Literature Study GuidesDialogues Of PlatoCritos Exhortation To Escape Summary 44b 46a Summary

Dialogues of Plato | Study Guide

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Dialogues of Plato | Crito's Exhortation to Escape Summary (44b–46a) | Summary

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Summary

Crito tells Socrates he has come to try to persuade his dear friend to escape from jail, and so also his execution. The means to do so are available, and the plan is arranged. All Socrates has to do is agree. Crito offers multiple reasons for Socrates to escape, each of which is rejected.

First, Crito argues that not only does he not want to lose his dear friend, but strangers will think Crito cared more about money than about his friend's life—that he had the means to save his friend, but didn't. Socrates responds that others' opinions are not relevant to deciding what to do. Indeed, Socrates points out, people's opinions do not make reality—saying something doesn't make it so. People's opinions "cannot make a man wise or foolish. They only act at random."

Next, Crito argues, Socrates should not worry about his friends getting into trouble for having helped him escape. The risk of prosecution and loss of property is well worth it. Socrates agrees that this prospect concerns him, as do other things. Crito proceeds to argue that it will be easy enough to raise the money for the bribe, and Socrates could live in exile in Thessaly, where Crito has many friends.

In addition to these reasons for Socrates to escape, Crito adds several others. It is wrong for Socrates not to escape, a sort of betrayal, when the opportunity to save himself is available. Moreover, in refusing to escape, Socrates betrays his sons. He has a duty to raise them, not leave them. Lastly, Socrates should have the courage to escape, and it will look as if his friends let this last opportunity to save him slip past out of cowardice.

Analysis

Crito presents a number of diverse reasons for Socrates to escape, at least some of which would appear compelling to many. For example, most believe having children comes with the obligation to be present in their lives, seeing to their upbringing.

Another example is Socrates's apparent willingness to do evil—to wrong himself by going along with an unjust execution. On the face of it, his action contradicts his professed belief that no one willingly does wrong. Knowledge leads to the good, while ignorance leads to involuntary wrongdoing. Surely, in this case, Socrates must be ignorant of the right thing to do. As a result, he effectively aids his executioners in doing harm.

Socrates has already rejected this claim in his defense. In the Apology, he tells the jury that no one can harm a good man. No amount of slander, no execution, will make Socrates something he is not. Here, too, Socrates makes a similar point. Opinions, whether they are correct or incorrect, are variable. Consequently, "they cannot make a man wise or foolish. They only act at random." Refusing to escape does not aid and abet wrongdoing because the opinion that he has done wrong does not, by itself, make it true.

Other reasons seem less compelling, at least to the extent that they appear self-serving. For example, Crito offers two similar reasons to justify Socrates's escape: one is the appearance of miserliness, and the other is the appearance of cowardice.

It is very likely that it would be easy for Crito and his friends to rescue Socrates. It seems no one really wants Socrates executed. In the Apology, the jury was effectively forced into that option, given the alternatives Socrates provided, namely free meals at the Prytaneum for life or paying a fine. Consequently, a failure to save Socrates could very well reflect badly on Socrates's friends.

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