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Socrates And Crito Essay, Research Paper

The dialogue Crito, by Plato, recounts the last days of Socrates, immediately

before his execution was going to take place in Athens. In the dialogue,

Socrates? friend, Crito, proposes that Socrates escape from prison. Socrates

considers this proposal, trying to decide if escaping would be ?just? and

?morally justified.? Eventually, Socrates concludes that the act is

considered ?unjust? and ?morally unjustified.? Socrates decides to

accept his death penalty and execution. Socrates was a man who would pursuit

truth in all matters (Kemerling 1999). In his refusal to accept exile from

Athens or a commitment to silence as a penalty, he takes the penalty of death

and is thrown into prison. While Socrates is awaiting his execution, many of his

friends, including Crito, arrive with a foolproof plan for his escape from

Athens to live in exile voluntarily. Socrates calmly debates with each friend

over the moral value and justification of such an act. ?…people who do not

know you and me will believe that I might have saved you if I had been willing

to give money, but that I did not care.? -Crito (Plato 569) Crito believed

that by helping Socrates to escape, he could go on to fulfill his personal

obligations. Also, if Socrates does not follow the plan, many people would

assume that his friends did not care about him enough to help him escape or that

his friends are not willing to give their time or money in order to help him.

Therefore, Crito goes on to argue that Socrates ought to escape from the prison.

After listening to Crito?s arguments, Socrates dismisses them as irrelevant to

a decision about what action is truly right. ?Now you, Crito, are not going to

die to-morrow-…-and therefore you are disinterested and not liable to be

deceived by the circumstances in which you are placed.? -Socrates (Plato 571)

In the arguments that Socrates makes, what other people think does not matter.

The only opinions that should matter are the ones of the individuals that truly

know. ?The truth alone deserves to be the basis for decisions about human

action, so the only proper approach is to engage in the sort of careful moral

reasoning by means of which one may hope to reveal it? (Kemerling 1999).

According to Socrates, the only opinion that he is willing to consider would be

that of the state. ?…if you go forth, returning evil for evil, and injury

for injury,…we shall be angry with you while you live, and our brethren, the

laws in the world below, will receive you as an enemy; for they will know you

have done your best to destroy us.? -Socrates (Plato 577) Socrates? argument

moves from one of a general moral decision to the morality of his specific case.

He basically says: -One ought never to do wrong, -But it is always wrong to

disobey the state, -Therefore, one ought never to disobey the state (Kemerling

1999) Since avoiding the sentence handed down by the jury would be disobeying

the state, Socrates decides not to escape. Socrates chose to honor his

commitment to truth and morality, even though it cost him his life. One of the

main arguments made by Socrates, ?Think not of life and children first, and of

justice afterwards, but of justice first…For neither will you nor any that

belong to you be happier or holier or juster in this life, or happier in

another, if you do as Crito bids.? -Socrates (Plato 577), is one of the most

important and crucial in the Crito dialogue. Socrates provides a very convincing

argument of why he should not escape from the Athenian prison. He states that if

he does as Crito suggests and escapes, it will not be justifiable nor true.

Although his family and friends will be much happier if he escapes, he will not

follow the justice or moral code of the state in which he was born and raised.

Socrates also gives the idea that if he were to escape, his family and friends

would be happy for him, but their fellow citizens and their state in which they

reside would not. The government and citizens of the state may take their

frustration of this injustice out on the friends and family of Socrates. In this

argument, Socrates believes that the state would say, ?think not of life and

children first, and of justice afterwards?(Plato 566). He says this as a

counter-argument to statement made by Crito saying that he should think of the

children that he would be abandoning by not escaping. Crito said that he should

escape and raise and teach his children, instead of keeping his penalty.

Socrates? statement instead comes from the other end, where he should not

think of his children first, but of the truth and morality of the state in which

his children will live and grow. If he does escape, the state will lose some of

that morality, and his children will be looked down upon. Also, his children

will not receive the same kind of justice that they may have gotten if he had

not escaped. Justice seemed to be a very important factor to Socrates, and is

part of his pursuit of truth for all matters. Justice and truth, in the Crito

dialogue, go hand-in-hand. Without truth, justice cannot prevail over the

wrongdoing in life. Socrates believed that it is always wrong to break an

agreement, and continuing to live his life voluntarily in the state of Athens,

constitutes disobedience against the state. He argues that obeying the state is

a requirement right up until death. He says that by not obeying the state that

he was raised in, is like not obeying his parents that raised him. Socrates was

a man who chose his commitment to truth, morality and philosophy over life. He

had a great commitment to his state, therefore by disobeying it, he would be

committing suicide in a sense. If Socrates had disobeyed his state, he would

never be allowed to enter it again, nor would any other allow him to live

peacefully. His arguments throughout the whole dialogue were very strong and

made sense. Socrates looked out for his state, while Crito?s arguments were

based on himself and how others would view him. Socrates? conclusion to stay

in the prison may have cost him his life, but saved the morality and truth of


Kemerling, Garth. ?Socrates: Philosophical Life?. 29 May 2000

. Stumpf, Samuel Enoch. ?Plato: The Problem of Intellectual and Moral

Consistency?. Philosophy:History & Problems. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1994.

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