For many years Socrates was an adorable teacher and a well-known philosopher in Athens. However, one of his speeches had an unexpected result on his career and life. At the age of nearly seventy years Socrates was sent to the prison by a court jury of 501 Athens’ citizens. He was accused in atheism, which was mentioned in one of his speeches. At that time the punishment for such a crime was an execution to death. So, Socrates was sent to the jail to wait for his death.
While the philosopher was in the prison at the small Aegean island of Delos, his friends tried to convince him to escape and to rescue his life. However, all their attempts were absolutely unsuccessful. One episode of such dialogues is now known as Plato’s “Crito”. All arguments, that were used to persuade Socrates, were friendly emotional and therefore, they were easily refuted by Socrates. For example, his friend had mentioned many times that Socrates’ death would be a huge loss for all his friends and relatives, especially for his sons. Howsoever, Socrates knew, that he is far not young man and to be executed for his verity would let him to stay in the history for ages. Thus, this argument was not reasonable enough for him.
Even the statement, that a bad opinion of others will affect his sons’ lives and behavior in society did not convince Socrates. He refuted this argument with the following proof: ”should we follow the opinion of the many and fear it, or that of the one, if there is one, who has knowledge of these things” (Plato, Crito, 47) Although, Socrates did not respect the opinion of many but only the view of the one, who has knowledge, we still could use his statement to persuade him. He was highly respected philosopher and commonly recognized as the wisest person in Athens, so he should have followed his own dogmas and believes. In this situation he was exactly “the one, who has knowledge”. Considering his defense speech, which is now known from Plato’s “Apology”, we can see, that Socrates was absolutely against those arguments, which were used to incriminate him. Moreover, he was trying to proof, that his teaching was not harmful but more about looking for a real faith and truth. So, if Socrates believed so strongly in his doctrines, he should have left the jail, as there were no reasons to stay there – he was not guilty.
We can also see in the “Crito’s” dialogue that Socrates’ friend had told for many times how sorry he is to lose his friend, just to see his friend in the jail, to feel how scary it could be to wait for the execution. Without a doubt, it is extremely great to feel that all friends are empathy to the person’s feeling. However, for Socrates to know that his thoughts, which are actually the reason of his imprisoning, were supported and appreciated more than his physical life. As he has mentioned, his life is only the physical shell (Plato, Crito, 48) Any way, Socrates is a source of a great knowledge and unique ideas. Without his physical presence, we would not be able to enjoy his teaching. Therefore, his physical life was priceless at that moment.
Socrates had spent so many time and effort to bring all this knowledge to the society. He did all of that with no specific education or social role. On the way to cognize the veracity he had made many significant findings and observations, but many questions still were not answered for him. In this purpose, Socrates should not stop on the half of the way to his goal.
He had got a great chance to make his own decision on his future being. The option was to choose the freedom and to follow his way on enriching philosophy, either to accept the choice of the many, who, actually, were not as wise as Socrates. One of the main reasons why he chose the death, was that he wanted to show how law-abiding he was. However, by this Socrates accepted the willing of many, the point, that was so contradictive with his statements. During his speeches, Socrates for many times emphasized on the importance of human knowledge and willing to make his or her own decisions and conclusions. The decision of his imprisoning was made only by a small group of 500 people, but that is much less than the number of Socrates’ followers. Therefore, all these men just did not get a chance to represent their point of view. Thus, Socrates should not accept that verdict as the judgment of the majority. Escaping from the jail would show how unfair and imperfect the court jury was. And that could attract more attention to this case. And that could change the court’s judgment.
One of the Socrates’ biggest threats was to live behind the back of the person, who would help him to run away from the jail, as for each and every human the most valuable thing is his or her freedom. When the escape would be announced, Socrates could not live well, but that was one of his mail states. For his opinion, the person should live well, otherwise, the life will not be for pleasure. (Plato, Crito, 48) Socrates was always teaching that we should sacrifice our material wishes and prosperity in order to improve our inner world. Therefore, we should have asked Socrates to follow his statement and sacrifice his welfare behavior for the great purpose – to share his knowledge and to keep teaching people.
Socrates was one of the first philosophers whose study was oriented more on the human’s peculiarities than on the universe structure. Therefore, one of his aims was to state and conclude the major purpose of the human’s life. On his way to this research, Socrates has declared that men’s knowledge should always being developed. And everyone should first of all study and see into himself. If we know our strength and weakness, we can strive ourselves in order to be better. Thus we might have asked him to study his own scares and to gain them, and to start looking forward into his future, not back into his long past way.
But, even despite of all these reasonable statements, he was imprisoned as per court jury’s decision. When he had got into the jail, he refused to use a great chance – to be rescued from the execution by escaping. Despite of all his friends’ attempts Socrates stated that he was not afraid of death just because he still wanted to be a loyal citizen of Athens. He accepted his death by poisoning.
Till now we have many questions regarding this Socrates decision, as we know very little about that. However, those evidences, which are mentioned in the “Crito”, written by Socrates’ student – Plato, bring us to many thoughts on what could be done to rescue the Great philosopher and whether he actually needed that escape.
One of the main aims of the dialogue of Crito and Socrates could be just to make us keep thinking. As according to Socrates’ teaching thinking and increasing our knowledge is one of the ways to study the Universe.
Plato. Apology. Trans. G.M.A Grube. The Trial and Death of Socrates. Ed. John M. Cooper. 3rd Ed. Indianapolis: Hackett, 2000. 20-42. Print.
Plato. Crito. Trans. G.M.A Grube. The Trial and Death of Socrates. Ed. John M. Cooper. 3rd Ed. Indianapolis: Hackett, 2000. 43-54. Print.