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 had set out for Delos in the Aegean, sacred to Apollo, and while the ship was away it was forbidden for anyone to be executed. Socrates remained alive in prison for another month. The Crito dialogue takes place in Socrates’s prison cell as his friend, Crito, makes a final attempt to convince Socrates to flee, as the state galley is destined to return shortly.

Crito describes how ashamed he will be if he and other followers of Socrates could 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 he 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 claimed in his trial that everything he did was 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 expert 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 supralegal 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.

 

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