The Crito is a well-known dialogue by the ancient Greek
philosopher, Plato, between
Socrates and his follower the rich Athenian Crito (or Criton), regarding the source and
nature of political obligation. Set after Plato's Apology, in which Socrates was
sentenced to death for charges of corrupting the young and for impiety, Crito tries in this dialogue to convince Socrates to escape his
imprisonment and go into exile.
1 Crito's arguments for escape
2 Socrates' responses
3 The laws' arguments
4 See also
Crito's arguments for escape
- Socrates is endangering the good reputation of his friends.
- He does not need to worry about the money, as his friends can help him.
- Socrates has support in other cities, including Thessaly and that exile would not be a bad option.
- He would be acting unjustly by not fulfilling his parental obligations.
- He would be acting cowardly by not resisting injustices.
- He would be joining his enemies.
- By not escaping when he has the chance, Socrates is betraying himself and helping his enemies. He is choosing the "easiest path" instead
of the courageous, honorable and virtuous path, which Crito feels is to flee from certain death.
- Socrates' family—a wife and three sons—will be deprived of a father and the education he would provide.
- Public opinion is not important to the decision, because the public as a whole is not wise.
- Betrayal to himself is not important to the decision; the essential concern is whether to escape would be just.
- By escaping he would be going against everything that he has preached. Hypocrite.
- If one has the ability to choose whether to obey a law, then he is destroying the power of the law.
- Socrates has entered into an implied contract (law) since birth by living in Athens, he has been protected by these laws and it would be
unjust for him to go against them.
- By escaping Socrates would confirm the jury’s opinion of him as a bad influence on the young, one who breaks the law is not one who
influences the young positively.
- It would put him in a precarious position in the after life.
- A philosopher should not fear death, but welcome it.
The laws' arguments
Later, Socrates presents four arguments from the personified Laws of Athens to show Crito that he should not escape:
- We are your parents.
- We are your rearers. (They gave him an education).
- Socrates agreed to obey us. (This is an early statement of Social Contract
- Socrates would be seen as a corrupting force wherever he went.
These are also based on an argument he gave earlier on that Crito agreed to: it is never right to do wrong unto others, even if they have
done wrong unto you.
By this code (the one Socrates said he himself and his followers lived by), it would be unjust to do wrong to his city, even if it had
done wrong to him. If he escaped, he would be showing that anyone with enough money may circumvent any law, and he would be wronging the
city that raised him, like wronging a father as an example.