The Roots of Responsibility

It is my immense pleasure to welcome my son John Avery as a guest blogger.

Credit: iStockphoto/Vasiliki Varvaki

Credit: iStockphoto/Vasiliki Varvaki

A post involving ancient philosophy may seem a bit exotic, but as a graduating student and an editor here, for me this is a personal experience with The Responsibility Process®.

Alfred Whitehead is often (helpfully) paraphrased as saying, “all western philosophy is footnotes to Plato”. The Responsibility Process, as a philosophy, is no different and can trace its roots to Plato. Plato’s Socratic-dialogue Crito depicts its protagonist not acting from obligation, but choosing responsibility.

Plato’s five dialogues follow Socrates through his trial, imprisonment, and death. In the third dialogue, Crito, Socrates has been convicted, is imprisoned, and is awaiting execution the following morning. In Socrates’ imprisonment his dear friend Crito visits him. Crito goes to Socrates to help him escape, but finds Socrates unwilling to do so. Socrates offers excuses for not leaving, including not wishing to place his friends in danger, but all such excuses are refuted or answered by Crito.

Socrates finally relents and explains to Crito that he chooses to stay because it is his responsibility to do so. Socrates explains he has always lived in Athens, leaving only to serve his city’s military. Socrates speaks of choosing not only to live, but also to have children in Athens. He even speaks on behalf of the city, giving Athens its own voice: “You [Socrates] have had seventy years during which you could have gone away if you did not like us, and if you thought our agreements unjust. You did not choose to go to Sparta or Crete.” Socrates may be a stubborn old man here, but his argument is, unsurprisingly, sound. The trial may not have been entirely just, but Socrates sees the trial as separate from the laws of Athens and chooses to stand by his decisions and obey the laws of the city no matter how they are carried out. He does not do this from a place of obligation; Socrates takes control of his situation and owns his choices.

Socrates chooses to take responsibility for the choices and agreements of his life, even unto his chosen death. Responsibility rarely requires dying these days, but obligation sure feels like death. Hear, hear, Socrates. I choose responsibility.



John Robin Avery

John edits the Christopher Avery blog and has been with Partnerwerks since 2013. He is a founding member and officer of the Philosophy Club at The University of Texas at San Antonio and is about to graduate from UTSA with degrees in both psychology and philosophy. John is considering PhD programs in cognitive psychology.



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Posted in Responsibility on 12/08/2015 01:14 am
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