Being all deep and stuff: Plato’s Crito

posted by Dr. James G. Hood
Friday, May 28, 2010

            Plato’s Crito involves a lengthy discussion between Socrates and Crito that astounds most anyone, but particularly Western readers in general. Crito fervently tries to convince Socrates that he should escape and avoid death, but surprisingly he wants to stay. People from the Western perspective, such as ourselves, are diametrically opposed to Socrates’ views because John Locke’s way of thinking which is engrained in the Constitution has become engrained in our personal perspectives, notably, the idea that if a government acts unjustly then the populace has the right to overthrow it. This applies on a more microscopic scale to Socrates’ situation: if the city rules unjustly then Socrates could escape. However, this creates a major grey area because what injustices warrant a full fledged rebellion and what injustices can be endured? The answer to that question is not clear, and that is why Socrates’ arguments, strangely enough, seem to be indisputable.

            The argument becomes extremely strong when Socrates’ explains the city’s judgment in the context of a social contract. By residing in the city and not complaining, Socrates agreed to abide by the city’s rules. He also reaped the benefits of being able to be married, have sons, and teach them or anyone else that came along. With benefits, come possible punishments, and if Socrates leaves and does not uphold the law then justice becomes meaningless. Furthermore, living a good life is better than not living. A just life is synonymous with a good life. Therefore a just life is better than no life through Modus Ponens. Since we already established that escaping is unjust, Socrates is rational in choosing the end that produces fewer detrimental results—death.

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