Crito Essay, Research Paper
In the Last Days of Socrates the dialogue ?Crito? recounts Socrates last days before his
execution. Socrates had been accused of corrupting the youth and not worshipping the Gods
of the state. During his trial he denied all accusations and attempted to defend himself by
proving his innocence using reason . He was judged to be guilty and given a death sentence.
His long time friend Crito proposes to Socrates a plan to escape from his death sentence in
prison. Crito and Socrates argue the issue of escape with Socrates deciding on accepting his
I feel that in light of his beliefs Socrates was ethically correct in refusing to escape
from prison. It was important to Socrates that he have good reasons not only to motivate but
also to justify his actions. Socrates was concerned that his actions not only be good, but be just
and noble as well. He accepts that the verdict must be carried out, even if it was not reached
correctly because by accepting the laws of Athens he has obligated himself to accept the
verdict even if it is unjust.
Crito argued in favor of escape. He is concerned with the reputations of both
Socrates and his associates. Crito also feel life in itself is of absolute value. He uses these
points in favor of his argument: Escape was easy to manage and would not put his friends in
danger. If he refused Socrates friends? reputations would be tarnished for not aiding their
friend . To refuse would be a shameful display of cowardice. Socrates would be neglecting his
duties to his wife and children. Escape would allow Socrates to continue to philosophize
elsewhere. Socrates does not agree with these points, rather he rejects the proposal because to
escape is neither just nor is it good for him. It is not to his benefit to escape, because to
commit a wrong action would not be living well. Socrates tries to use reason rather than
emotion and the opinions and values of others to determine whether an action is right or
Socrates notes that some opinion is right and some is wrong, it is better
to respect the opinion of the expert few than that of the popular majority. ? My dear
Crito, why should we pay so much attention to what ?most people? think? The most
sensible people. who have more claim to be considered, will believe that things have
been done exactly as they have.? 44c The opinion of the many cannot do the greatest
harm to an individual ( make him unjust ) and so it follows they cannot do the greatest
good either ( make him just). Life would not be worth living with an unhealthy body,
it would be even worse with an unhealthy (unjust) soul. Life in itself is not of great
value, but living a good life is. To Socrates a good life is one lived in just and moral
manner. ? I should like you to consider whether we still agree on this point: that the
really important thing is not to live, but to live well. …to live well amounts to the same
thing as to live honorably and justly? 48b To Socrates justice dictates the health of the
soul and so he would follow the orders of justice in the manner as which he would
follow a doctors orders for his physical health. What is important is whether it is just
or unjust to escape while enlisting the help of others in doing this. ?shall we be acting
justly in paying money and showing gratitude to these people who are going to rescue
me, and in escaping or arranging the escape ourselves, or shall we really be acting
unjustly in doing all this? If it becomes clear that such conduct is unjust, I cannot help
thinking that the question whether we are sure to die, or to suffer any other ill-effect
for that matter, if we stand our ground and take no action, ought not to weigh with us
at all in comparison with the risk of acting unjustly.? 48d
Socrates seeks to establish whether an act like this one would be
just and morally justified. To intentionally commit a wrong act would to be damaging
to the souls of all involved. Even acting in retaliation to an injustice would be causing
injury to the soul because one would be consciously committing a wrong doing.
?Whatever the popular view is, and whether the consequence is pleasanter than this or
even tougher, the fact remains that to commit injustice is in every case bad and
dishonorable for the person who does it.? 49b Socrates has accepted by tactic
agreement the laws of Athens. He has not left the city in his seventy years and has
benefited by the laws and customs of the state such as marriage and education. By
failing to convince the jury of his innocence he is now obligated to obey the laws ruling.
Socrates accepted that verdicts must be carried out, regardless of the fact that they
were not reached correctly. By accepting the laws he obliged himself to accept the
verdict even if it is unjust, it was not the laws at fault, but the judgment of the citizens.
Escaping prison is acting in retaliation towards the laws of justice. ?Do you imagine
that a city can continue to exist and not be turned upside down, if the legal judgments
which are pronounced in it have no force but are nullified and destroyed by private
persons?? 50b Breaking of the laws creates the destruction of the legal system, it is a
unjust and morally unacceptable act. Therefore he chose to accept his death penalty.
Escape would mean an end to Socrates life in the only sense that mattered to him. He
would be betraying his sense of justice.
If Socrates escapes he will be breaking out of justice into a life of
injustice. This to him would be the ultimate prison. He does not fear death, in fact he
feels his soul will be freed by it. Socrates answers Critos arguments by reassessing his
issues from a moral standpoint instead of one of physical advantage and reputation.
Crito tells Socrates ? you might of saved yourself? but Socrates feels he has chosen to
save himself. He has chosen to save his soul which is more important than physical life.
Crito?s argument is ruled by emotion while Socrates is controlled by reason. We see in
the beginning of the dialogue that Crito comes upon Socrates sleeping while he himself
is unable to sleep. ?I only wish I were not so sleepless and depressed myself. I have
been marveling at you all along, seeing how sweetly you were sleeping…..I have often
felt throughout my life how fortunate you are in the way you handle things, but I feel it
more than ever now in your present misfortune when I see how easy it is for you to
take it calmly. 43b Crito is distraught by his friends impending death, while Socrates
sleeps dreaming peacefully of an afterlife. Socrates is not affected by the situation in
the manner that Crito is. He seems to be the one who is free while Crito is imprisoned
by his emotions, view of public opinions and fear of death. Crito is trying to save
Socrates life, while Socrates is trying to show him how to save his soul.
Socrates was a man of strong beliefs. He valued the state of his soul as being much more
important than physical life. He lived his life ruled by justice and morals rather than emotion. He
would not commit an act deemed to be unjust, even if it was in retaliation to an unjust act
because this would mar his soul. He did not fear death or physical harm, what he feared was
acting unjustly, causing spiritual harm. Although he was wrongly accused he felt obligated to
accept the ruling of the jury. By remaining in Athens he tactically accepted the laws of Athens.
The laws are just and to disobey them would be unjust. In view of his beliefs of living a jut
?good? life I feel Socrates was ethically correct by refusing to escape from prison.