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To Escape or not to Escape

October 6, 2010

Platos’s Crito begins with a conversation between Socrates and Crito in the prison in which Socrates is being held. Crito has come to visit his old friend in order to “make one last effort to persuade him to escape into exile.” Crito explains to Socrates that his death would reflect poorly on his [Crito’s] reputation. He says, “there can be no worse reputation than to be thought to value money more highly than one’s friends.” It is here that Socrates proclaims that no one man should “so much care for what the majority think.” Each man should not worry how the public perceives them, instead he should listen to the advice of his wisest peers. Ultimately, Socrates decides to stay in prison and accept his fate. What is the main reason that Socrates decides to stay in prison instead of escaping to a life of freedom in another country?
Based on the reading, there is evidence to support that Socrates decides to stay because that is the just thing to do. Is that really the case? In my opinion, Socrates did not want to escape prison because he did not want to tarnish his reputation. I believe that he cared so much about how the public perceived him, which was why ultimately he never escaped. His words to Crito are hypocritical as he is telling him one thing then doing the opposite. He claims that no man should worry about what the public thinks if him, yet he is refusing to escape prison so that his reputation will be saved.
This brings up another great idea. Should the public’s opinion of someone affect his or her actions? The answer to this question can go both ways. In a sense a person should be weary of how the public perceives them because they do not want to create problems with other people. But at the same time, a person’s actions should not be influenced by what other people think. In order for a person to grow, they must be themselves.

Works Cited:
Plato, G. M. A. Grube, and John M. Cooper. The Trial and Death of Socrates: Euthyphro, Apology, Crito, Death Scene from Phaedo. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Pub., 2000. Print.

  1. Kevin Pohl permalink
    October 6, 2010 10:36 PM

    One other reason I feel that Socrates chose to remain in prison was to serve as a martyr for his beliefs and to send a message to all others of Athens after his death. From “The Apology” it seemed as if Socrates was not taking the court at all serious during his trial. He spoke on behalf of himself and gave very broad general answers about his own personal beliefs which didn’t actually work in defending himself against the charges brought against him. I feel that the trial and his death sentence were actually to send the public a message of his belief of the private life and not necessarily an act regarding the majority’s thoughts upon him.

  2. Taylor Fields permalink
    October 7, 2010 1:27 PM

    I agree that Socrates stayed in order to maintain his reputation, but don’t you think his purpose was greater than that? If he had left he would not have catalyzed change, if he had left he would not have been able to make the Athenians realize the errors of their ways, if he had left he would not have made any impact. Socrates stayed so that his death would create change. Socrates was not as selfish as we portrayed him; his reputation was not the main reason he stayed, the main reason he stayed was because he knew his death could show his fellow citizens flaws in the Athenian democracy. Socrates stayed, socrates died, to create change.

  3. Madeline Smith permalink
    October 7, 2010 11:35 PM

    I think it is impossible to not be affected by the opinion of the public. The whole nature vs. nurture debate would suggest that our personality could depend on our environment whether we like it or not. However when we do have a choice to make I think it is important to stick to our own values.

  4. jbrasspolsci permalink
    October 9, 2010 9:49 AM

    When reading Crito, I believed Socrates stayed in prison because of what he believed in. He believed, in modern day saying, that two wrongs do not make a right. Socrates said, “One should never do wrong in return…no matter what he may have done to you” (49d). Even though Athens sentenced an innocent man to death, for him to escape and disobey the law is unjust. Therefore, regardless of the options that are offered to him for escaping, he is forbidden to commit harm against evil. In other words, Socrates can not commit harm by escaping against the evil jury of Athens.

  5. adamkornbluh permalink
    October 9, 2010 9:02 PM

    Although I am hesitant to agree with Socrates’ decision to accept the death penalty, I can definitely understand his argument. Religion and spirituality aside, what is the only thing that a person has forever? I believe this one immortal concept is a legacy. Socrates seems to have realized this. As a man with strong convictions, he refused to be remembered as the man who stood up to the Athenian justice system and then fail to accept the consequences of those actions. By backing down, it would weaken the grand showing he made in front the jury, and more important, the public.

    This idea is very similar to MLK’s beliefs, who stated one must break the law “openly, lovingly, and with a willingness to accept the penalty.” To enact change, it is not enough to voluntarily break a law. When society sees the person voluntarily accept his punishment, they then realize the injustices occurring which can lead to progress.

    Martin Luther King, Jr., “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” handout made available to the students of POLSCI 101, courtesy of the King Center.

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