Martin Luther King Jr.: the Philosopher King

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Martin Luther King Jr. is recognized of his memorable life of leadership and service, which he was committed to and overall, died for. He was a social activist who played a key role in the American civil rights movement until his assassination in 1968, leaving one of the biggest impacts around the world. He not only fought for his people of color but wanted the community to come together and unite as one.

‘The Liberatory thought of Martin Luther King Jr.: Critical Essays on the Philosopher King,’ goes into depth about what kind of man MLK truly was and how he was morally put on a “pedestal” with other amazing male figures such as Socrates, Thoreau, and Ghandi.

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Dr. King wanted nothing more than love to be spread around the world, and across the country equally instead of all the hate, discrimination, and violence coming one after another. He lived his life in the service of others as a ‘moral principle’ stating that, “all men and women are created equal . . . and among them are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” With this, he wanted nothing more than equal ties for everyone. The connection between Dr. King emerges with Socrates, Thoreau, and Ghandi was by Dr. King using his philosophical techniques as a philosopher and being a social activist. Sacrificing his life, he attempted to find the resolutions of lessening the social issues that were going on at the time.

Martin Luther King Jr had moral values, approaching change differently than others which had to be nonviolent, gradual and an equal transformative. He hoped to use his ethics of non violent opposition as a tool being used morally when it came to civil disobedience in a political way, hoping it would put an end to segregation, white oppression, and social injustice. He became more of an idealist; conducting out a radical social change that could modify and alter the racial and economic realities for Americans based on the founding principles of “life rights, equality of opportunity, and the pursuit of happiness.”

Dr. King’s writings reflected the feature of the Socratic moral establishment. Some of MLK’s actions mirrored those of Socrates as well as making references that dealt or was made towards him. Both MLK and Socrates compare with each other. Socrates persuaded the people to consider his ways of thinking; finding his way into their minds which in the end, put him under trial for causing such commotion. For Dr. King, likewise, argued through the powers of persuasion over people, hoping that in need, they will think for themselves in such ways of social action. He was able to argue that the battle against racial segregation was needed to be accomplished in the court system rather than the streets. Socrates had an understanding that the requirement of the law is one that rests on one’s own morality where he made note that laws play a role for us while we play a role in being obligated to others. For Dr. King, his thoughts were based on the fact that certain types of disobedience in certain situations could eventually improve the legal dynamics of society. Therefore, civil disobedience was a concept that affiliated with both Socrates and Dr. King.

MLK found inspiration in Henry David Thoreau and his non cooperative civil disobedience, hence the bus boycott that took place which was a form of an active resistance and methodical refusal to cooperate with the persecutors for the sake of freedom and justice. Dr. King was convinced that “non-cooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good,” basically saying that the teachings that came from Thoreau ended up coming to life during the civil rights movement. In attendance to Thoreau’s lecture, Dr. King ended up sitting as a sponge and soaked in all the information given about the life, social ethics, and wide-ranging religious teachings of Gandhi. The teaching was specifically associated with his civil disobedience and non violent resistance. MLK studied the Gandhian materials which as a result, he became captivated by the way he appealed nonviolent resistance. After digging deep into the philosophy of Gandhian, his main concern of power of love was progressively diminished and its effectiveness was viewed in the area of social reform. Gandhi’s influence immediately hit home with Dr. King, causing him to truly learn the power of love as a critical power.

All four men (Socrates, Thoreau, Gandhi, and MLK) went to jail and underwent the embarrassment and hardship which resulted from their various acts of nonviolent civil protest against injustice or social wrong fundamental in the system. But Dr. King worked with other people closely as well as with other leaders in order to blend the goal of social integration with economic justice issues from poverty to a fully combined education. He wanted to resolve any problems that humans had to go through from their stand point, offering a vision for a future filled with a “beloved community” that would’ve been based on the love a Christian and racial integration.

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Martin Luther King Jr.: The Philosopher King. (2020, May 15). Retrieved from