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For these two articles that we read in Crito and Apology by Plato, we could know Socrates is an enduring person with imagination, because he presents us with a mass of contradictions: Most eloquent men, yet he never wrote a word; ugliest yet most profoundly attractive; ignorant yet wise; wrongfully convicted, yet unwilling to avoid his unjust execution. Behind these conundrums is a contradiction less often explored: Socrates is at once the most Athenian, most local, citizenly, and patriotic of philosophers; and yet the most self-regarding of Athenians. Exploring that contradiction, between Socrates the loyal Athenian citizen and Socrates the philosophical critic of Athenian society, will help to position Plato's Socrates in an Athenian legal and historical context; it allows us to reunite Socrates the literary character and Athens the democratic city that tried and executed him. Moreover, those help us to understand Plato¡¦s presentation of the strange legal and ethical drama.
Plato's The Apology is an account of the speech. Socrates makes at the trial in which he is charged with not recognizing the gods recognized by the state, inventing new gods, and corrupting the youth of Athens. For the most part, Socrates speaks in a very plain, conversational manner. He explains that he has no experience with the law courts and that he will instead speak in the manner to which he is accustomed with honesty and directness. Socrates then proceeds to interrogate Meletus, the man primarily responsible for bringing Socrates before the jury. He strongly attacks Meletus for wasting the court¡¦s time on such absurd charges. He then argues that if he corrupted the young he did so unknowingly since Socrates believes that one never deliberately acts wrongly. If Socrates neither did not corrupt the young nor did so unknowingly, then in both cases he should not be brought to trial. The other charge is the charge of impiety. This is when Socrates finds an inconsistency in Meletus¡¦ belief that Socrates is impious. If he didn¡¦t believe in any gods then it would be inconsistent to say that he believed in spiritual things, as gods are a form of a spiritual thing. He continues to argue against the charges, often asking and answering his own questions as if he were speaking in a conversation with one of his friends. He says that once a man has found his passion in life it would be wrong of him to take into account the risk of life or death that such a passion might involve.
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In the article Crito, this dialogue takes a place in Socrates' prison cell, where he awaits execution. At this time, Socrates has many followers who hope he will agree to escape. When Crito, a friend of the philosopher, comes to advocate this position, Socrates logically refutes his argument. Socrates seems quite willing to await his imminent execution, and so Crito presents as many arguments as he can to persuade Socrates to escape. However, Socrates makes the point that it is always better to do right than wrong, no matter what the situation. It then follows that although the jurors who condemned Socrates have wronged him, it would still be wrong to violate the laws by escaping. He also explains to Crito that the citizen is bound to the laws like a child is bound to a parent, and so to go against the laws would be like striking a parent. Rather than simply break the laws and escape, Socrates should try to persuade the laws to let him go. These laws present the citizen's duty to them in the form of a kind of social contract. By choosing to live in Athens, a citizen is endorsing the laws, and is willing to follower by them. Therefore, if he was to break from prison now, having so consistently validated the social contract, he would be making himself an outlaw who would not be welcome in any other civilized state for the rest of his life. Furthermore when he dies, he will be harshly judged in the underworld for behaving unjustly toward his city's laws. In this way, Socrates chooses not to attempt escape but he dies as a martyr, not for himself, but for his city and its system of justice.
The argument in the Apology is that one should never betray one¡¦s own philosophy for any reason, even if the reason is death. Moreover, death should never be a deterrent to a man because no man has true knowledge of death, and ¡§surely it is the most blameworthy ignorance to believe that one knows what one does not know¡¨ (Plato 32). Socrates believes that we have no cause to fear death, and as stated in a previous quote, for the philosopher death was probably a more desirable state to be in than life because one could reason and contemplate the Forms without the hindrance of perception and the body. According to this sentence ¡§I am wiser than this man; it is likely that neither of us knows anything worthwhile¡K,¡¨ philosophers were people who pursued wisdom (Plato 25). Furthermore, according to Plato, the best way to do this was from the mind alone without the body. He believed that the state of one¡¦s soul was of the utmost importance because one¡¦s place in the afterlife and next life was determined by the state of their soul. Therefore, Socrates believes his philosophy, despite the opposition of the majority. It could be questioned if Socrates doesn¡¦t bring his persecution on himself, with the way that he questioned everything and everyone. It sometimes seems understandable that his fellow citizens would become intolerable of such a man, but never once does he apologize for his actions. He cares more for being a good and upright man than being popular with the people. He cares more for the pursuit of knowledge than the pursuit of success and wealth. And he cares more for the souls of himself and others, and when seen in that light, the failure of justice was on the part of those who did not accept him, not himself. Therefore, that¡¦s why he says ¡§let us reflect in this way, too, that there is good hope that death is a blessing, for it is one of two things: either the dead are nothing and have no perception of anything, or it is, as we are told, a change and a relocation for the soul from here to another place¡¨ (Plato 41).
The argument in Crito is a seventy-year-old Athenian philosopher who chooses to die for an ideal. According to this sentence ¡§¡KI am the kind of man who listens only to the argument that on reflection seems best to me. I cannot, now that this fate has come upon me, discard the arguments I used; they seen to me much the same," he has thoroughly his own decision to obey the opinions of the majority and serve out the sentence that his own city has deemed appropriate for his crimes (Plato 48). Moreover, he has also provided the concept that it is our society or majority that has dictated what is considered virtuous action. According to Socrates we have been given every opportunity to reject our society and renounce what it has stood for and against. "Not one of our laws raises any obstacle or forbids him, if he is not satisfied with us or the city, if one of you wants to go and live in a colony or wants to go anywhere else, and keep his property¡¨ (Plato 54). Socrates states that making a conscious choice or effort to remain under the influence of a society is an unconscious agreement with that society to live your life by its standards and virtues. Therefore, he finally chooses not to escape, because he has very carefully and thoughtfully consented to what his own city has deemed to be righteous and justified. His thoughts on his destiny were completely unselfish, as his only wishes were to preserve the society around him, which had accepted him and his family for so many years.
In consideration of those beliefs, I feel Socrates believes what he believe and follow the state law without fearing the death. He holds incredible respect for the laws which govern him and no deviance, be it great or small, would he permit. He would probably wrestle with the nature of the particular situation and debate the meaningfulness with friends, such as Crito perhaps, but ultimately would decide that even a peaceful opposition to his government would be inappropriate. Therefore, I strongly agree with his point --- believing in your own duty and your capacity to do public good by living as a dissident citizen in a democratic state.