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Socrates' Argument: An Essay On Plato's Crito--with A Free Essay Review
In the book "The Trial and Death of Socrates," Socrates is faced to refute a friend's argument for him to escape Athens and not be put to death. Socrates, however, being a man of pious intent and just composition, believes, for many reasons, that escaping is neither the pious or just thing to do. He provides many arguments for his point of view, stressing on only a few of the more important ones.
Socrates' first argument against his friend's, Crito's, pleas, is that Athens has always been a wonderful place to him. In Socrates' entire life, he has never travelled outside Athens for any reason. He didn't leave for business, a vacation, or even to go to a festival. This proves that the city of Athens has always been more than enough to satisfy Socrates' needs throughout his entire life. Not only does Socrates like the city enough for him never to leave, but he raised his own kin there, proving further that Athens was a model city to live in and a superb place to have children. Socrates says that the city has always acted as his own parents, in a way. They raised his real parents in good ways, in order to raise him in a good way. Now that he is an adult and old, he considers himself pious and of just intent. He sees that the city has raised his grandparents and parents in proper ways in order to continue the chain and raise him properly. Socrates argues that if he ever had any qualms with the city or its congeniality, he could have easily left and would have thought it an unseemly place to raise his children. Alternatively, he stayed, and had his kids there, and was now prepared to take the punishment the city was giving him because in being his parent-city, they always wanted to do what was best for him. He knows that by staying and being a committed citizen, he must obey by their laws and know that by the wonderful raising he got, they do want the best for him, and he doesn't mind.
By leaving the city, Socrates argues, he would harm his parent-city and prove himself a hypocrite before all of Athens. If Socrates were to leave, as Crito wishes, he would destroy the city and the laws it tries to uphold. If one person could simply nullify the law by running away, everyone else would think they could too. The laws of Athens would then cease to be taken seriously, and their whole law system would end up being deeply corrupted. Being a steadfast countryman though, Socrates knows that he must remain loyal to the city and do as he is asked. If they asked him to go to war, he would go, which has already happened once before. Even if he had issues with the city and his government, but decided to remain there, he would still have an obligation to remain faithful to the law because he decided to live there. Socrates would be considered a hypocrite by leaving because of several of his actions and beliefs, which all have heard and know. Everyone knows that Socrates' beliefs are always to do what is right and true. This includes never doing harm to someone, even if they have harmed you first. Socrates cannot leave the city now that he has been condemned because that would hurt them, even though they hurt him first. He believes any kind of revenge is unjust, and refuses to do so. In court, Socrates tried to convince the jury that they could not hurt him, because he was unafraid of death, and if they found him guilty while he was innocent, it must be for the best. By trying to pay off the guards and escape his sentence, this would show the city that he was afraid of death, proving him a liar and most likely guilty of his charges. Dying in a dignified manner would show that Socrates always stayed true to his word; unafraid of death, innocent, and not wanting to do unjust and impious harm to anyone, even his sentencers.
Through his arguments and deep-rooted beliefs in the pious and just ways of living, Socrates was able to accept his verdict with his dignity intact, though not changing Crito's mind on him escaping. Socrates tired his hardest to convince Crito with his convictions, but ultimately was unable, even though he raised very good points on how he chose to live in the city, and therefore must abide by its laws, which Socrates has decided are worth his loyalty since he has never had any problems with Athens. In the end, Socrates died an honest man, feeling like he did the best for himself and his city, keeping his stance on piety and justice unblemished.
Thank you for submitting an essay on one of the great stories in the history of philosophy, a story that you summarize quite well. Im going to begin my review with a fairly long quotation, primarily just to make up for the horrid fact that you dont quote the text once. This is from Platos
The Apology of Socrates and is cited from Project Gutenbergs publication of Henry Carys translation (http://www.gutenberg.org/files/13726/13726-h/13726-h.htm)
Perhaps you think, O Athenians! that I have been convicted through the want of arguments, by which I might have persuaded you, had I thought it right to do and say any thing, so that I might escape punishment. Far otherwise: I have been convicted through want indeed, yet not of arguments, but of audacity and impudence, and of the inclination to say such things to you as would have been most agreeable for you to hear, had I lamented and bewailed and done and said many other things unworthy of me, as I affirm, but such as you are accustomed to hear from others. But neither did I then think that I ought, for the sake of avoiding danger, to do any thing unworthy of a freeman, nor do I now repent of having so defended myself; but I should much rather choose to die, having so defended myself, than to live in that way. For neither in a trial nor in battle is it right that I or any one else should employ every possible means whereby he may avoid death; for in battle it is frequently evident that a man might escape death by laying down his arms, and throwing himself on the mercy of his pursuers. And there are many other devices in every danger, by which to avoid death, if a man dares to do and say every thing. But this is not difficult, O Athenians! to escape death; but it is much more difficult to avoid depravity, for it runs swifter than death. And now I, being slow and aged, am overtaken by the slower of the two; but my accusers, being strong and active, have been overtaken by the swifter, wickedness. And now I depart, condemned by you to death; but they condemned by truth, as guilty of iniquity and injustice: and I abide my sentence, and so do they. These things, perhaps, ought so to be, and I think that they are for the best.
Your focus is on the Crito dialogue, and you get straight to the main point of that dialogue. In academic essays, however, we typically dont get straight to the point. Instead we provide a little bit of context. Its an odd but common practice to talk about Socratic dialogues like Crito as though they werent written by Plato and instead gave us direct access to Socrates thought, so in this one case its not that problematic that you dont mention the author of the book you discuss, as would normally be expected. What you should at least do, however, is provide just a little bit of background about the trial of Socrates so that you are not depending on your reader having prior knowledge. The best way to do this would be by way of reference to, and possibly citation of, the Apology. Doing that would also help you support some of your claims about Socrates views. The quotation above shows at least that there is more to Socrates (or Platos) view on death than is contained in Crito. The Trial and Death of Socrates also contains one of Platos most famous dialogues The Phaedo, which contains his most sustained mediation of death, and includes an early version of the dictum to philosophise is to learn how to die (which appears later in Cicero and then Montaigne). The quotation also shows the distinction Socrates makes between convincing with reason and truth, on the one hand, and convincing by way of other means (which might include rhetoric or falsehood or appeals to emotion), on the other. I think that is relevant to an understanding of the reaction of Socrates to Crito that youre concerned with.
More important even that this contextual matter is the immediate context within the Crito, to which your refer, but in very little detail. Although arguments in Socratic dialogues tend to be onesided, in the Crito we so start with an alternative view to that which is eventually espoused by Socrates. You refer merely to Critos pleas. I think your essay would benefit from referring to Critos actual arguments. So I think you should explain what Crito says to try to persuade Socrates to escape. Why does Crito think, in the first place (ultimately, he is persuaded otherwise) that Socrates has a duty to escape? For whom does Socrates have responsibility, in Critos view? Finally, with the quotation above in mind, is Critos plea an example of saying anything in order to persuade? (Thats not a rhetorical question, so dont assume that I think the answer is yes.)
Answering those question is not just an exercise in building context for the sake of it. The answers should allow you to sharpen the focus of your investigation of Socrates argument. For that argument ultimately is not just an argument about a citizens duty to the city and its laws, its an argument about greater duty; its an argument, in other words, about what to do in the case of a conflict of duties. You might find it interesting to compare Platos take on this with Sophocles (or, to look at it from the point of view of the characters, you might compare Socrates take with Antigones). Primarily, you need to explain why Socrates thinks he ought to obey his duty to the city when he has ostensibly competing duties that call for him to save his life.
Now, more important that all of the above is the need to ensure your factual claims are both fully true and fully explained. Its not absolutely true, for instance, that Socrates never left the city. And your account does not explain why the fact of his decision to remain for the most part in Athens means that he above all other citizens has an especial duty to obey the law. What, in other words, is the nature of his compact with the city, and the measure of his acceptance of it?
Okay, three final points, without consideration of their relative importance:
1. You make the case that Socrates above all wants to avoid being hypocritical. Hypocrisy usually entails acting contradictory to ones statements. Socrates principle aim is to avoid acting in a way contradictory to reason. Insofar as he also aims to speak in accord with reason, the difference may not make much difference but be aware that you may be creating a false impression with the talk of hypocrisy.
2. Your essay is set up essentially as a summary. Try to set it up instead as an argument that explains why you agree or disagree with Socrates--again, you can use Critos initial opposing arguments to help you do that, or you could use the Antigone (in which Antigone supposes her familial duty to be higher than her duty to the city), or if youre reading this in a course on political theory, you could compare Socrates view with that a latter theorist (Hobbes, for instance); or if you dont want to do any of that, perhaps you could consider whether there are any extreme cases that would test Socrates view that the citizen who has entered into a compact with the state is duty-bound to obey its laws.
3. Your essay paraphrases Socrates views. I think you should aim for a richer, more complex analysis of his views. If you dont have the time or the inclination to do this by way of an engagement with critical reviews of Platos work, then you should at least provide one or two (or several) quotations from the text with a view to explaining their significance for the text and for your argument about it.
Submitted by: sha2493
TO ESCAPE OR NOT TO ESCAPE?, THAT IS THE QUESTION: AN EVALUATION OF THE ARGUMENTS OF THE CRITOIn this paper I will evaluate Crito's arguments for why Socrates should escape from prison and Socrates' arguments for why he should remain in prison and accept his death sentence. I will argue that Socrates has the stronger arguments. First, I'll begin by examining Crito's arguments and showing their strengths and weaknesses. Then, I will lay out Socrates' arguments and show their strengths and weaknesses. While I will present all of Socrates' main arguments, I will give special attention to his primary argument which is based on the premise that doing unjust actions harms one's soul, and that life is not worth living with a ruined soul.
CRITO'S ARGUMENTSCrito presents three arguments for why Socrates should escape. The first two are fairly weak. The third, concerning Socrates' responsibility to his children is the strongest. Crito's first argument is that if Socrates does not escape, then he will hurt Crito in two ways. On the one hand Crito will lose a good friend when Socrates dies, and on the other, Crito's reputation will be hurt. People won't know that Socrates chose to remain in jail. They'll think that it was possible for Crito to get Socrates out but that he didn't do it because he wasn't willing to spend the money. Therefore Crito will get a reputation for caring more for money than for a friend. In this argument Crito is assuming that it is a bad thing a person to do something that will hurt a friend(Crito, 44b-c, Grube trans. here and elsewhere). This argument is very narrow. It only considers the consequences of Socrates' action for Crito. A stronger argument would consider the negative and positive consequences for everyone affected both if Socrates stays in jail and if he escapes. It may be that there are other considerations that outweigh the harm to Crito, or perhaps some of the things Crito thinks are harms are not really harms. Socrates makes both of these points later.
In his second argument, Crito speculates about why Socrates does not want to escape. He says that if Socrates is worried that by escaping he will harm his friends who could get in trouble for helping him escape, then his fears are unfounded. First, they are willing to risk this or even something worse for him, and second, it is cheap to pay off both the guards and anyone who might inform on them, so there won't be much risk (Crito, 44e-45b). If this was Socrates primary reason for not wanting to escape, and Crito's information about the ease of paying people off was true, then Crito's response to it would carry some weight, but as we will see, this was not Socrates main reason for not wanting to escape. Also, while it may be possible to pay people off, there is still the question of whether it is moral. This is also something Socrates goes on to consider.
In his third argument Crito mentions Socrates' responsibility to his children. As their father, it is Socrates' responsibility to see that his children are brought up well and educated, and he can't do this if he is dead. Here Crito appeals to principles that are important to Socrates. He points out that pursuing goodness is how Socrates professes to lead his life, and that a good man would see that his children are cared for. Crito says that staying in jail is the easy thing to do, but escaping takes courage, and the right thing, the good thing to do is to be brave for the sake of his children(Crito, 45c-d).
Here at last Crito is considering more substantial issues than remorse or the negative opinions of others. He is concerned with the fate of Socrates' children. Crito's primary assumption is that if Socrates' dies, his children won't be cared for in the best possible way. Socrates himself points out that this is an erroneous assumption. He says that Crito overlooks the possibility that his friends would be both willing and capable of bringing his children up. If he were to escape and go to Thessaly, he does not think it would be in his children's best interest to raise them there, because there they would be considered foreigners. If he escaped he would ask his friends to take care of his children in Athens, and there is no reason why they should take care of them if he escapes but not if he dies(Crito, 54a-b).
SOCRATES' ARGUMENTSIn response to Crito's arguments Socrates considers first, why the opinion of the majority is not the most important opinion, second, what the consequences of escaping would be for the city of Athens, and third whether escaping is an unjust action such that it would harm Socrates' soul.
Many of Crito's arguments concern the opinion of the majority--what will they think if Crito does not help Socrates escape? What will they think if Socrates is not responsible for his children? Socrates argues that the opinion of an expert is more important than the opinion of the majority. He gives the example of someone in training. Such a person does not pay attention to the advice of the general public, but to his trainer. If he listened to public opinion (take steroids, eat whatever you want, train 20 hours a day), he could hurt his body. Socrates extends the analogy to deciding on what the right way is to act. If we listen to the majority rather than experts we could harm our souls, the part of us that is mutilated by wrong actions and benefited by right ones(Crito, 47a-48a).
Socrates does concede that as a majority, the general public has the power to put people to death, but he states that the most important thing is not living, but living a good life, so that it is not worth following the opinion of the majority if it means sacrificing something that is important for living a good life.(48b)
The above is one of Socrates' most fundamental principles - that the really important thing is not to live but to live well. Therefore he considers whether it is morally right to pay off the guards and escape. Socrates begins addressing this issue by considering the consequences for the city of Athens. He says that the laws and the city could be destroyed if he escaped. Legal judgments could lose their force if they were nullified by private citizens, and a city without laws would not remain intact for very long.
In addition to harming the city, Socrates thought he would be harming the condition of his soul by escaping. First he thought his soul would be harmed because he assumed that by harming the city he would be also harming his soul. Being responsible for harm to others is something that causes harm to one's soul. He also would have suffered harm to his soul because he broke an agreement. He made a tacit agreement to follow the laws of Athens because he lived under them for seventy years, raised his children under them, and did not try to persuade the city to change them.
In order to evaluate Socrates' arguments, below I will put them in argument form, and then, I will assess the premises.
A) Living Well Argument
1. To do an unjust action ruins one's soul
2. Life is not worth living with a ruined soul
Conclusion: The most important thing is not life but living a moral and just life.
B) Consequences for Athens Argument
1. If I escape from jail, then the laws of Athens and thus the city of Athens will be destroyed.
2. To destroy the laws of Athens and the city of Athens harms the citizens of Athens.
3. To harm others is to harm my soul because to harm others is unjust, and doing unjust actions harms my soul.
4. It is better to die than to live with a ruined soul.
Conclusion: Therefore, I should stay in jail and accept the death penalty
1. If I escape, then I will break an agreement I made with the city.
2. To break an agreement is an unjust action
3. Doing unjust actions harms the soul.
4. It is better to die than to live with a ruined soul.
Conclusion: Therefore, I should stay in jail and accept the death penalty
Arguments B and C both depend on argument A. First, I'll consider the general structure of B and C, and then I'll evaluate argument A which they rely on. Argument B appears to be valid. If the premises are true, then the conclusion must be true. The question is, are the premises true? Premise 2 appears to be true. We will discuss premises 3 and 4 when considering argument A. That leaves us with premise 1. Premise 1 predicts the consequences of Socrates' actions. A problem with making decisions about how to act based on consequences is that we can't always accurately predict the consequences of actions. We don't know for certain what the results of our action will be or who will be affected by them. Perhaps if Socrates escapes, other citizens will not follow Socrates' example of breaking the law and escaping from jail. Maybe the only result will be that the state beefs up security in the jails and hires guards who won't be bribed. In that case Socrates would be benefiting the city by escaping because the result of his action would be a more secure jail.
Argument C offers a better argument utilizing the results of A. C also appears to be valid, and premises 1 and 2 are to true. If Socrates escapes he will break his agreement to obey the laws. He gives several examples of how he agreed to obey the laws by remaining in Athens and not challenging the laws. It also true that breaking the agreement would be an unjust action. He does not have the permission of the city to break the agreement, and to terminate the agreement otherwise would be unjust.
Argument A talks about the soul, and it is a controversial issue about whether we have a soul. If we replace the idea of soul with the idea of character, the argument seems to work. Doing unjust actions ruins your character, it ruins who you are. Life is valuable when it is a flourishing, growing, moral life, but life with a corrupted character is of little or no value. Life without self-esteem isn't worth living.
In conclusion Crito's arguments are very narrow. The one strong argument he gives about children is effectively refuted by Socrates. Socrates' consequential argument is not necessarily compelling, but if we accept his primary argument about only lives that are lived well having value, then his second argument concerning his agreement with the state to follow its laws is a compelling one, therefore Socrates was right to decide to remain in jail.