Crito, a short dialogue by Plato tells about the last days of famous philosopher ”“ Socrates. In the dialogues Plato raises such important themes as justice and injustice, moral obligation, and obedience to laws. The plot of the “Crito”¯ is a dialogue between Socrates and his disciple Crito. Socrates is imprisoned and Crito finds out that he will be executed soon and he arrives to save his teacher. He proposes Socrates to bribe the guard and to escape but Socrates refuses. They both exchange arguments trying to support their positions. Socrates has doubts about the moral aspect of the escape. He doubts if escape would be moral and just and finally refuses to follow Crito’s proposal.
Socrates follows his fate and chooses death. Different characters of the dialogue have different motivations for their actions and reasoning.
Crito is mostly concerned with the social opinion. He wants to save his teacher because he does not want other people to think that he did not give money to save him. As he states: “people who do not know you and me will believe that I might have saved you if I had been willing to give money, but that I did not care”¯ (Plato, 2002, p. 37). Crito also believes that Socrates’ imprisonment is unjust and he wants to correct this injustice by helping him to escape. Socrates is mostly concerned with moral problems. He wants to choose the actions which would be the most just in this situation.Ā His is not afraid to loose his life. He is not concerned with social opinion as well. “Now you, Crito, are not going to die to-morrow-”¦-and therefore you are disinterested and not liable to be deceived by the circumstances in which you are placed.”¯ (Plato, 2002, p. 40). By this saying he underlines that right or wrong behavior should not depend on circumstances. People should be just to the laws regardless of the situation. He is not concerned with the opinion of other people, he is worried about general categories, such as truth, law and moral obligation. He worries only about moral obligations and supremacy of the law. He believes that even if laws are wrong, they should be followed as they make the essence of the state. Socrates uses logics to break Crito’s arguments. Both parties have strong arguments to share. Socrates believes that he has no moral right not to follow the law.Ā His main argument is that injustice can never be justified. He escape would be injustice and that is the thing he can not perform. Even keeping in mind that his imprisonment might have been unjust Socrates refuses to commit injustice in return. He strongly believes that injustice should not be answered with injustice. “And he who disobeys us is, as we maintain, thrice wrong: first, because in disobeying us he is disobeying his parents; secondly, because we are the authors of his education; thirdly, because he has made an agreement with us that he will duly obey our commands; and he neither obeys them nor convinces us that our commands are unjust; and we do not rudely impose them, but give him the alternative of obeying or convincing us; – that is what we offer, and he does neither”¯Ā (Plato, 2002, p. 42).Ā All arguments of Socrates are directed in order to prove the supremacy of law in the state. He believes that all citizens should be equal in front of the law. Only this way the order may be maintained in the state. He believes that obedience to the law is more important than human life. He thinks in the scale of the state strong laws are more important than each separate individual. In broader meaning these laws support the life of the society and thus the life of each separate individual. Socrates compares state authorities with parents and citizens with children. Children should always obey their parents, even if they do not agree with their opinion. Same should be applied in the relations between citizens and state. Only obedience of the citizens to state laws and regulations may guarantee the development of the society and the power of state. Socrates puts the state values and obedience to state law higher than personal interest and wants to sacrifice his life for the sake of common good.
Crito wants to persuade his friend and teacher and also uses strong arguments to prove his position. His ideas are also understandable. He talks to Socrates about his responsibility. First of all Socrates holds responsibility for his disciples. He Ā is responsible for them and his moral obligation is to help them grow and develop. Socrates is definitely an outstanding personality and his knowledge may be useful to many people. His early death deprives people of much important knowledge about the world, nature and philosophy.
Crito also mentions another important argument. He reminds Socrates about his parental responsibilities. He reminds him that all parents should make their best to give their children good upbringing and Socrates also has children. He will not be able to raise his children if he is executed.Ā As states Crito: “power to finish their bringing up and education, and instead of that you are proposing to go off and dessert them”¯ (Plato, 42).
There are other arguments, which can be added to support Crito’s position. Speaking about Socrates’ argument about obedience to parents it is necessary to mention that parents usually want to bring only good to their children. They do not threaten their lives and in the case when this happens children get moral obligation not to follow their orders. Same may be implied to the relations between citizens and states. Citizens are definitely obliged to follow state laws since they guarantee their safety and wellbeing. At the same time if these laws become threatening and even dangerous for the citizens there should appear and alternative to these laws.
Socrates raises important theme of justice and injustice. He knows that he was condemned unjustly but he does not want to escape in order not to return injustice for injustice. These arguments are quite convincing but this way there is no opportunity to stop injustice. If people follow unjust laws they do not have an opportunity to change the situation. The question about following unjust laws is doubtful. There is no definite answer if confronting injustice the person performs right or wrong actions.
Taking his death and being obedient to laws Socrates takes passive position. He does not want to confront the state system despite in his case it takes wrong position. Socrates makes state laws more important than his own life and his possible contribution to the development of the country. I believe that laws are important as they make the basis of any civilized society. In this case the laws support the state and its lawful citizens. In the case when laws do not support the development and normal functioning of the state they should be changed. In the case with Socrates the laws become the object of manipulation. People who want to destroy Socrates use laws for their favor and only active actions aiming to change this may be interpreted as just.