Monday, October 28, 2013

Crito: Socrates Obeys

Whereas Socrates adamantly defended his personal lifestyle in Apology, in Crito he is resigned to accept the punishment decided by the jury: death.  Crito, his buddy, has come to Socrates to try to convince him one last time why he should leave the city.  Crito gives four main reasons.  First, he says that if Socrates dies, he will lose a great friend.  Second, he says that if Socrates dies that people will think that Crito was just too cheap to save his friend.  Third, he says that Socrates is betraying his family by letting himself be put to death.  Fourth, Crito tells Socrates that letting himself be put to death is evil and shameful.  Socrates responds to each of these reasons during the course of the dialogue.

First, Socrates says that if he runs away, his friends will be under suspicion by the government and will be in danger of losing their own property.  Second, Socrates says that we ought not listen to the opinion of the majority.  Only the opinion of the few experts is important.  To prove this point, Socrates uses an analogy.  He says that if you want to do physical training, you should seek the advice of a doctor or a trainer.  If you disobey this person's advice, you are likely to end up hurting yourself.  When you disobey a doctor, you harm your body.  But when you listen to bad advice about morality, you harm a much more valuable part of yourself (soul/morality/character).  Third, Socrates says that if he left the city, he would be making his children strangers in a new place.  If he left them behind in Athens, they will have friends of the family to take care of them whether Socrates is dead or alive.  Fourth, Socrates says the right thing to do is to stay in the city and accept his death.  There are three main reasons he gives for this.  He says that he has made a just agreement with the city (rather, he imagines a conversation with the city's laws about whether or not he would be wronging the city by fleeing).  He says that by staying in the city, he has tacitly agreed to obey its laws and accept its rules.  Socrates never left the city except for military service.  He had ample time to leave if he had objected to the rules and laws of the city.  If he disagreed, he either should have persuaded the city or leave.  Socrates did neither.  It also seems like he should be grateful to the city.  If not for the city's laws, his parents never could have gotten married.  The city also provided for his education and helped in his upbringing.  In addition to the tacit just agreement and the principle of gratitude, Socrates also says that the city is to a citizen as a parent is to a child (or like a master is to a slave).  In other words, the city is in a position of superior power over the citizen.  A citizen must accept the punishment of the government just as a slave must accept the punishment of its master.

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