Crito Analysis

Rhetorical Question: “But my dear Crito, why should we pay so much attention to what ‘most people’ think? The reasonable people, who have more claim to be considered, will believe that the facts are exactly as they are” (906).

Personification: “’Consider then, Socrates,’ the Laws would probably continue, ‘whether it is also true for us to say that what you are trying to do to us is not right…’” (913).

Plato’s “Crito” is one of the many tremendously influential pieces of literature produced in ancient Greece. It is a thought-provoking, philosophical discussion regarding the role of the individual within society, and how to treat injustice. As part of a series of imaginary dialogues between Socrates and other characters, “Crito” deals with the conflict Socrates is presented with, as he awaits execution. Crito, one of Socrates’ close friends, urges Socrates to escape prison while he still can. Crito offers several arguments to justify his escape, including the shame he would endure from the public for letting his friend die, and the poor example it would set for the children of Athens. However, Socrates carefully analyzes each of Crito’s arguments for escaping, and proves them invalid through logic and deductive reasoning. The passage, “But my dear Crito, why should we pay so much attention to what ‘most people’ think? The reasonable people, who have more claim to be considered, will believe that the facts are exactly as they are” (906), demonstrates the method that Socrates uses to persuade. Socrates asks a rhetorical question to expose the silliness of the Crito’s worries. It represents the wisdom and morals of Socrates. Crito’s strongest argument is that Socrates would be promoting injustice by accepting his unfair sentence. However, Socrates disproves this point as well, by reasoning that he would be harming the Law by escaping death. Socrates, who has tried to live his life as justly and peacefully as possible, would be breaking every moral he ever lived by if he chose to turn against the law. He regards the Law higher than his own life. He sees the Law as a father to him; it has raised him, educated him, and allowed him to live a comfortable life. No matter how much he disagrees with its ways, he cannot bring himself to disobey it.

Throughout Socrates’ discussions, he often has conversations with himself and the “Law”. Plato personifies the “Law” by giving it human-like qualities and speech; it is suggested that the Law can be hurt, and angry. He does this to distinguish it as a character that has feelings. For example, “’…you will leave this place, when you do, as the victim of a wrong done not by us, the Laws, but by your fellow men. But if you leave in that dishonorable way, returning wrong from wrong, and evil for evil, breaking your agreements with us, and injuring those whom you least ought to injure – yourself, your country, and us ,- then you will face our anger…” (916), demonstrates the authority of the Law. Socrates suggests it is better to die a victim who has lived justly and killed unjustly, than to return the injustice and hurt the Laws. He states, “…it is never right to do a wrong or return a wrong or defend one’s self against injury by retaliation” (911), which exemplifies the belief that injustice cannot be treated with injustice. Socrates mentions an agreement being broken in this passage; this alludes to the belief that there is a social contract between the individual and government. Socrates reasons that when a citizen lives in Athens, he is indirectly supporting the laws and abiding them. The individual has a moral obligation to the government. While it is beneficial to challenge the government under some circumstances, one threatens the foundation of a stable society by breaking its laws. Socrates, who has lived 70 years of Athenian life, is content by living in accordance with this contract. He feels a state simply cannot exist if laws have no power. He firmly believes in the importance of strict laws, as he calls them the most precious achievement of human history. Besides, he reasons that a man of his age, with little life left to live, would lose his reputation by “clinging so greedily to life, at the price of violating the most stringent laws” (915). For all these reasons, “Crito” remains an influential piece that poses big questions and promotes critical thinking.

What do you think?

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