Notes on Plato’s Crito

Plato’s short dialogue, Crito, takes place chronologically following the Apology of Socrates, in which Socrates is sentenced and condemned to death. However, shortly after his imprisonment, a galley from Athens set out for Delos in the Aegean, a sea known for being sacred to Apollo, and while the ship was away it was forbidden for anyone in Athens to be executed. Socrates remained alive in prison for another month. With this context in mind, the Crito dialogue takes place inside Socrates’s prison cell as his friend, Crito, makes a final attempt to convince Socrates to save his life and flee, as the state galley is destined to return soon.

The Death of Socrates by Jacques-Philip-Joseph de Saint-Quentin

Crito describes how ashamed he will be if he and other followers of Socrates did not help pay for his freedom, or at least help him escape to another more friendly neighboring city. However, Socrates engages Crito in dialectic, in which Socrates ultimately concludes that it is better to do what is good and just, rather than pleasant. It is better to act nobly, rather than out of fear, for a philosopher is nothing more than a hypocrite if he is to fear death. Additionally, Socrates claims in his trial that all of his actions in life were done out of a true kind of patriotism for Athens. By fleeing the city, he would have exposed his weakness, his infidelity, and his cowardice. Socrates claims one must trust the experts regarding things of justice and nobility, of goodness. In the absence of a true expert, or authority, one must trust the laws. However, in order to trust the validity of the laws, one must look a supra-legal authority. Therefore, Socrates engages in a fictional dialogue, between himself and The Laws. We recall later interpolations of a similar kind, such as Boethius in his Consolations of Philosophy. 

Socrates ultimately concludes that he will remain in prison, and be prepared to die in the next day or two. The final dialogue of Socrates by Plato, chronologically, is the Phaedo.

For this reading I used the Grube translation as featured in the Hackett Classics Edition.

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