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The CRITO – our duty to the law or why don’t you run for it Socrates?

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Presentation on theme: "The CRITO – our duty to the law or why don’t you run for it Socrates?"— Presentation transcript:

1 The CRITO – our duty to the law or why don’t you run for it Socrates?

2 Background –  The Crito is a short but important dialogue by Plato.  It is a conversation between Socrates and his wealthy friend Crito regarding justice (dikē), injustice (adikia), and the appropriate response to injustice.  Socrates thinks that injustice must not be answered with injustice, and refuses Crito's offer to finance his escape from prison.  This dialogue contains an ancient statement of the social contract theory of government, and one’s duty to the state, and the limits to that duty.  This issue echoes down history to our modern times from the English, American and French revolutions, through Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and revolutionaries such as Che Guevara regarding the rights of citizens in oppressive regimes.

3 And now....the execution?  Normally Socrates would have been executed the day following his trial, but there are religious observance to be completed.  The ship to Delos commemorating the victory of Theseus over the Minotaur to whom some young women and men of Athens were sacrificed annually in King Minos’ day (1000 years before) had departed and the city was in mourning until their return in about a month.  The dialogue opens with an old friend of Socrates visiting him early in the morning to tell of the sighting of the death ship a day away, and thus his imminent execution.

4 PART ONE: Reasons for the early morning visit to the cells in Athens.  42a-b The dialogue begins with Socrates waking up to the presence of Crito in his prison cell.  When Socrates expresses surprise that the guard has let him in at such an early hour, Crito informs Socrates that he knows the guard well and has done him a certain ‘benefaction’.  He has been waiting for Socrates to awaken and marvels that he can sleep so peacefully with his execution so close. Socrates replies that would “strike an odd chord” if someone as old as he resented death.  42c-44b Crito has bad news for Socrates. He tells him that there are eyewitness reports that the ship has been seen in nearby Cape Sunium returning from Delos, and that tomorrow Socrates will be executed.  Socrates rebuffs the report, saying he has just had a dream - a vision of a woman in a white cloak telling him that on the third day hence he will go to Phthia, which is a reference to the Iliad (Achilles home). Socrates says that the meaning of this is perfectly clear - it will be three days until he dies.

5 PART TWO: Crito’s arguments why Socrates should escape.  44b-45a: Crito tells Socrates that if he follows through with the execution, people will assume that Crito and friends were too cheap to finance an escape. (Crito's worries suggest that buying one's way out of prison was so routine that people not only didn't frown on it, but even expected it.),  Socrates refuses Crito's initial offer to pay off potential snitches, and Crito protests that the informers ("sychophants") are cheaply bought.  He adds that if Socrates is afraid of depleting Crito's account, there are 2 foreigners (xenoi), Simmias and Cebes, who have come to town with money.  45d-45e: Crito then presents the moral view of the common man; a father has an obligation to nurture and educate his children, and should avoid orphaning them if at all possible. He tells Socrates that if his sons do not meet with the usual fate of orphans, it will be no thanks to him. Crito does not offer to see personally to the children's care, however.  46a: Crito adds that the trial should never have taken place and might have been managed differently. And it gives an unjust victory to his enemies. He says that the failure to escape will be a ridiculous climax to the whole affair, and will be seen as caused by shameful cowardice of Socrates' friends.

6 PART TWO Socrates answer to Crito  46b-48c Socrates tells Crito that he is one of those people who must be guided by reason, not advice of friends.  He expresses contempt for the opinions of the uninformed masses of mankind who think irrationally and act randomly.  He uses an argument of analogy with a man in training should take the opinion only of an expert - the trainer.  As the soul is more important than the body so, even more, he should not take the opinion only of the only person who understands honour and justice. Money, reputation and feeding children are values of thoughtless men. Socrates then invites Crito to consider the definition of justice, and whether it is ever right to do wrong intentionally.  48d- 49e Socrates reduces the question to: “shall we be acting justly by paying money and showing gratitude to these people who are going to rescue me …or shall we really be acting unjustly in doing all this?”  He adds that he doesn’t want to follow his intended course of action without Crito’s approval.  They agree that it is “never right to commit injustice or return injustice or defend oneself against injury by retaliation”, despite the provocation, and despite what is commonly thought.  Socrates' claim that "resisting evil by any means other than persuasion is evil" is an ancient statement of moral pacifism. Socrates rests its logical defense entirely upon an analogy (50b-).  NB this is an ancient statement of moral pacifism which many would find difficult in every age (an eye for an eye).

7 PART 4a the voice of “the Laws of Athens” argues the social contract  50a-51b One should fulfil one’s agreements provided they are just. Therefore to leave this place (and his fate without persuading the state to let him go) is to commit the injustice of breaking his agreements.  Socrates proposes – what if “Laws of Athens” arrived as they were getting ready to escape and asked if Socrates intends to run and therefore “destroy us, the laws, and the whole state as well” How can she (the Laws of Athens) can survive if private citizens can abolish those they do not like.  She further asks if that is not a denial of the agreement between her and him (as a citizen)  She then asks what he has against her who has given him life, and nurtured him in Athens, ensured that his father educate him, and protected him, and his ancestors with stable laws.  Can he as a man of virtue justify being permitted to retaliate against the “laws” which have protected him just because they have justly condemned him to death? She says he should honour her even more than his parents.  51c Socrates must do whatever his country’s laws requires unless he can justly persuade his fellow citizens to change the laws,  and that violence against them (by breaking them) is an unholy act and a great sin against your state.  Through this voice Socrates says that a citizen stands in relation to the state as the child does to the parent, as the slave does to his master. He says that the state has brought him into the world (by regulating marriage), nurtured and educated him. Socrates says that he is the offspring and slave of the state and has no right to "destroy" the state by failing to obey it after it has been so beneficent to him.

8 PART 4b: remaining in the city seals the agreement to accept her laws  51d-53a The laws states a principal that “any Athenian... man... is permitted if he is not satisfied... go away wherever he likes.” and conversely that by staying he agrees to do as the City tells him.  By staying Socrates has freely made this agreement, so to now break this because it suits him is a great injustice against “the Laws”  53b-54e Socrates will achieve nothing by running.  He will be despised wherever he goes as a law breaker, and will be mocked for his past moral claims, and it will not help his sons.  It will also put him in a difficult position when he enters the underworld.  The dialogue ends with Crito reluctantly agreeing with Socrates’ rational argument, and to stop urging him to escape his imminent execution

9 SUMMARY of Crito's arguments for escape  1)Socrates is endangering the good reputation of his friends. If Socrates is executed, Crito will appear to honour money over friends. Crito considers this reputation shameful and damaging even though it will be the opinion of those who do not know Socrates and Crito adequately, namely, the many. One must respect the opinions of the many because they can bring about great evils.  2) Socrates should not worry about Crito's reputation or money. Escape from death is more honourable.  3) Socrates has support in other cities, including Thessaly and exile would not be a bad option, although Socrates said in his defense that he would rather die than be exiled.  4) Socrates would be acting unjustly by not fulfilling his parental obligations.  5) Socrates would be acting cowardly by not resisting injustices (implying that the court decision and Socrates' subsequent execution are unjust). He would be joining his enemies. He is choosing the "easiest path" instead of the courageous, honourable and virtuous path, which Crito feels is to flee from certain, unjust death.

10 SUMMAR Y OF Socrates response to Crito’s argument  1) Public opinion is not important to the decision; the many's ignorance does not allow them to have true choice, and therefore their opinions are of no value to the one who strives after the truth and the good.  2) The essential concern is whether to escape would be just.  3) One should never do injustice; doing evil to humans/human evil leads to injustice.  4) Men, especially those so old as Socrates, should not fear death.

11 SUMMARY of The Laws' arguments  1) The Laws are more honourable than one's parents, for they too beget, educate, and nurture their citizens. Just as one should respect the decisions of one's parents, so should one respect the decisions of the Laws, but to an even greater degree. There is confusion as to whether this respect is due to the Laws or due to the fatherland.  2) Socrates tacitly agreed to obey the Laws by remaining in Athens after reaching maturity, witnessing how the Laws are structured and how they work and by having raised his children in Athens too.  3) Socrates would be seen as a corrupting force wherever he went.  4) If one has the ability to choose whether to obey a law, then he is destroying the power of the law. Destroying law is unjust, for men require a community and a community requires law.  5) It would put him in a precarious position in the afterlife.

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