There are very few individuals who can make an argument as well as Socrates. His ability to reason and use logical conclusions to come to a decision are the two things that have made him most famous as a philosopher. It is especially interesting to take a look at his arguments and ideas in the dialogue of Crito. He presents some incredibly interesting arguments about why he should not break out of prison.
In what amounts to one of the most fascinating scenes in all of philosophy, this is a perfect representation of how one can use some very simple logical arguments in order to come to a conclusion. Socrates never takes the short way to his conclusions, but he eventually gets there using some wisdom and teaches a lesson about morality in the process. How is one to understand the overall argument presented by Socrates in this instance? In order to truly understand what he is getting at, a reader has to untangle a bunch of the rhetoric in his words and get down to the bare bones.
Socrates is an incredibly complex speaker, so much of the meaning in his words can get lost if one is not extremely careful when considering what he is saying. The basic arguments for why he wants to stay in prison are fairly easy to understand in reality. While Crito is encouraging him to break loose from prison because it is the noble thing to do, Socrates looks at it in a completely different way. Socrates likes to take a long, hard look at who he could potentially be doing any wrong to before me makes a move.
Though the man goes through a very long, drawn out process before getting to his final conclusion, he operates on the basic assumption that you must also seek to do right, no matter what the cost. In this case, the cost is his life, as it has been decided that he will die in jail. One interesting thing about Socrates’s argument is that he does not care, even for one second, how his decision is viewed by others. Instead, he wants to make sure he is right with his own moral standing and philosophy. This is an incredibly noble goal and undertaking, especially for someone in his position.
Readers can see this about him in the dialogue, when he says, “ But now, since the argument has thus far prevailed, the only question which remains to be considered is, whether we shall do rightly either in escaping or in suffering others to aid in our escape and paying them in money and thanks, or whether we shan not do rightly; and if the latter, then death or any other calamity which may ensue on my remaining here must not be allowed to enter into the calculation” (Socrates). It is easy to see, from this, that Socrates has a deep desire to break things down into terms that are the easiest to understand.
He seeks, above all else, to have a situation where he decides between wrong and right. All of the other things are thrown to the side. What he decides, in the end, is that he is doing wrong by breaking out of prison. He is in some how wronging another person, and this is something that he cannot stand to do, no matter how many people he might help or benefit by doing what he is doing. In this way, it can be said that he is a staunch moralist, not a utilitarian. He could do much more good for the greater public, but he does not care about that.
For him, he feels that he would lose his hold on morality if he were to wrong a person, so he chooses, in all instances, the stances where he would wrong absolutely no one. If one were to go through and take the time to look at the arguments of Socrates on an individual basis, then you can see some very interesting aspects of his argument. As is mentioned previously, he is concentrated mainly on getting to the bones of the argument, but he does get there the long way. He starts off by bringing his first moral stance into the argument itself.
This is where one can see that he is going to be very pronounced about making the decision at hand. He is not going to make a brash decision without first considering all of the moral and ethical implications that might have otherwise made this a difficult choice. In the dialogue, he writes, “Let us consider the matter together, and do you either refute me if you can, and I will be convinced; or else cease, my dear friend, from repeating to me that I ought to escape against the wishes of the Athenians: for I am extremely desirous to be persuaded by you, but not against my own better judgment.
And now please to consider my first position, and do your best to answer me” (Socrates). He goes on in his stance to say, “Are we to say that we are never intentionally to do wrong, or that in one way we ought and in another way we ought not to do wrong, or is doing wrong always evil and dishonorable, as I was just now saying, and as has been already acknowledged by us? Are all our former admissions which were made within a few days to be thrown away? And have we, at our age, been earnestly discoursing with one another all our life long only to discover that we are no better than children? ” (Socrates).
This is a very long and complicated way of saying that we should do the right thing. He says that, no matter what circumstances might come in front of you, doing the right thing has to be your chief concern at all times. It is not right to do the wrong thing, even if you have the pressure of the world on your shoulders. It is worth noting, at least in this case, that Socrates is living out his philosophy. In many times, he is just talking. In this particular situation, he is actual in jail and he is having to go forth with the things that he has always taught to people. He is right in this nugget, too.
Because he wants to always live his life in a truthful, moral way, it can be said that this part of the argument is highly relevant to the argument at large. This is where it all begins and ends for Socrates, so all of his decisions have to be based upon what is wrong and what is right. In this instance, he is absolutely searching with all of his might to find some way that his actions could be wrong to someone else. Most individuals would try to find the single justification for something being right before acting on them. He is not that way, as he seeks to find the one wrong thing to disprove what he might have otherwise done.
For Socrates, being a philosopher means that he should have to adhere to the highest standards. He should know better than others what is right and what is not right under the laws of the country and under the moral code that all human beings should live by. In his argument, he tries to explain why he is going to be wronging the Athenian system by breaking out. He writes, “Has a philosopher like you failed to discover that our country is more to be valued and higher and holier far than mother or father or any ancestor, and more to be regarded in the eyes of the gods and of men of understanding?
” (Socrates). He is asking questions that he already knows the answer to, but that is not important in this setting. What he is basically saying in this instance is that he should know that his actions are going to do much to undermine the system if he is to break out. Since he knows this and he knows that undermining the system will eventually lead to wronging people, then he absolutely cannot do it. This all comes back to his original conclusion about right and wrong, and it is incredibly important and relevant to the overall argument.
In the end, it comes down to a very simple thing. It is about doing what is right, and not caring what anyone says about it. In this way, Socrates was very noble and he was one of a kind. If he can find a way that he wrongs someone, then his entire life would be for not. He does not want to sacrifice this, and thus, he does not. He chooses to let the gods have his fate because it is no longer in his hands to choose wrong over right. He made his choice long ago, and this one is a no brainer, as his arguments show.