To Die or Not to Die?
While Socrates is sitting in prison waiting for his execution, his friend Crito pays him a
final visit. During this time, the two of them have an argument. Crito wants Socrates to run away
continue practicing philosophy. Socrates disagrees, utters the quote we have been given under
question #2, and goes on to sway Crito to adopt his views.
Socrates’ argument is that in running away and ignoring his guilty verdict, he is attacking
the very institution of government of Athens and defying its laws, which he believes is unjust.
This is because Socrates perceives that it is too late to do so. To him, he has formed an unwritten
covenant with the city and its civil institutions merely by residing within its walls. This is shown
in the imagined dialogue of the city, which says, “Was that also part of the agreement between
us, Socrates? Or did you agree to stand by whatever judgments the city rendered?.
.. You see, we
gave you birth, upbringing, and education, and have provided you, as well as every other
citizen…we grant him permission to take his property and go wherever he pleases… But if any
of you stays here, … then we say that he has agreed with us by his action to do whatever we
command.” (“The Crito”, lines 50c- 51e). Therefore, to honor that agreement, Socrates must stay
and accept the punishment he has been dealt.
Socrates in “The Apology” would have a different take on the situation. He would also
respect the institution of the government that placed him in jail in the first place, as he does not
argue against the necessity of laws like the one protecting youth from corruption. However,
while he thinks the law is fine, Socrates understands that people will wrongly enforce them in
order to achieve their own ends. He doesn’t believe that “it’s lawful for a better man to be
harmed by a worse,” (“The Apology”, line 30d), which is what is happening because he knows
“that much hostility has risen against me” (“The Apology”, line 28a) and the only real way he