Plato's 'Crito': Summary & Concepts

Plato's 'Crito': Summary & Concepts
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  • 0:00 Background of Plato's 'Crito'
  • 0:58 Crito's Arguments
  • 1:54 Socrates' Response
  • 3:25 Plato's Purpose
  • 4:32 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Lisa Roundy

Lisa has taught at all levels from kindergarten to college and has a master's degree in human relations.

In this lesson you will learn about the arguments presented in 'Crito,' a dialogue written by the ancient Greek philosopher Plato. In the dialogue, Socrates debates issues of justice with his friend Crito.

Background of Plato's Crito

Your best friend has been sentenced to death. He sits in his jail cell and calmly awaits his fate. However, you are desperate to save him. You have money, and the guards could easily be bribed. You even have a plan that provides exile for your friend in a new city.

In this scenario, you are Crito and your friend is Socrates. This is where Plato begins the story in Crito. Socrates has been unjustly accused of his crimes by those opposed to him in Athens. Yet, Socrates accepts his fate.

As we continue this lesson, we will examine the answers to the following questions: What are Crito's arguments for Socrates' escape? How does Socrates reply to these arguments? What is Plato's purpose in telling this story?

Crito's Arguments

Crito knows that Socrates has been unjustly accused. Therefore, he does not want Socrates to accept his punishment. However, Crito knows Socrates will make no effort to avoid his fate unless he is convinced to do so. With this goal in mind, Crito offers Socrates several reasons why he should attempt an escape.

Crito's first argument to Socrates is about what people will think. Crito says that Socrates' friends will be accused of being too scared or too cheap to arrange his escape. He then argues that Socrates is giving his enemies what they want by accepting his fate. Crito urges him to fight the injustice that has occurred. After all, Crito debates, Socrates' obligation to be a father to his sons is more important than his obligation to uphold the law of Athens.

Socrates' Response

Socrates replies that Crito should not worry about how he is viewed by others. He should focus instead on living the right way. He reminds Crito that public opinion is not always the best opinion. Socrates dismisses the importance of Crito's first argument and responds that the only question is if escape is a just action. If escape is justified, Socrates will agree to it.

However, Socrates tells Crito that one is never just in doing wrong, even if it is for the right reasons. In other words, two wrongs do not make a right. He believes it would be wrong to escape. This belief is based on what we call the social contract theory of government today. Socrates has made an agreement to obey the laws of Athens and has enjoyed the benefits of these laws for many years. If he attempted to escape, it would not only break his agreement, which would be wrong, but also challenge the authority of the law.

Socrates stands by his belief that rational action must come before emotions. He convinces Crito that his mind cannot be changed. It would be morally wrong if he did try to escape. Attempting to escape would contradict his beliefs. Socrates is determined to remain true to his teachings to the end.

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