And now, Meletus, I will ask you another question--by Zeus I will: Which is better, to live among bad citizens, or among good ones? Answer, friend, I say; the question is one which may be easily answered. Do not the good do their neighbours good, and the bad do them evil?(Bolding added by me.) Imagine if you will a mob boss who is on trial for organized crime. While on the stand he says that he would never lead young men into a life of crime because he knows that criminals hurt people near to them and he would never want that injury to come to him. Would anyone believe that? If you were on that jury, wouldn't you immediately discount such an argument? So why would someone risk corrupting those around him?
And is there anyone who would rather be injured than benefited by those who live with him? Answer, my good friend, the law requires you to answer--does any one like to be injured?
And when you accuse me of corrupting and deteriorating the youth, do you allege that I corrupt them intentionally or unintentionally? Intentionally, I say. But you have just admitted that the good do their neighbours good, and the evil do them evil. Now, is that a truth which your superior wisdom has recognized thus early in life, and am I, at my age, in such darkness and ignorance as not to know that if a man with whom I have to live is corrupted by me, I am very likely to be harmed by him; and yet I corrupt him, and intentionally, too--so you say, although neither I nor any other human being is ever likely to be convinced by you. But either I do not corrupt them, or I corrupt them unintentionally; and on either view of the case you lie. If my offence is unintentional, the law has no cognizance of unintentional offences: you ought to have taken me privately, and warned and admonished me; for if I had been better advised, I should have left off doing what I only did unintentionally--no doubt I should; but you would have nothing to say to me and refused to teach me. And now you bring me up in this court, which is a place not of instruction, but of punishment.
- He might think that their personal loyalty would keep harm from coming back to him. I think this is how mob bosses usually operate.
- He might think that such corruption wouldn't be deep enough to cause a big enough risk. In other words, if I steal a bike from down the block, it is unlikely that the same neighbor would steal something from me.
- He might operate on the spur of the moment without any real long term thought.
- He could very easily think that his ability to defend against harm would be proof of any rebound consequences.
But of course none of these alternatives are really entertained by Socrates or his accusers. Or to be more fair, Socrates doesn't bring them up and no one else does either. And to be even fairer than that, I should recognize that these are actually Plato's words so he is in fact the one who avoids this argument.
I've started reading 'The Republic' for next month and unfortunately this type of reasoning continues. It personally makes reading Plato more difficult because I have this constant feeling that he is trying to pull the wool over my eyes.