Though Socrates has been unjustly incarcerated, he refuses to escape due to his implied agreement with the Athenian legal system. This paper serves to argue that Socrates’ line of reasoning to Crito does not properly address actions committed under an unjust legal system.
In Plato’s Crito, the title character arrives to help Socrates break out of incarceration, but Socrates refuses. Crito made his most compelling argument by stating “I think you are betraying your sons by going away and leaving them, when you could bring them up and educate them” (45b-c). Crito later amended his argument by adding, “You seem to me to choose the easiest path, whereas one should choose the path a good and courageous man would choose, particularly when one claims throughout one’s life to care for virtue” (45d). From Crito’s claim of courage’s virtuosity, Socrates launches into his quasi-Social Contract theory where the actions of citizens and ordinances of the city benefit each other synergistically (54e), and it is more virtuous to follow the laws of one’s city then to break said laws (51b). This paper highlights a few fallacies that surround Socrates’ ideas about acting against unjust government.
A recurring theme in Crito is the definition of justice. Near the beginning of the dialogue, Crito states that Socrates needs to exit because “People who do not know you or me very well will think that I could have saved you if I were willing to spend money, but I did not care to do so” (44c). It is through that quote that the invalidity of public opinion is first addressed. Crito believes Socrates should escape, because the public opinion of Crito if he leaves without Socrates will be that Crito is cheap. Socrates approaches this point of ar...
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...e has extensive legal knowledge of his place of residence. For a legal code to be truly just, the citizens must be aware of all possible infractions and physically indicate their subscription to them. If a citizen were unknowingly to commit a crime, how could he be justly held accountable? Socrates should not be held accountable for his crime unless he consciously agreed to the laws and understood his action was illegal before it was undertaken.
Socrates’ acceptance of death can lend itself to multiple interpretations. At the beginning of the dialogue, Crito is surprised to find Socrates peacefully asleep with his death sentence approaching, but Socrates quoted to Crito that “It would not be fitting at my age to resent the fact I must die now” (43b). One must keep in mind that perhaps Socrates was simply ready to die, and that was his reason to not escape.
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