The purpose of “Crito” seems intended to exhibit the character of Socrates in one light only, not as the philosopher, fulfilling a divine mission and trusting in the will of Heaven, but simply as the good citizen, who, having been unjustly condemned is willing to give up his life in obedience to the laws of the State. The main argument that seems to entail the discussion between Crito and Socrates is the opinion of the majority on Socrates fate.
In the “Crito” Socrates states, “Why should we care so much for what the majority think? Plato 45) Socrates believes that we should not care what the majority thinks because those who are reasonable people will understand. However, Critos counter-argument to this is that the majority can cause great harm; therefore we should care what they think. Socrates further goes on to say the majority acts haphazardly; therefore, they cannot do great good or great harm (Plato 45). Crito says that “the opinion of the many” would judge us wrong if we didn’t help you (and anyone in your position would agree that you ought to escape).
Socrates notes that some opinion is right and some opinion is wrong. It is not simply a matter of mere opinion, but of correct opinion. The authority in this case is the actual truth of the matter. Socrates introduces a distinction between true opinion and false opinion. And the path to the latter is through argument and reason. By appealing to the opinion of “the many,” Crito seems to be committing the Ad Populum Fallacy (i. e. , something is right, true, etc. , because the majority of the population says it is).
Socrates seems to pose an open argument: the opinion of the many says that escaping from jail is right but is it right? Socrates seems to believe that although the majority believes it is right for him to escape from jail he is going against what he believes to be true. Socrates believes that he has a tacit consent with the state by living in Athens for 70 years he has accepted their laws. Furthermore disagrees with retaliation and rejects Critos suggestion to flee to Thessaly he will be welcomed there and free to speak.
Socrates seems to have adhered to the belief that if he was born and raised in this state and had children here he must have agreed with the ways in which the state operates; therefore, he cannot suddenly decide to flee and abandon the very state which nurtured and dictated his life for the past 70 years. Crito refutes claiming that [his] decision is not right, giving up [his] life when he could save it, and to hasten [his] fate as his enemies would hasten it and indeed have hastened it in their wish to destroy [him] (Plato 46).
In addition to Socrates position on the devotion and faith he has given to the state of Athens Socrates also has a position regarding the role of the majority in his decision not to escape. Socrates believes that “fate has come about meI shall not agree with you, not even if the power of the majority were to frighten us with more bogeys, as if we were children, with threats of incarcerations and executions and confiscation of property. Crito, whether this argument will appear any different in any way different to me in my present circumstances, or whether it remains the same, whether we are to abandon it or believe it” (Plato 46-47).
In this case Socrates is saying that regardless of what the situation may be he is standing forthright in his decision to face his death. Socrates is trying to explain to Crito that even if he is trying to bully him into exile it will not work. Crito says that Socrates is making a cowardly move by facing death, whereas Socrates believes that he is the one who will end up the stronger man in the end. I think the point Socrates is trying to get across is that regardless of how the current situation is phrased, or even if you were to ignore the present situation completelyit all comes down the fact that this own fate was already decided for him.
Socrates further explicates his point whe….. n he compares moral development to physical development. When one is trying to improve one’s physical development, one consults an expert, not the majority. Therefore, when one is trying to improve one’s moral development, one should consult an expert, not the majority (Plato 51). In this particular situation I think Socrates believes the “expert” to be the men who have condemned him to his death. Socrates believes that just because he was unable to convince the Athenians of his innocence that doesnt mean he failed and the assembly, not the law, did an injustice.
The “majority” that Socrates mentions would be the people, such as Crito, who believe that Socrates should seek exile. Socrates makes it clear to Crito that his fate rested in the hands of the assembly and therefore the assembly wronged him not by the law. Socrates has lived by the laws of Athens for 70 years and to escape now is going against everything he believes in. Socrates thus adheres to the idea that the opinion of the majority should be disregarded and left to those of “reasonable people. ” An example in which the belief of the majority versus the reasonable people was posed amidst the 1950s.
As communism was a great threat for the United States during this time period, with much turmoil abound and the uneasiness regarding the Domino Theory the U. S. feared the worst for South Vietnam. Under the strong anti-Communist government of Ngo Dinh Diem the U. S put its diplomatic and massive economic aid behind them. Soon thereafter, clashes arose and the U. S was faced with the dilemma of sending troops in to South Vietnam or letting the South Vietnamese fend for themselves. There was much animosity in the U. S at this time especially amongst the young eighteen-year-olds that were eligible for the draft.
In colleges all over the country students protested adamantly against the U. S. intervention in South Vietnam. However, the President Johnson feared that North Vietnam would eventually take over and decided to intervene regardless of public opposition (Encyclopedia Britannica 44). Despite the fact that U. S intervention in Vietnam is still a controversial issue todayas with much of the U. S decisions to intervene in foreign affairs, it can be said that it was the opinion of the majority not to intervene in the Vietnam War.
Therefore, it can be said, in correspondence with Socrates position, that it was the opinion of the “reasonable people” to intervene in Vietnam. Socrates would say in this instance that the United States was right to disregard the opinion of those opposed and to take action against the Communist rule. In my opinion I agree with Socrates in this particular situation. The U. S. is seen as a superpower and with all its economic resources as well as military intelligence it is the duty of our country to intervene and help countries less able.
South Vietnam needed the support of the U. S. especially when the North Vietnamese forces threatened them. Thus, in conclusion I believe that Socrates was correct to disregard the opinion of the majority. Socrates accepts his fate, for this reason alone he is not a coward. Socrates disagrees with retaliation and has faith in the government of Athens. Although Socrates may not agree with the decision of the assembly to put him to his death, he realizes that he was done wrongly by the assembly rather than the laws of Athens themselves.
I believe Socrates feels this way because he has lived under the laws of Athens for 70 years and he has raised his children under the same principles. Socrates accepts the fact that being a member of society demands a certain respect and obedience. Without the rules and punishment system Athens would not be able to function properly. As Socrates decided to become a citizen of the state of Athens he also takes along with him the responsibility of being a citizen of that state. In following the more reasonable people I believe Socrates is merely following the path in which the Gods intended.