says: that equality is to life in institutions what solicitude is to interpersonal relations[18]. There is a connection between equality function in institutions and solicitude in interpersonal relationships. That connection is deciphered through and mediated by the self.

Solicitude provides to the self another who is a face, which Emmanuel Levinas has taught us to recognize. At the same time, equality also gives to the self another who is an each. Through equality, each of self another is face and, in the solicitude, every face is equality. This symmetry position between solicitude and equality mediated by self and face strengthens justice in its social movement. Because equality is part of justice, justice requires solicitude, to the extent that it holds a person to be irreplaceable because a person is my other self. Justice, in turn, adds to solicitude, to the extent that the field of application of equality is all of humanity[19].

By aiming for a good life with and for others in just institutions, the problem of injustice done by the institution can be prevented. These three components are like a chain that keeps one another to realize living well in universal morality. Good as an obligation and good as predicate applied in action now becomes ethical friendship in aiming for a good life, becomes ethical action with and for the other, and becomes ethical obedience in just institutions. Consequently, there is no more the next Socrates who was the victim of injustice done by the institutions. Hopefully.


The good and ethic: final description

By imaginary dialog with Crito, Socrates teaches us about his principle of action: a philosopher has to do the truth and has to realize the virtue for any cost even death as the consequent. His principle of action proves his perseverance and his character that is he will not change morality regardless of what other people think of him or threatens him. He cannot betray the truth and cannot deny virtue. His action delineates the beautiful integrity that he is determined to the very end, even if it means staying in prison until his death: a true philosopher. A true philosopher is the keeper of the legacy of truth and virtue. The keeper of these legacies is called the champion of honor which is the disclosure of virtue and values lived by a man without a falsehood. The goal of man’s life remains in truth and virtue because they are the wings that elevate happiness. Happiness itself is the concern and the object of an ethics investigation.

The affair of ethics treats the way for the individual to become truly human. For this reason, we need environments that facilitate ethical life to be expressed. Ricoeur thinking: aiming at a good life with and for the others in just institutions is the ideal-typical environment, constructed in such a way that individuals truly have the liberty to reach for an ethical life. Then friendship finds its context in this field of ethics. Friendship is characterized by solicitude and responsibility for my “second self”. Socrates has concretized these two essences of friendship in practice. One of the friendship practices is that friendship wards the comment of the crowd because friendship is the port of heart through which each of us has the strength to face the hardship of life. Indeed, one of the forms of hardship in life is the crowd of judgments and their comments. Basically, all of us fear the crowd of judgments and comments. In sociology terms, the crowd of judgments and comments can be said as social evaluation branded for an individual person. This social evaluation is part of social relationships. Sometimes this social evaluation restrains the life of an individual person and hinders the growth of an individual to gain a happy life.  Friendship is the way to release the self from the fear of the crowd.  When this happens, freedom arises in the heart. That is why we need friendship, true friendship. Even the happiest man always needs a friend. This benefit of friendship as an external good and internal good reveals ethical friendship.

Next, Ricoeur wants to legitimate and formalize the friendship in a structure which is called an institution. We see that there is a synergy between the goal of ethics and the just institution meaning ethics and the institution strengthen each other for what they have in common: a good life or to live well.

Ricoeur indicates that the role of institutions is to build the conditions for the people to be able to act freely, in a just environment, rather than to protect subjects against potential harm. The potential harm is not the main concern and can be minimized because the institutions are permeated with solicitude, responsibility, and equality. They are the internal guardian of the institution in order that it always walk on the right track. He defines the concept of “institution” as the “being-with” structure of a specific, historical, and cultural community, built on common customs and not on constraining rules (Ricoeur, 1992). The existence of just institutions anticipates the problem of privacy friendship that only focuses on the friends whom we know. But how about the other we do not know? Ricoeur’s concept of just institutions finds its place: it embraces also the people we do not know or have never met. Just institutions are the collective friendships that are the most appropriate environment to foster practical humanity. Just institutions mean that friendship be it the others that we know and all those we do not know and also they who do not have faces like the animal, the plant, and nature; by the institutions, we are sharing our human nature and we are together in realizing our common goal: to live happily. We made virtuous actions in and through just institutions. Not only that, we esteem ourselves and we esteem another self, a mutuality of self-esteem continues. This is a formalized ethical action. In the courage of ethical action, the injustice done by the state through its institution can be prevented because of friendship: a friend is the second self. Everyone loves himself and it is impossible that one hates and does crime to himself or herself.

In this perspective, an institution appears as a space allowing power-in-common, rather than domination. Power in common can be understood as the willingness to act and to be together that is at the heart of justice which is the essence of a just institution. This power in common is based on two pillars: plurality, and dialogue. Justice as an application of ethics cannot be separated from plurality and dialogues. Dialog and plurality ponder the decision in order that the decision result from it is a mature and fair decision, and not an emotional decision based on bias and prejudice. Moreover, dialog and plurality produce deliberation and practical wisdom which help the institution solves the conflict and the hardship of justice in practice. Stressing the role of plurality and dialogue offers a way to combine equality -as everyone is entitled to a place in the plural community and the dialogical process- with differentiation, implemented through distribution (Hortense Blazsin, Franck Guarnieri). The distribution itself is part of justice which has important point in Ricoeur’s works which is called distributive justice. Power in common makes justice have two directions: the first direction is toward the good which finds its form in aiming for the good life through interpersonal dan collective relationships. An extension of justice that is from an interpersonal relationship to a collective relationship is anchored through institutions. As the consequence, because it has been fixed formally and legally in the institution, the second direction of justice is toward the legal which becomes a legal system.  The legal system can be coherent and assumes the right coercion as long as fairness becomes the pioneer in act of institutions. But, this capability to be and to act is inseparable from the liberties guaranteed by political and legal instances. Justice, therefore, permeates and covers both the legal system and the good which it urges and stimulates individuals to wish and to do justice. The good for all the people and the good itself formalized in the institutions proclaim the sense of justice. The sense of justice is the product of the balance between the obligations imposed upon the people, and the privileges and opportunities they grant. That is why we do have an advantage by keeping an agreement with the state through its institution. Keeping the agreement with the state through its institutions is ethical obedience as Socrates explained it to Crito.

For sure, aiming for a good life with and for the other in a just institution loads ethical friendship, ethical action, and ethical obedience. They are the good as an obligation and the good as predicate applied in the ethic of friendship, incarnated in the ethics of action, and manifested in the ethics of institutions. All is the way to intimacy because self-esteem that is ethics and self-respect that is morality represent the most advanced stages of the growth of selfhood, which is at the same time it is unfolding in aiming at a good life with and for the other in just institutions.



Blazin, Hortense, Franck Guarnieri. Just institutions, A Ricoeurian Model To Construct Ethical Organizations. 31st EGOS Colloquium – EGOS 2015, European Group for Organizational Studies, Jul 2015, Athens, Greece

Plato, Crito, Duckworth Publisher, London, 2010

Ricoeur, Paul, Oneself as Another, trans Kathleen Blamey, The University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1994.

——————, Le Juste, Esprit, Paris, 1995.

——————, From Text to Action. Essays in Hermeneutics II, K. Blamey-J.B Thompson, tr., The Athlone Press, London, 1991

[1] Paul Ricoeur, Oneself as Another, trans Kathleen Blamey (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1994), p. 170

[2] Ibid., p.171

[3]  Ibid, p. 176

[4] Ibid, p. 177

[5] Ibid, p. 193

[6] Ibid., p. 194

[7] Ibid., p. 187

[8] Ibid., p.186

[9] Ibid., p. 184

[10] Ibid., p.184

[11] Ibid., p.194

[12] Ibid., p.194

[13] John Rawls, A Theory of Justice (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1971), p.3, ibid., p. 197

[14] Ibid., p. 197

[15] Ibid., p. 202

[16] Ibid., p. 201

[17] Ibid., p. 190

[18] Ibid., p. 202

[19] Ibid., p. 202

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Author: Duckjesui

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