Socrates Argument In The Crito Essay

1118 words - 4 pages

Socrates argues in the Crito that he shouldn't escape his death sentence because it isn't just. Crito is distressed by Socrates reasoning and wishes to convince him to escape since Crito and friends can provide the ransom the warden demands. If not for himself, Socrates should escape for the sake of his friends, sons, and those who benefit from his teaching. Socrates and Crito's argument proceeds from this point.
As an aside, I would like to note that, though I believe that a further objection could be made to Socrates conclusions in “The Philosopher's Defense”, due to space considerations, I didn't write the fourth section “Failure of the Philosopher's Defense”.
I.Explanation of the Philospher's Argument
Socrates' response to Crito's question “Why don't you escape if I'll provide you the means?” is that the primary criterion for moral action is justice, and escaping would be unjust, so he should not escape. Socrates reasons that if he were to escape, this would break the system of law enforcement since avoiding punishment when a city has deemed it necessary makes the law ineffectual if there is no consequence for breaking it. He would be a 'destroyer' of the law (Crito, 51a), an injustice he does not wish to commit.
II.Objection to the Philosopher's Argument
Socrates concern that breaking the law would make law ineffectual is a valid one, but Crito would argue a more global perspective on Socrates' escaping: what are the net effects of Socrates accepting his death sentence? It would be a misfortune for all his friends, any people that benefit from his teaching, and he would be leaving his sons prematurely (Crito, 44c). Though Crito doesn't develop this point further, it could be easily extended: no one “benefits” from Socrates' death, at least from my perspective. Athens will lose an important ideologue and teacher! The only “benefit” that might be put forward in defense of the death sentence is that Socrates would not be able to continue shaming the orators of Athens. The subtext of Socrates' trial in the Apology showed a man begging the crowd for some legitimate reason that could justify his being on trial in the first place, since none of his named accusers' claims appeared to be true from his dialogues with them (Apology, 33d). His pleas are met with silence, a jury of five hundred men shifting uncomfortably in their seats with the knowledge they were sentencing a man to death for being annoying. This is indeed the “real” reason that he was convicted - because he was annoying, especially to the ruling orators who were routinely shamed by him (Apology, 29e). So, perhaps his death does convey a benefit to someone – those who would have been shamed by him for being less than virtuous - but this is not a benefit worth defending. Socrates would no doubt agree with this, since he refused to discontinue exhorting people to be virtuous in his own trial, despite knowing it probably meant a conviction.
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