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Socrates And His Escape Essay, Research Paper

Each one of us has been accused of some kind of act at some point in our lives. Yet those accusations have been terribly mistaken and sometimes there is so little that a person can do to fix that. In this case we are talking about the wonderful philosophist Socrates, a person of many beliefs and ideas. He was a man who dearly believed in justice and doing justice to others. We will examine Socrates’ way of thinking and his rationality towards a healthy and logical mind. After reading the Meno, Apology, and Crito I have come to a conclusion that Socrates made the right decision by rejecting Crito’s offer of escape and the reasoning behind that will be explained by providing parts of the dialogues and the ideas behind them.

About the year of 470 B.C, a man was born in Athens and his name was Socrates. He was a son of a working sculptor and a midwife. Socrates lived in the greatest and most exciting period of his country’s history, when Athens developed from a mere city-state to be the head of an empire. He studied problems of Physics, Biology, and other sciences, and learned the art of making the worse argument appear the better. He could easily be involved in public decisions but he did not enjoy politics so he stuck to his interests and life that consisted the qualities of a thinker. He would constantly be thinking about the “ordinary man” and the interests of an “ordinary man”. He had many companions, men of all ages and from all parts of the Greek world. This already tells us that he is very pre-occupied with how other people’s minds worked and if he could figure out how to teach them rational thinking. Easily most of his ideas would come from talking to other people

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but not making certain points but constantly asking them questions to make them think. He disliked lectures himself so he had to approach people in a comfortable way so it would not scare them, make them defensive and also open up their minds so they could let themselves understand Socrate’s teachings.

He talked to ordinary people about ordinary subjects. He talked about how to make friends, how to treat children, how to support female relations in bad times, how to receive the greatness of his country, the evidence for the existence of God, what knowledge is, and whether goodness can be taught. He had all the right intentions and all he wanted was to make people realize was their capacity of logical solutions to the level of their capacity. All the cross-questioning, which seemed so tiresome, so negative, had a positive purpose. Here is his own description of it: “I spend my whole life in going about and persuading you all to give your first and chiefest care to the perfection of your souls, and not till you have done that to think of your bodies, or your wealth; and telling you that virtue does not come from wealth, but that wealth and every other good thing which men have, whether in public or in private, comes from virtue. ” (Portrait of Socrates, 1979) Socrates, he is the questioner, the tester, the man who finds it intolerable to lead an uncritisized life or disillusionment or annoyance with human stupidity but from positive beliefs. Definitely,

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the positive aim of these cross-examinations is clear. Socrates did not teach by preaching or appealing to the emotions, but as a lawyer with a witness, he tried by questions to bring truth to light. If we asked him today why he would use that method, he would probably say: ” I want to clear people’s minds of error and lead them to see things as they really are. How can a man do what is right, unless he knows what is right?” (portrait) The people that knew Socrates always had no doubt that Socrates was in the right frame of

mind and that he was thinking very logically. This is why his intentions were never questioned because of the obvious, free-of-charge regard for philosophy.

Specifically, Socrates considered the question of how we know which actions were morally right or pious, and he opposes to the suggestion that the approval of the gods is what makes right actions right. In the Euthypro, shows Socrates engaged in an important conversation with a young man. Finding Euthypro confident Socrates asks him to define what “piety” really is but every answer Euthypro offers is subjected to the full force of Socrate’s critical thinking, until nothing remains. (Internet/Crito) “Is an action loved by the gods because it is pious or is it pious because it is loved by gods?” (p.25,11b)

The principles that he used when teaching others were the same throughout his life and he committed himself to those ideas. 1) We should attend to some opinions but not others

(46d); to the good opinions of the wise, not bad opinions of the foolish. (47a). 2) Not life,

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but a good life is to be valued, just and honorable life (48b). 3) Never injure anyone. Injuring people, even in return for injury, is always evil (49bd). This is ” the basis of our deliberation”. 4) One should fulfill one’s just agreements with others (49e). He is a man of morals and strong opinions always in a justice fair way.

At the age of seventy, there were accusations against Socrates by Meletus, a young man and minor poet who wrote tragedies and whom alone of the accusers can be visualized by a hooked nose, long hair, and a beard. Accusations that perplexed many acquaintances, colleagues, and peers and at the same time took everything away from Socrates’ dignity and truth. These accusations were taken to court and the claims by Meletus; 1) Socrates was corrupting the youth. In his teachings, Socrates is stating in a round about way that one, if you are to choose your teachers for our youth, choose them wisely. A good teacher knows that he does not know everything. In his defense, he’s not corrupting the youth or he was doing it unknowingly. 2) Socrates was denying the traditional gods of the city. Socrates was saying that, they were accusing him of not believing in gods, but they admit that he believes in spirits and to believe in spirits one must believe in gods. 3) Socrates is introducing new gods into the city. Socrates confirms that he believed in gods because of the above statements. However, Socrates never once

said that he believed in the “traditional gods”. We are now understanding that Socrates is

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very committed to philosophy and to the people of his town and also that he has been very truthful with others because that is what he is trying to teach; truth and virtue. Can they both be taught?

In the trial when Socrates has a chance to defend himself, his responses did not seem to be very serious to his accusers. I believe that Socrates was primarily interested in promoting the importance of the philosophical way of life and cared nothing or little about his own acquittal. So Socrates constructed two very similar arguments by responding to his ” first ” accuser and then to his actual prosecutors. He was seeking to show that he was not guilty of any wrongdoing that had been specified. Yet during the trial (30c2-31c3) Socrates offers the jury a new reason for realing him. He pleads, ” not for myself, as one might think, but for you, that you do not err utterly regarding this gift of the god by voting against me” (30d5-e1) He believes that humans who do injustice really are doing injustice to themselves. They are ruining their own soul. They are not being true to themselves as he states ” Know well that if you kill me, being the sort of person I say I am, you will not injure me more than you injure yourself.” This definitely shows the idea of Socrates looking at the truth and how people perceive it. He simply wanted humans to be true to themselves like he has been all along. After his hard work all

these years, teaching his teachings, and wanting to progress with his students, he didn’t

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charge them a dime and committed his own time and efforts for them.

Socrates primary defense is that he had lived a life of exemplary service to care for virtue. But because Socrates never pursued a life in the political area this stuck in the minds of the jurors for his credibility. Then Socrates began to answer this doubt

concerning his moral integrity. His answer had three main parts. 1) Each time he had resolved to undertake political activity, his daimonion had opposed him (31c7-d5). 2) Though the opposition of the daimonion does not come with a built in explanation, Socrates believed that the opposition is a good thing because he was convinced that ‘one who fights for what is just, if he is to preserve his life for even a little time, must live as a private man and not lead a public life. 3) Finally, lest anyone think that his lack of political activity is a sign that he has simply acted out of fear for his life, Socrates offered the jury “great proofs” of his fearless pursuit of morality in the face of great danger. (Socrates On Trial, 1998) We do know that Socrates positively considered himself true and he wouldn’t let anyone else tell him otherwise and he continued to obey his own virtue and that is to be happy.

Socrates after being found guilty of corrupting the youth, awaited his death sentence in jail. One of his close friends Crito came to visit him. Crito’s intention for his visit was to persuade Socrates to escape from his wrongful sentence. Crito explained to Socrates that he felt obliged to help him escape and had a method of escape planned

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already. Crito also tells Socrates that he would felt guilty for not helping him escape essentially and letting him die in that jail cell. Crito also felt that the public would think he was greedy if he did not spend the money to help Socrates. All of his friends always had faith in Socrates doing the right thing. Crito did everything possible to convince Socrates to escape from jail but Socrates rejected every proposal made by Crito. One of the reasons why Socrates felt compelled to accept his sentence is due to the persuasion or obeisance of the code of Athens. Socrates believed that it was immoral for him to escape his sentence because he had accepted the city’s laws all his life and when given a chance to leave the city, he refused. I totally agree with that idea because if he did escape or move to another city what kind of message would he be sending his peers. He would be telling them that all of his ideas and believes really had no meaning to him and that all this time his search for the truth was just a big lie. The city of Athens believed that each and one of the citizens always had the option of leaving the city and moving elsewhere. The city believed that if someone did not feel comfortable living with certain aspects of the city like the laws, traditions or other things, then they were free to leave. Socrates lived there for seventy years of his life and his he showed that he agreed with how the city was being run. As a result of the freedom that Athens felt each citizen could have persuaded to change the city or obey what the city decided. Socrates being very outspoken as he was, had plenty of time over his seventy years to persuade the city to

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reform those things, which he dislike. Although Crito realizing that Socrates believed that he needed to honor this “obey of code”, still tried to convince Socrates that he was unjustly sentenced and his escape would not effect his city.

Socrates disagreed just like me because he knew that breaking the agreement was setting a bad example, which would in turn, effect the city. He made me realize that all those years that he spent fighting for other people’s wisdom and their search for the truth was very noble and morally strong. He did not charge anyone for his teachings, he never asked for anything in return, so what difference would it make now for him to have a hidden agenda for spending time with the youth. Unless he was a good person and he only meant well. He wanted to show people life was better if you did not value material things by not valuing them himself. I feel that by escaping his sentence he would be conveying a totally opposite message, the one he had tried to convey all these years, and that is laws of Athens were unjust. The reason I feel that there should be no room for sympathy nor mercy is because Socrates was well aware of what he was doing and what was waiting for him down the road. It was not physically impossible for Socrates to escape, but it was morally wrong. During the apology he refused to leave the city, and chose to face the death sentence instead. Then there was no way out and since he fought the jury until they gave him a death penalty, there was no question he was going to be put

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to death and this was the path he chose. He once stated that ” If an action is unjust, it should be avoided even if it causes some undesirable side effects. ” The reason I refer to this quote is because I think Socrates was trying to say that he must not attempt an escape although an execution was already awaiting for him.

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Bibliography

References:

Smith, D. N., & Brickhouse C. T. (1989). Socrates On Trial. Princeton New Jersey: Princeton University Press

Livingstone, R. W. (1979) Portrait of Socrates. Oxford: Oxford Clarendon Press

Internet:

Socrates/Crito ( 1998, February 18)

Notes/phil271 ( 1997, March )


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