Crito - Randy Boessenecker Professor duBois MMW2, D03...

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Randy Boessenecker Professor duBois MMW2, D03 February 19, 2008 Informed Few vs. Ignorant Many In his dialogue Crito , Plato shows both his disdain for direct democracy and his preference for a wise oligarchy. In this dialogue, Crito argues with Socrates over whether or not it would be sensible for him to attempt an escape from certain death, with Crito and the majority of Socrates’ friends on the side favoring his flight, and Socrates refusing such a dishonorable action. This dialectic concludes with Socrates winning the argument irrefutably, demonstrating Plato’ belief that though the majority may reach an agreement on something, this does not always make it right. Thus, Crito shows very clearly that Plato favors not the direct democracy that ruled Athens for centuries, but in fact a more conservative form of government, more akin to an intelligent aristocracy, or a republic. Throughout Crito , the character Socrates constantly displays his antipathy towards the opinions of what he calls the “general public,” claiming that one must not always heed the majority’s advice, for the majority of people are usually not experts on every topic (Plato, Crito, 47b). The first part of the argument consists of Crito begging Socrates submit to the overwhelming advice of his numerous friends and supporters. However, Socrates responds by asking Crito “why should we pay so much attention to what most people think?” showing clearly that he does not believe popular opinion must always, if ever, be obeyed or taken seriously (Plato, 44c). He then uses an analogy to better illustrate his point, asking Crito if he believes an athlete should listen to what his friends say on how best to exercise and remain physically fit, or
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Boessenecker mainly to the advice of his instructor (Plato, 47b). This analogy is a microcosm of Plato’s beliefs concerning government, for the argument in question is one of the politics surrounding Socrates’ trial. Plato explains, through this comparison, that he believes some people are experts in certain subjects, while others know nothing whatsoever of the same subjects. Politics and government are no different, and one must not always agree with the opinions of the majority as Athenian law commands, for the majority of people are not political experts. Plato further proves his disdain for direct democracy, a system of government like the one in Athens, which gives all citizens an equal say in politics, throughout Crito . He claims that if one listens only to “the many who have no expert knowledge, surely he will suffer some bad effect (Plato, 47c).” Thus, throughout this dialectic, Plato demonstrates his open resentment towards Athens’ system of direct democracy, which he believes gives common people who lack good understanding of politics an equal say in government. To Plato, equating of the common man’s vote, who he views as ignorant of politics, to that of politicians and philosophers whose job it is to study government and Law, is akin to giving the foolish mob dominion over the intelligent few. After making the point that one need not always take heed of the majority’s advice, Plato
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This note was uploaded on 04/07/2008 for the course ENG MMW 2 taught by Professor Dubois during the Winter '08 term at UCSD.

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Crito - Randy Boessenecker Professor duBois MMW2, D03...

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