In both of Plato’s works Apology, and Crito, Plato portrays his mentor, Socrates, as he goes through trial, and thereafter in which he refuses to escape his punishment. In ancient Athens Socrates is on trial for corrupting the youth, which in reality is a crime that he did not commit. During the trial Socrates gives an incredible speech on how his whole life he’s only sought virtue and in his elder years the only thing that he’s really known is that there are things he does not know. After being found guilty Socrates was given a chance to propose a less harsh punishment than death but rather he decided to jest and propose almost humorous suggestions which he knew would force the verdict to fall on his punishment. Being sentenced to death ends Plato’s Apology.
In Plato’s Crito, a friend tries to coax Socrates to escape but Socrates goes to explain how it would be unjust for him to escape his punishment laid upon him by Athens. Socrates understands the moral fabric that is involved with fleeing what the court has ordered. Should Socrates escape, he knows that he would be attempting to destroy Athens and her laws to the extent that he can, and in that regard decides to go through with the execution. In the Crito, Socrates rightfully determines it would be unjust for him to escape and destroy Athens and her laws to the extent that he can, through the betrayal of an agreement to conform to the laws and processes of society.
Socrates in his argument to Crito explains that Athens is similar to that of a father and in being so plays a similar role to that of a parent. Socrates specifically goes on to say, “Now with regard to your father, justice was not equal for you, so that you didn’t also do in return whatever you suffered…” (Crito 109). In saying this, Socrates argues that Athens is similar to a father in the way in the role of providing. Just as a Father provides everything that his children may need, such is also true with Athens for it’s citizens and society has given an implied law to follow the rules of said parent for that reason. He makes apparent that to break the rules of Athens, similar to the way someone would go against a parent, is unjust, and therefore; he can not go through with it. Furthermore, Socrates even gives Athens an almost authoritative power as he says, “…that if it leads to war [a decision made by a parent] war to be wounded or killed, this must be done?” (Crito 109). He asserts that just like a parent if Athens ever needs or requests something that then it is an obligation to the citizen to go through in attempts to satisfy their city-state. Society implies an agreement to obey a parent since they are the ones that make sure you get what you need. This agreement to obey parents gives structure to society, and therefore is necessary and Socrates agrees it would be unjust to go against that foundation and ultimately harm Athens.
The appeal of citizenship plays a large role in why Socrates also deems it to be unjust to escape his punishment. Although he is an innocent man, and the court has wrongly convicted him of something he didn’t do it is still his duty to obey the laws set in place. Socrates knows the laws and agrees with them as well as he says, “So vehemently were you in choosing us and agreeing to be governed in accordance with us that you also had children in it, as though the city was satisfactory to you” (Crito 110). Socrates says that since he is a citizen and enjoys the benefits of such that he has an unspoken agreement to abide by the laws set in place. In the same token, he has agreed to follow the laws of Athens and personally deems that the punishment put in place for him by his peers was justified. In this case, the court had a bad ruling but was not at fault for their decision. It may have been unjust to be convicted for something he did not do; nevertheless, he has agreed to obey by being a citizen and will accept his punishment. Now that Crito has offered to help Socrates evade the laws and present an opportunity to harm Athens, Socrates realizes he does not want to inflict any wounds he could possibly cause, and in turn will choose not to do so to the extent that he can. In addition, going against something he has ultimately agreed to in some form would be unjust and so he will not follow through.
Socrates is just in his decision to take his punishment inflicted upon him. First off, Crito at the beginning of the work is very insistent on persuading Socrates to escape. The initial speech given by Crito is it would be unjust to let Athens execute him since he is an innocent man, but when Socrates brings up that laws sometimes fails, Crito replies, “I do not blame them”(Crito 109). When Crito brings up the argument that his reputation would be on the line if people were to find out he didn’t help Socrates to escape, Socrates concludes that the truth is often distant to what most people think. When said that the morals conquer over the majority’s though and asked if this was a noble point, Crito replied with, “nobly”(Crito 106). Every advancement that was made by the opposing argument was met with a conclusion that persuaded Crito over to Socrates’ line of thought. This persuasion offered a new perspective that Crito then adopted which strengthens the ideals that Socrates is making to prove that escaping is unjust.
The analogy that compares Athens to a parent is also a very fortified foundation to his argument. Even in modern day time, going against the people that gave you birth, fed you, raised you, and gave you a multitude of privileges is highly unethical as deemed by society. The judicial system even recognizes that people who are under the age of 18 are considered minors and are considered an extension of their parents. This law asserts that there needs to be an agreement to obey one’s parents. It is also true that under certain situations that one may be considered an independent. The difference in the two is the agreement made. For those who agree with this law set in by society, those who are under the age of 18 will enjoy all of the benefits that parents have to offer. Those who do not, will not enjoy those same benefits. Some would argue that for those with no parents that there would be no option but to become an independent, but in the U.S. there are a plethora of programs that allow those without certain privileges the same rights. For Socrates to do turn his back on the agreement that he made with Athens after he had already indulged in the benefits that were bestowed him would be treachery. Since he agreed to receive the benefits of Athens it implies that he also agreed to follow its laws, and to now stop following law system would be unjust, and therefore will not escape.
In another modern day example the same rules apply. As a citizen of the United States of America you are expected to follow the rules instilled by the government. Since we as citizens go to school, use transportation, accept protection by the government, and enjoy similar privileges we are signing an unspoken agreement to follow the law. Just as you walk into a restaurant and order a sandwich. Nothing is verbally stated by accepting the sandwich that you also agree to pay; however, due to the common practices of society this is implied to be the laws to follow. It would be implied that if you did not understand the processes of the restaurant, or even the general way in which society works that you would not use the facility. Accepting a practice set in by society means that you will follow along with same insinuated processes of that practice. It depends on the culture and situation and Socrates understands in his particular situation that his government is requesting him to conform to its policies and therefore realizes it would be unjust for him disregard this to any extent.
Some may argue that even though Socrates had accepted to follow suit with the laws set in place, that it would be unjust for him to follow through with laws that may have been carried out wrongly. In this instance, the law has failed to prove Socrates an innocent man, and so some could say he didn’t ‘agree’ to follow with the process of wrong conviction. This is however untrue since Socrates thinks that the laws set in by Athens are just. Never did he say that they were perfect in all regards and that every process has no room for failure in its intended outcome, but he still considers them just. Although Socrates was tried for something he did not do, the verdict just happened to reach an outcome that may not be just. Although the final conclusion of the jury may not have been just in the narrow sense of whether or not he committed the crime, the steps taken to reach that conclusion were just and therefore the final verdict laid upon him was at no fault of the jury. The agreement made was that he would follow the laws; the trial was one of the laws, and carried out justly. This assertion concludes that even though he was wrongly accused and convicted, Socrates agreed to carry out the judicial process, and so must comply with the final decision made even if it may have been decided outside the realm of truth.
Some might even argue that it would be unjust for Socrates to leave his kids without a Father. They might say the execution brought forth by Athens would render them helpless. To challenge this, no matter what Socrates does he would have to leave his kids, and the better solution would be death. If Socrates was exiled then his children wouldn’t join him because he would want them to live in the benefits that Athens provides. If he is executed that aspect of shame wouldn’t be put on his family as hard as if he were to be a coward and flee. Lastly, he would have friends in Athens in which to take care of his kids. Socrates took the best route possible considering the alternatives.
In Plato’s Crito, Socrates knows that escaping would be unjust as it is similar to the betrayal of a parent, and that he would be breaking the law of his beloved home in addition to disrespecting that culture that he has enjoyed for the entirety of his life. It is understood that morals overcome many other abstract things and to show a foundation of ethics fortify the character of Socrates. To place your values above life itself is the portrayal of true character, and as a result has allowed Socrates to inspire many audiences through the works of Plato.