Socrates sentencing had been delayed for a month presenting to Crito a good opportunity to advise Socrates to escape when the ship, that was at Delos arrived. Crito made several attempts to convince Socrates to escape into exile since it was a common practice in Athens. The Athenians would not mind since they wanted Socrates to leave the city. In this paper, Crito’s arguments made to Socrates are analyzed first, followed by Socrates responses and ultimate decision.
Crito held that he would have lost such a dear friend should Socrates be killed. He proceeded to explain that he would accuse him for not saving his friend for the love of money (being stingy). Crito implored Socrates by informing him that he should consider the opinion of the many; who expected him to escape. He attempted to convince Socrates that it was indeed possible to escape, and that it was easy.
Crito argued that there was enough money and the people could be bribed easily and cheaply. He also informed him that there were strangers who were willing to help in the escape. He further stated that they (friends of Socrates) would not be affected by his escape. Crito proceeded to inform Socrates that he had friends in Thessaly who would take care of him.
Crito proceeds to argue further that, it is wrong to forsake the life when one can save it; it is equivalent to committing suicide by not escaping from a foreseeable death. He persuaded Socrates by informing him that it was wrong to betray his sons by accepting to face death, and he would leave them without anyone to take care of them.
Socrates responded to all those persuasions in the following way. Socrates reminds Crito that he has led a life where his actions have followed reason. All what he did was a matter of enquiry that led him to the belief of what ought to be done. Therefore, Socrates opined that he would not act in impulse, for doing so would ruin all what he had lived for his entire life. He did not want to rationalize his escape. Socrates informed Crito that should he take his advice and escape, it should be consistent with all what he believed. Consistent in self-words, he dismissed Critos talk as cheap.
Socrates requires Crito to establish a common ground to establish what ought to be done. This is what is called dialectical rationality that proceeds from the known to unknown. This way, both could establish what the best course of action was. Crito had attempted to convince Socrates on the opinion of the majority.
Socrates required him to establish what opinion was their concern, any opinion or a good opinion. Good opinions are likely not being found in crowds, specialists and thus the opinion of the majority would not be of concern to both of them. One is not supposed to do wrong regardless whether the majority thinks so.
On forsaking life, Socrates argued that it was not life itself that was valuable, but a good life that one ought to strive to achieve. He reminded Crito that certain things are worth dying for; he implied justice is one such thing. He claimed it would be better to stay true to one’s beliefs than to stay alive by giving all one’s ideals away. He also explained that one is not supposed to be greedy in life at all cost. Escaping to go and live a life of refuge leaving behind all the others is akin to selfishness in life. Therefore, his life would not be a quality life in exile and thus it should not be saved by escaping.
Socrates imagined that by escaping, he would be met by the laws at the city gates; he would be destroying the laws by making them be subject to his discretion that is wrong. The laws must be independent of personal desires. If he escaped, he would be destroying the laws to which he agreed to obey. He would also be breaking the agreement-the agreement that he signed to follow the laws of the society.
In 29c-e, the Socrates argues that if he is acquitted just because Anytus said that he was not supposed to have been brought into trial at all, or since he had already been put in trial, he should certainly be put to death. He added that if he were acquitted, their sons would utterly be ruined by practicing what he taught; he was replied to that he was to be let go on condition that he stopped investigating philosophy, and if caught doing so, he should be put to death.
He refused to be let go on such grounds and opted to press on. He claimed he would rather obey god than the people. He proposed that he should be cross examined to check whether he had virtues, and if not, and then be scornful. Socrates believed that it was right to oppose the judgments passed by the society’s law enforcers, and choose to follow one’s convictions.
In contrast, in 51a-c, Socrates claimed that one should not retaliate in the face of the laws of the country. This statement was in contrast since he had refused the judgment that he had been made; to be let go and not practice philosophy. He had held that he would pursue his discourses regardless of the laws of the country since that was the epitome of wisdom.
He contrasted by stating that, one should not retaliate in the laws of the country even if they were to destroy one, and that doing so would destroy the country that is more precious and should be revered as so and be held in higher esteem among gods, men of understanding than one’s mother, father and all one’s ancestors.
The country’s decisions, however, destructive they could be ought to be obeyed in courts, battle fields and everywhere. This is the same country decision Socrates refused to obey and held that men of wisdom have to be respected in the previous text (29c-e). Crito agrees to this; the laws of the country are to be followed since they speak the truth.
Socrates should be able to consistently have a common ground that is based on his principles that he claimed to belief. He ought not to have contradicted himself in the two texts since this puts him in the contradiction of his beliefs that he lived for a course and his actions do follow certain principles that he believed were right.
Plato. Plato in Twelve Volumes, Vol. 1 translated by Harold North Fowler; Introduction by W.R.M. Lamb. Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. 1966.