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Crito Argument Essay

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  • Only a belief in embodied existence after death is philosophically justifiable. Discuss.
  • The Trail of Socrates and the development of Western Philosophy
  • A Reflection on the Meaning of Life from Three Perspectives
  • Socrates, Guilty Or Not
  • Critical Analysis of Plato and Aristotle
  • The Nature of Socratic Philosophy
  • Did Socrates Believe in the Athenian gods?
  • Belief in a Higher Power and Greek Philosophers
  • The Apology: The Understanding of the Soul in Life and Death
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Socrates' Argument: An Essay On Plato's Crito--with A Free Essay Review




In the book "The Trial and Death of Socrates," Socrates is faced to refute a friend's argument for him to escape Athens and not be put to death. Socrates, however, being a man of pious intent and just composition, believes, for many reasons, that escaping is neither the pious or just thing to do. He provides many arguments for his point of view, stressing on only a few of the more important ones.

Socrates' first argument against his friend's, Crito's, pleas, is that Athens has always been a wonderful place to him. In Socrates' entire life, he has never travelled outside Athens for any reason. He didn't leave for business, a vacation, or even to go to a festival. This proves that the city of Athens has always been more than enough to satisfy Socrates' needs throughout his entire life. Not only does Socrates like the city enough for him never to leave, but he raised his own kin there, proving further that Athens was a model city to live in and a superb place to have children. Socrates says that the city has always acted as his own parents, in a way. They raised his real parents in good ways, in order to raise him in a good way. Now that he is an adult and old, he considers himself pious and of just intent. He sees that the city has raised his grandparents and parents in proper ways in order to continue the chain and raise him properly. Socrates argues that if he ever had any qualms with the city or its congeniality, he could have easily left and would have thought it an unseemly place to raise his children. Alternatively, he stayed, and had his kids there, and was now prepared to take the punishment the city was giving him because in being his parent-city, they always wanted to do what was best for him. He knows that by staying and being a committed citizen, he must obey by their laws and know that by the wonderful raising he got, they do want the best for him, and he doesn't mind.

By leaving the city, Socrates argues, he would harm his parent-city and prove himself a hypocrite before all of Athens. If Socrates were to leave, as Crito wishes, he would destroy the city and the laws it tries to uphold. If one person could simply nullify the law by running away, everyone else would think they could too. The laws of Athens would then cease to be taken seriously, and their whole law system would end up being deeply corrupted. Being a steadfast countryman though, Socrates knows that he must remain loyal to the city and do as he is asked. If they asked him to go to war, he would go, which has already happened once before. Even if he had issues with the city and his government, but decided to remain there, he would still have an obligation to remain faithful to the law because he decided to live there. Socrates would be considered a hypocrite by leaving because of several of his actions and beliefs, which all have heard and know. Everyone knows that Socrates' beliefs are always to do what is right and true. This includes never doing harm to someone, even if they have harmed you first. Socrates cannot leave the city now that he has been condemned because that would hurt them, even though they hurt him first. He believes any kind of revenge is unjust, and refuses to do so. In court, Socrates tried to convince the jury that they could not hurt him, because he was unafraid of death, and if they found him guilty while he was innocent, it must be for the best. By trying to pay off the guards and escape his sentence, this would show the city that he was afraid of death, proving him a liar and most likely guilty of his charges. Dying in a dignified manner would show that Socrates always stayed true to his word; unafraid of death, innocent, and not wanting to do unjust and impious harm to anyone, even his sentencers.

Through his arguments and deep-rooted beliefs in the pious and just ways of living, Socrates was able to accept his verdict with his dignity intact, though not changing Crito's mind on him escaping. Socrates tired his hardest to convince Crito with his convictions, but ultimately was unable, even though he raised very good points on how he chose to live in the city, and therefore must abide by its laws, which Socrates has decided are worth his loyalty since he has never had any problems with Athens. In the end, Socrates died an honest man, feeling like he did the best for himself and his city, keeping his stance on piety and justice unblemished.

ESSAY REVIEW

Thank you for submitting an essay on one of the great stories in the history of philosophy, a story that you summarize quite well. I’m going to begin my review with a fairly long quotation, primarily just to make up for the horrid fact that you don’t quote the text once. This is from Plato’s

“The Apology of Socrates” and is cited from Project Gutenberg’s publication of Henry Cary’s translation (http://www.gutenberg.org/files/13726/13726-h/13726-h.htm)

“Perhaps you think, O Athenians! that I have been convicted through the want of arguments, by which I might have persuaded you, had I thought it right to do and say any thing, so that I might escape punishment. Far otherwise: I have been convicted through want indeed, yet not of arguments, but of audacity and impudence, and of the inclination to say such things to you as would have been most agreeable for you to hear, had I lamented and bewailed and done and said many other things unworthy of me, as I affirm, but such as you are accustomed to hear from others. But neither did I then think that I ought, for the sake of avoiding danger, to do any thing unworthy of a freeman, nor do I now repent of having so defended myself; but I should much rather choose to die, having so defended myself, than to live in that way. For neither in a trial nor in battle is it right that I or any one else should employ every possible means whereby he may avoid death; for in battle it is frequently evident that a man might escape death by laying down his arms, and throwing himself on the mercy of his pursuers. And there are many other devices in every danger, by which to avoid death, if a man dares to do and say every thing. But this is not difficult, O Athenians! to escape death; but it is much more difficult to avoid depravity, for it runs swifter than death. And now I, being slow and aged, am overtaken by the slower of the two; but my accusers, being strong and active, have been overtaken by the swifter, wickedness. And now I depart, condemned by you to death; but they condemned by truth, as guilty of iniquity and injustice: and I abide my sentence, and so do they. These things, perhaps, ought so to be, and I think that they are for the best.”

Your focus is on the Crito dialogue, and you get straight to the main point of that dialogue. In academic essays, however, we typically don’t get straight to the point. Instead we provide a little bit of context. It’s an odd but common practice to talk about Socratic dialogues like Crito as though they weren’t written by Plato and instead gave us direct access to Socrates’ thought, so in this one case it’s not that problematic that you don’t mention the author of the book you discuss, as would normally be expected. What you should at least do, however, is provide just a little bit of background about the trial of Socrates so that you are not depending on your reader having prior knowledge. The best way to do this would be by way of reference to, and possibly citation of, the Apology. Doing that would also help you support some of your claims about Socrates’ views. The quotation above shows at least that there is more to Socrates’ (or Plato’s) view on death than is contained in Crito. The Trial and Death of Socrates also contains one of Plato’s most famous dialogues The Phaedo, which contains his most sustained mediation of death, and includes an early version of the dictum “to philosophise is to learn how to die” (which appears later in Cicero and then Montaigne). The quotation also shows the distinction Socrates makes between convincing with reason and truth, on the one hand, and convincing by way of other means (which might include rhetoric or falsehood or appeals to emotion), on the other. I think that is relevant to an understanding of the reaction of Socrates to Crito that you’re concerned with.

More important even that this contextual matter is the immediate context within the Crito, to which your refer, but in very little detail. Although arguments in Socratic dialogues tend to be onesided, in the Crito we so start with an alternative view to that which is eventually espoused by Socrates. You refer merely to Crito’s “pleas.” I think your essay would benefit from referring to Crito’s actual arguments. So I think you should explain what Crito says to try to persuade Socrates to escape. Why does Crito think, in the first place (ultimately, he is persuaded otherwise) that Socrates has a duty to escape? For whom does Socrates have responsibility, in Crito’s view? Finally, with the quotation above in mind, is Crito’s plea an example of saying anything in order to persuade? (That’s not a rhetorical question, so don’t assume that I think the answer is “yes.”)

Answering those question is not just an exercise in building context for the sake of it. The answers should allow you to sharpen the focus of your investigation of Socrates’ argument. For that argument ultimately is not just an argument about a citizen’s duty to the city and its laws, it’s an argument about greater duty; it’s an argument, in other words, about what to do in the case of a conflict of duties. You might find it interesting to compare Plato’s take on this with Sophocles’ (or, to look at it from the point of view of the characters, you might compare Socrates’ take with Antigone’s). Primarily, you need to explain why Socrates thinks he ought to obey his duty to the city when he has ostensibly competing duties that call for him to save his life.

Now, more important that all of the above is the need to ensure your factual claims are both fully true and fully explained. It’s not absolutely true, for instance, that Socrates never left the city. And your account does not explain why the fact of his decision to remain for the most part in Athens means that he above all other citizens has an especial duty to obey the law. What, in other words, is the nature of his compact with the city, and the measure of his acceptance of it?

Okay, three final points, without consideration of their relative importance:

1. You make the case that Socrates above all wants to avoid being hypocritical. Hypocrisy usually entails acting contradictory to one’s statements. Socrates’ principle aim is to avoid acting in a way contradictory to reason. Insofar as he also aims to speak in accord with reason, the difference may not make much difference but be aware that you may be creating a false impression with the talk of hypocrisy.

2. Your essay is set up essentially as a summary. Try to set it up instead as an argument that explains why you agree or disagree with Socrates--again, you can use Crito’s initial opposing arguments to help you do that, or you could use the Antigone (in which Antigone supposes her familial duty to be higher than her duty to the city), or if you’re reading this in a course on political theory, you could compare Socrates view with that a latter theorist (Hobbes, for instance); or if you don’t want to do any of that, perhaps you could consider whether there are any extreme cases that would test Socrates’ view that the citizen who has entered into a compact with the state is duty-bound to obey its laws.

3. Your essay paraphrases Socrates’ views. I think you should aim for a richer, more complex analysis of his views. If you don’t have the time or the inclination to do this by way of an engagement with critical reviews of Plato’s work, then you should at least provide one or two (or several) quotations from the text with a view to explaining their significance for the text and for your argument about it.

Best, EJ




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