Podcast: Play in new window | Download (Duration: 1:21:09 — 74.4MB)
Broadway bigwigs Walter Bobbie and Bill Youmans perform Plato's dialogue in which Socrates awaits his execution after being convicted by an Athenian jury of corrupting the youth and dissing the gods. Given that the verdict was clearly unjust, should Socrates take up Crito's offer to help him escape the city? Socrates says no: given that he's lived his whole life benefitting by the laws of Athens, ignoring them in this case would display a lack of integrity.
Bill then joins the full PEL foursome for a lively discussion.
End song: The Laws tell us disobedient bastards to "Fall Away" by Mark Lint and the Fake from the album So Whaddaya Think? (2000). Download the whole thing free.
Art by Genevieve Arnold.
The first idea that came to my mind was how much Kant founded his concept of the Categorical imperative on Plato’s Crito. And then there is another thing that you didn’t mention, how Nietzche, ad hominem, refuted Socrates exactly at this Crito(cal) point.
But as a response to the statement that Wes made in his closing point, maybe you should read G. Deleuze’s “Expressionism in Philosophy: Spinoza” (pages 266-268), to see what Spinoza, with a certain difference from Hobbes, has to say about public contract, especially how the individual, despite renouncing his rights to the State, has the obligation to strive in his existance.
Evan Hadkins says
I do like that thought (my paraphrase): How do we know if someone is being ironic? Are there Greek scholars with answers to this?
And suppose, Crito, that the Laws were to say to me in addition to what they have already said, “Socrates, how is it that after living your whole life in accordance with the virtues, you should now turn your back on them and do what is cowardly? For surely, it is cowardly to strike down one who is wholly innocent, rather than to strike down one who has been a bully to you and is deserving of your anger. And is this not what you are doing if you are to disobey the Laws? For We, the Laws, are wholly innocent and have not bullied you in any way. In fact, we have been used by the unjust for unjust purposes, I should add, entirely against Our will, for what is just can never willingly do what is unjust.
And were I, Socrates, to reply, “And yet a wrong has been done to me and I must now defend myself.” Would not the Laws reply, “And does one who wishes to defend oneself do so by attacking the innocent? Besides, you say that you have been done a wrong, and yet, did you think it Our job to free you from every distress? Do you not know with what great effort we have labored to free you from so many injustices? And now you turn to us once more, complaining that your life is unfair, that you have been treated wrongly. Don’t get Us wrong Socrates, we sympathize with you very much and wish you would have overcome you foes. And yet if what is wrong and bad has overcome what is good, how can we, the Laws, do anything about that? And yet now, when your enemies crowd in around you and the end is near, you lash out against the innocent as though a child.”
“What then might I say Crito? Might I make one last attempt to argue my position, saying, “And yet You are not innocent. You have willingly aided my foes and have been complicit in my destruction. And so I declare you, too, to be my enemy.” What then might the Laws say? Perhaps they may reply, “And what would you have us do Socrates? Have we not already given you an arena to defend yourself in by argument? Have we not protected you from the unjust openly raising their hands against you? Do you now hold us guilty for not having been powerful enough to defend you? Or for having been too powerful to have been used in your destruction? What could we have done?
“Yes Socrates, what you say is quite convincing. It’s just that a most felicitous thought has now occurred to me that may well weigh-in on the debate we have been having.”
“And what thought is that Crito?”
“What I was thinking, Socrates, is that I cannot help other than to be persuaded by what you say. I will grant that the Law may be wholly innocent. Does that mean it should be shielded from injury by us? Let me put it another way, when a sword is raised against us, do we think twice of smashing it. Or, if a walking stick is used as a weapon against us, do we not again break the stick? That is, when something is used against us in a wrong way, we have no qualms in breaking that thing.
“This is not how we treat people though. If an innocent person is used against us for an evil purpose, we at least try as best we can to preserve the innocent person from harm.”
“Well Socrates, while the Law may be innocent in the same way a stick is innocent, it is not a person, and so is not afforded the same respect as a person. That is, it need not be preserved in the same way that an innocent person must be preserved.”
“Good point Crito. Now tell me— you are concerned with preserving innocent people are you not? What then, if in evading the Law I should cause harm to people, by emboldening those who would harm others to commit their crimes?
“And what do you mean by this emboldening?”
“That those who would hurt others by their crimes would say, ‘look, Socrates has evaded the law, whether he has done good or bad I do not know and nor do I care, for I shall now evade the law.’”
“I see Socrates, so your fear is that you will impart into others the knowledge that they may evade the Law?”
“Fear not Socrates, for those who would do harm to others already know that they may evade the Law for they are wicked and seek to avoid what is just at every turn so that they already seek to avoid the Law and have knowledge of evading it. Besides, I say that all, both the wicked and the good, have knowledge that they may evade the Law.”
“Let us suppose that the good do not have this knowledge. For it is known that what is wicked may become good and what is good may become wicked. And what if by giving the good knowledge of evasion we make them wicked?”
“To that I say that the good will hold to what is good and to the Law. You must know that the Law itself is not the Good and that the good will have separate reasons for doing what is good so that even knowing that they may evade the Law they will not be led away from what is good and therefore will not be led away from obeying the Law. And if the Law were the only thing linking them to the good, I say they were not good to begin with and therefore will have had knowledge of evasion already. I do not mean to say that the good never become wicked, only that knowledge of evasion will not turn them from one to the other.
“I see. And what about those who would say that Socrates was good and so breaking the Law must be good if that is what Socrates does?”
“You must know Socrates that breaking the Law is only just and good in your case because the Law was being used unjustly against you. Those who break the Law unjustly will read into your circumstances what they will, and for their own ends, for what they read into the circumstances will not be the truth. We cannot then worry about what others will think of what we do because there are some who will turn what is true into what is not true and will thereby think what they want to think. What we do has no bearing on what they will think, only they will determine that. Besides Socrates, when have we ever cared about appearances? Were we not ever and always concerned with the truth and with what is?
“And what, Crito, are we to say the Law is, if it does not make one either good or wicked?”
“I say that it is a guide. As a sign on the road points us in the direction we want to go, so does the Law point us in the direction of the Good. The Law does not and cannot make us choose the good, only we can do that.”
“I am of another mind now Crito. Let us make haste from this dreadful prison and set aside those laws that are being used unjustly against me to cause my demise.”