Socrates Refusal Toflee Athens Essay, Research Paper
“Courage does not lie within an action, but within a person.” Socrates believed strongly in these words, but why would a man face his own death, especially when an option to avoid his demise is readily available?
During his Apology Socrates said; “For anything that man can tell, death may be the greatest good that can happen to them…” and continued by stating that he considered both conceivable states of death a gain. One which is an eternal night filled with peaceful rest, and the more common belief that one journeys to another place filled with great men and women free from judgement and with a great ease to converse with. Who would not enjoy such a fate?
Socrates had been offered exile as opposed to death for his crimes against the city, but in his apology Socrates had gloried death as opposed to exile, he preferred to choose death rather than be exiled from Athens. Socrates alluded that being exiled or escaping would be equivalent to receiving a lighter punishment, and that was not a justified consequence of the wrong doing.
While speaking with Crito, during Socrates’ portrayal of city officials who had learnt of the plans to escape, Socrates claimed that escaping would be seen as an attempt to destroy the city and the laws of the city. He questioned; could the city continue to exist if the decisions of the courts not respected and not forced. He reasoned that he was essentially a slave of Athens and had no right to retaliate against the city if the city felt the punishment was fitting. Socrates continued to argue that the city had raised him and educated him, all along allowing every man the option to leave if they felt the laws were unjust. But by staying in Athens, and seeing the way the city runs, and seeing how the city dispenses justice, Socrates states that he has no right to claim he had been wronged.
Had Socrates chosen to escape and flee Athens, in essence he would have been (unofficially) exiled from the city, and would have been no better off than had he chosen to be exiled in the first place. In addition word would have traveled quickly and the habitants of the surrounding city that Socrates had chosen to take up residence in, surely would have found out about his escape, and while they may not turn him in, they most certainly would be less trusting of him. He was after all a fugitive.
It is a possibility that Socrates would have suffered a similar fate wherever he decided to live, since in his Apology he said that if he were to be acquitted, he would not refrain from continuing his philosophy, thus begining the circle again.
Perhaps the most significant factor in Socrates’ refusal to flee from Athens was the “prophetic sign” that Socrates heard throughout his life. That divine voice that had followed him all through his life, warning him of things he was about to do which were not right, did not speak to him as he left his house the morning of his apology. Nor had it spoken to him as he was heading to the court, nor had it spoken to him at any point during his speech, and one could assume that it did not speak to him while he was detained in prison. The prophetic voice had not stopped Socrates from any of his actions and it had not stopped him from any of his words, and so Socrates concluded that facing his death and accepting his punishment was the good and virtuous thing to do.
So was Socrates right for facing up to his death, or should he has fled Athens to one of the surrounding cities? I don’t believe this situation lends itself to a right or wrong answer. If the right answer is the one with the most benefits over harms, then I believe that Socrates made the better choice.
By refusing to flee from Athens Socrates saved his friends, his family and his followers much hardship and great danger from the court of Athens. By facing his death Socrates most likely sacrificed himself for the good of Athens, it kept a structure to the judicial system. It’s evident that Socrates believed it was the will of God that he take the poison, and not escape from persecution. In choosing death over exile Socrates also stood firm in the lessons that he and his followers had learned through their conversations and sessions of questioning. Perhaps most importantly by deciding not to flee from Athens, Socrates remained true to his virtue.
All things mentioned and considered, Socrates said more with his death than he ever could have had he fled from Athens.