Socrates's decision to stay in Athens.
After being convicted in Athens of corrupting the youth and not believing in the Gods, Socrates was sentenced to death. Crito, a friend of Socrates comes to him while he is awaiting his punishment. Crito tries to convince Socrates to escape to another city, but Socrates chooses to stay and face his punishment in Athens after taking a look at the reasons to escape and the reasons to stay. Philosophical and personal issues were also contemplated by Socrates while making his decision. Socrates allows Crito to make his arguments, then Socrates makes his; after Crito fails to convince Socrates to escape, Socrates chooses to stay.
Crito argues he and others have already arranged for Socrates’s escape. As Socrates’s friends and followers, their reputation is on the line. It is the shame culture that would make Crito and Socrates’s other friends feel accountable for Socrates’s death. Whether he stays and dies or escapes, the friends of Socrates would be looked down upon, either for helping him escape or letting him die. To counter Crito’s fear of public opinion, Socrates rejects the shame culture by telling him that “...what we ought to consider is not so much what people in general will say about us but how we stand with the expert in right and wrong, the one authority, who represents the actual truth (48a).” Socrates is telling Crito that he should not care about what lots of people think, he should only care about a knowledgeable/good persons opinion, a person that “understands justice and injustice (48a).” If Crito and friends helped Socrates escape then they themselves would “be in danger of exile, disfranchisement, and loss of property (53b).” It doesn’t make sense for several people to die in order for a 70 year old man to live just a few more years longer. They’d be defying the law to help Socrates, and acting against the government was uncommon, since there was this instilled allegiance to Athens. People agreed upon and accepted the laws. The government says that as long as people live there they must follow the laws, but they can leave with their belongings if they are unhappy in Athens. Socrates while speaking for the law says “...if you cannot persuade your country you must do whatever it orders, and patiently submit to any punishment that it imposes...
( ).” If an Athenian disagrees with the government they must either persuade them or do as they are told. Socrates did not persuade the government to let him continue doing what he was doing so he then had to obey them and stop philosophizing, but he didn’t obey them and kept doing as he wished. Socrates refused voluntary exile and silence, but by doing so he agreed to be put to death.
Crito tells Socrates that he should stay alive for his three children and wife. Socrates says that whether he dies or not his children must still be taken care of by friends. The best education for the children is in Athens. As was widely accepted then and is stated by the laws “your country is to be honored more than your mother, your father, and all your ancestors...(51a).” The people were conditioned to whole the city in high admiration, above family. Socrates was no exception, he believed in this as well.
Socrates says that if he escapes to a strange city that the government will hate him, since he disobeyed the Athenian government. The new city’s government will fear that he will corrupt their youth and corrupt their city. A life like this wouldn’t have been worth living. Socrates would have been unhappy in his old age. He would have to live a quiet lonely life. So bad is exile that he chooses “death in preference to exile (52d).” Escaping would be like an admittance of guilt, or at least it would be looked upon this way. It would be difficult to live in another city worrying about what punishment his friends are facing, because they aided him in his escape. By escaping to another city Socrates would have escaped in that sense. He would however not escape the fear for his friends, he’d be plagued with worries. This is no kinds of escape.
Socrates believed in having an allegiance to one’s city. He feels as if he cannot disobey his state. While speaking in 50D for “the laws” he says that the state raised him, gave him a good education in the arts and physical culture, that he is the city’s offspring and servant. He also says that he has no right to retaliate against the country and its laws. He can’t try to destroy the country if he truly cares for virtue. The country is to be honored above all else, this is most revered and sacred. Athenians must obey city even “...if it leads you into war to be wounded or killed, you must obey.” Socrates compares brining violence to your parents to using violence against your country. This is how people felt then, that they should value the country so highly, and treat it better than their parents. The preference for the country over the family was institutionalized. Everyone was told by the government to believe in this, and the Athenian people did just that.
By disobeying Athens or not adhering to its rules Socrates would be undermining the social order and the structure of Athens. If Socrates escaped then he would have destroyed the laws, and would be seen as a “destroyer of the laws (53b).” The verdicts of a city’s courts as is asserted in 50b can be destroyed if its courts have no force/enforcement on the verdicts. This is why Socrates’s decision is crucial to the future of Athenian authority. People were expected to make decisions based on what’s better for Athens, not themselves. Socrates won’t wrong the city, even though it wronged him. If he returned the favor, he would be going against his beliefs, which state that a person should never do wrong. Escaping would be wrong, since it would only be retaliation for the wrong done onto him.
Socrates’s morals would prevent him from escaping. He believed that one should never harm the person harming them. This is the equivalent of saying turn the other cheek. This was revolutionary, since it was widely agreed upon to harm the enemy and help your friends. His belief says to not harm your enemy. Socrates believed it was better to suffer than to do wrong. He’d rather suffer by Athenian judgment than to undermine its rule. He would have been ungrateful if he left, since he owes his allegiance to Athens for what it has provided him with and done for him. Also leaving the city would seem like an admittance of guilt. Its right for him to die where he was born, raised, and educated. By staying he would die where he taught people and he would die where he served a purpose. It would be cowardly to flee. His teaching would be questioned if he were to go against them, since his teaching support him staying in Athens as opposed to escaping.
Socrates used rationalization to figure out whether or not he should escape or stay and die and he made the right decision to stay and die. He chose to stay primarily because of his believes that he should not harm the state he owes much to. He would be have created much rebellion since “...integrity, institutions and laws, are the most precious possessions of mankind.” If he defied the law then followers would also, and a city without rule will perish. The laws of Athens were the determining factor in his decision, though not the only factors. His morals forbid him from doing wrong, he states “...one must not even do wrong when one is wronged...(49d).” He believed that more people like him will challenge the Athenians to account for their lives(a). Also by escaping he would put his friends lives in danger and his sons would be mistreated by other Athenians. By choosing to die, he will get a better decision in Hades, because he wouldn‘t be received kindly there if he broke the laws of Athens. If he had escaped then died, he would be miserable in Hades, because escaping is not virtuous or morally correct. “Do not value either your children or your life or anything else more than goodness, in order than when you arrive in Hades you may have all this as your defense before the rulers there(54c)” sums up the decision Socrates made. He cares about how he will be judged in the afterlife and makes his decision to assure happiness in the afterlife. This is what he cars about most, his life after death. In the Apology, at the end of the trail Socrates states that "a good man cannot be harmed either in life or in death, and that his affairs are not neglected by the gods (Apology 42).” Socrates will be judged by his moral goodness and virtue, which he maintained by staying and facing his punishment. Socrates died for his ideals and opinions, which is the best reason for dying. By dying for what he believed in, this shows just how much he believed in what he did. Socrates did not die in vain.
Works cited or consulted.
Plato, The trial and death of Socrates: Crito & the Apology.
http://www.philosophypages.com/hy/2d.htm Reference & Quote
a http://www.reemcreations.com/literature/socrates.html Idea