24 October 2007
On the Crito
In Plato’s Crito, Crito attempts to persuade Socrates to flee from his death sentence. However, Crito fails because Socrates presents a counter argument which invalidates much of Crito’s original pleas. Despite this, a fallacy of justice may have been created. Even so, the Republic’s conception of justice seems to have little impact on Socrates’ existing ideas on justice.
The first argument presented is the fact that the majority will look down upon Crito and others for not preventing Socrates death; they will find it to be a “shameful thing both for you and for us” because it seems “that [Crito] let the opportunity slip because of some vice, such as cowardice” (46a). Another reason which he presents to Socrates is that Crito and the others are “justified in running the risk” of “further penalty” for helping him to flee from execution” (44e). While Socrates says that he fears for them, Crito goes on to elaborate that even the sum of money to help him escape is overall “not large” (45a). He expounds further that people are willing to support him wherever he might go (45c). Next, Crito goes on to mention Socrates two sons; Crito feels that by being executed when there is a possibility to escape, he is “betraying those sons” (45c), that “one ought to see their upbringing and education through to the end” (45d). Overall, Crito feels that Socrates would be “throwing away [his] life”, which would ultimately set him in his enemies own wishes instead of his own (45c).
Socrates starts his counter arguments by stating that he cannot just start rejecting the arguments that he had stated before just because of his current, unfortunate situation (46b). Because of this, he begins an examination of the arguments presented by Crito. Socrates states that the majority’s opinion is not what matters because it is not well informed, but rather it is the opinion of “the person who understands just and unjust things” (48a) that is the most valid opinion to follow. To conclude this section of his argument, Socrates proposes that “the most important thing isn’t living, but living well”, which he says is the same as living justly (48b). So, by this logic, the concerns that Crito had should be determined just or unjust for Socrates to escape when he had not been acquitted. Socrates reasons that “doing injustice in any circumstances is bad” and therefore “one should never do injustice” (49b), “no matter what one has suffered at [injustice’s] hands” (49c). He further explains through his use of the Laws that violating the contract of the city (his “deeds” within it [52d]) is only going to undermine the laws in such a way that he would indeed be held to his original charges of corruption (53c). He concludes his argument by stating that in the afterlife, Socrates will have “all this to offer as [his] defense to the authorities there” (54b).
Overall, these arguments that Socrates puts forth are generally sound. However, one overarching theme that could be debated is the conception of being just by submitting to the laws. In many ways, it could be said that Martin Luther King Jr. by resisting the unjust established laws he was himself being unjust and would ultimately end up leading to a worse society. It seems obvious, however, that his actions made a positive difference to the world. Perhaps if Socrates resisted, he could have changed the unjust laws to make them just in such a way the city more just. Crito may have been right when he said that Socrates was giving in – his full potential would ultimately never be realized.
If one was to attempt to define the justness of Socrates actions here by using Plato’s Republic, then it may seem that there may be a series of different arguments for justice. However, it is my own conclusion that none of the arguments for the definition of justice in the Republic would really influence Socrates in the slightest. After all, Socrates has already said he would not reject any previous arguments, all of which made in Crito are to be considered previous arguments, so it could be inferred that Plato, as the writer of the Crito, used his ideas of justice as the foundation for the dialog and eventually the Republic. Even the case of supplementary information, justice is explained in part in the Republic as “doing one’s own work” (433b). Socrates indeed did his own work and was just, but this does not address justice in an unjust city where one’s own work might be considered to be unjust. Further, the three virtues of the soul, moderation, courageousness, and wisdom (435b), were also fulfilled to some extent. Even more, by the classes of the people in the city (435c-441c), it could be said that Socrates followed his class assignment in the just city, but this is not a correlation to Athens, a city with a different class structure. Largely, the expanded view of justice is just more refinement of the original view of justice presented all throughout Plato’s dialogs. Expanded or not, the base remains the same and so it follows that Socrates’ arguments against Crito are relatively the same, even in light of the Republic.
All said, Socrates arguments in response to Crito seem to be mostly plausible. Despite the world losing a skillful philosopher, at least the laws and justice of the city were upheld and Socrates therefore lived a just life, regardless of his sentence.