SOCRATES AND CRITO What would you do if you were unjustly accused and had a chance to escape?
Crito’s reasons for why Socrates should escape:
Reason #1: “I would lose a friend.” Is this a good reason to defy the laws?
Have you ever broken a law or rule to protect a friend, i.e. the honor code?
Reason #2: “People would not believe you refused to escape; they would think I was too cheap to get you out.”
If a wealthy person is accused of a crime, are the relatives criticized because they pay an expensive lawyer to get the accused off, or are they also criticized if they do not pay an expensive lawyer and the person is accused?
What does this tell you about respect for the laws of Athens at that time?
Crito thinks he is trying to save Socrates, but doesn’t his lack of respect for the laws lead to the very instability which caused Meletus to bring Socrates to court and the jurors to vote against him? Socrates was accused of undermining the laws and institutions of Athens because he made all the authorities account for their actions. But here the roles are reversed: Socrates really respects the laws of Athens and Crito and other “respectable” citizens expect the laws to be ignored.
We have a President who broke the law and many of the citizens don’t seem to care; we also have a presidential candidate who worked for tougher drug laws and yet he was silent when asked if he used illegal drugs. Again, the citizens don’t seem to care. Who will stand up for the legal system, from either political party? Does it matter that the citizens don’t expect their presidents to abide by the laws?
Reason #3: If you are worried that your friends might get into trouble, we are willing to take the risk for your sake.
Is this real courage, to be willing to help your friend escape the laws?
When we find out that a politician’s supporters risk going to jail or other personal losses because they defend the politician’s illegal or immoral behavior, are we supposed to admire those supporters? (This goes for Clinton supporters and George W. Bush supporters or Richard Nixon supporters; this is a bipartisan issue, and goes beyond politics, also.)
Reason #4: There are other places you can go and live where people will accept you.
This is false, both at Socrates’ time and now. There is nowhere to run.
Reason #5: You are playing into the hands of your enemies.
Do the Democrats refuse to give in because it is “playing into the hands” of the Republicans? Do the Republicans refuse to give in because it is “playing into then hands” of the Democrats?
Do you ever get defensive about something you did that might be questionable and someone you don’t like believes is questionable because you just don’t want to admit “they” are right?
Reason #6: You are betraying your children. If you have children, you should be responsible and keep yourself alive to provide for them, financially and emotionally. They will be orphans.
Do you think that as soon as anyone has a child he/she should never do anything to criticize the social order or the people in power because they might end up publicly humiliated, jailed or even killed and then they would not be able to raise their children? Do children resent their parents for having the courage of their convictions if it leads to jail or death or public humiliation, or do they admire their parents for having the courage of their convictions?
Would you be critical or your parents or proud of them for standing up for what they believe, even if it involves some risk?
What does it mean to be a responsible parent?
SOCRATES’ RESPONSE TO CRITO
Response #1: A good person does not worry what “they” think, whoever “they” is. A good person only asks, “What is the right thing to do?” and is guided by reason, by the capacity we have to understand good and evil.
Response #2: A good person will never allow reason, our ability to understand good and evil and act on the basis of what we understand, to be corrupted by pressure from others. Not mere life, but the good life, meaning an examined life, is the life worth living.
Response #3: A good person never does wrong intentionally. A good person might think he or she is acting well and decide later that the action was not the best one in the situation, but a good person will never act against what he or she believes is wrong at the time he or she has to act.
Response #4: A good person will never injure anyone. This includes retaliating, or injuring someone else as a response to being injured by him/her.
Response #5: A good person living in a democracy recognizes the following truths:
a) Human beings need a system of law and order to survive. Marriage, family and property all have to be regulated to prevent social chaos.
b) The more “developed” or “civilized” a society, the more it needs social institutions and laws. Societies that educate their citizens depend on more laws and institutions than societies that do not. Democratic societies need to educate their citizens to become rulers so they need to give them a high quality education. Hence democratic societies must provide their citizens with many laws and institutions.
c) In a democratic society, people are free to leave at any time. No one has to stay. ‘Whoever chooses to stay, however, must abide by the laws and the decisions of how the laws apply made by judges and juries.
d) In a democratic society, when someone is accused of breaking the laws he or she has a chance to defend him/herself before a judge or jury. When someone is found guilty, however, she or he must abide by the decision.
Reason #1: I would lose a friend.
You will always remember me, and you will remember me as someone who followed reason and lived by his principles.
Reason #2: “People will think I was too cheap to get you out.”
It doesn’t matter what people think. It matters what is right.
Reason #3: We, your friends, are willing to risk getting into trouble for you.
We will all be perceived as irresponsible and self-centered hypocrites.
Reason #4: There are other places you can go.
No, there are not. If I go to a well-run city, I will be discovered and sent back to Athens, humiliated. If I go to a poorly-run city like Thessaly, the people will accept me, but they will tell my children I am a lawbreaker and they will be poor role models for my children because they are self-indulgent and undisciplined.
Reason #5: You are playing into the hands of the enemies.
But I would be playing into the hands of the enemy anyway. If I abide by the decision, they will say I finally admitted I deserved it. If I run away, they will say I really was a lawbreaker and hypocrite.
Reason #6: You are betraying your children.
This is what I feel worst about. I want to raise them, but I cannot. I am asking you, as my true friends, to raise them for me. Tell them how I died and why I refused to escape. I only hope they will understand. There was nowhere to go to raise them well. This is what friends are for.
Write a 250-word essay which answers the question: Do you agree with Socrates or not? Why?
Assuming any of us could be convicted of a crime unjustly at any time, what would you do? Which of these arguments seem most convincing? What can you do to lower the chances that you, or anyone, is unjustly convicted? What can you do to raise the possibility that you or your friends would be convicted unjustly? (You don’t have to write about this, just think about it.)