The Dialog “Crito” by Socrates Explicatory Essay
The dialog Crito, in which Socrates explains his reasons for having chosen in favor of remaining at the prison and facing the execution, has traditionally been referred to as one of the most intellectually refined argumentative defenses of the very notion of a statehood. In its turn, this explains why, until comparatively recent times, people used to find it rather challenging to come up with discursively legitimate objections to Socrates’ ‘pro-death’ argumentation, deployed throughout the dialogue’s entirety.
Nevertheless, as of today, this effectively ceased to be the case, because: a) the realities of a post-industrial living render the classical concept of a statehood/law hopelessly outdated; b) the recent discoveries in the fields of biology and physics expose the assumption that there should be an ‘afterlife’ after one’s death, conceptually fallacious. Given the fact that the notions of ‘statehood/law’ and ‘afterlife’ are prominently featured in the Socrates’ line of reasoning, the philosopher’s arguments can no longer be considered legitimate. In my paper, I will aim to explore the validity of this suggestion at length.
Socrates’ defense of his decision to remain in the prison makes a perfectly logical sense. First, the philosopher points out to the fact that it is only a righteous living, which can be fully enjoyed.
Second, in order for just about anyone to be considered a righteous individual, he or she must be courageous and intellectually honest enough to never cease being observant of the provisions of a secular law. This is because it is specifically this law’s unconditional enactment, which allows the society to maintain its integrity – hence, making possible the continuation of a socio-cultural progress.
What it means is that one’s willingness to disobey laws, regardless of how unjust they may appear for the concerned individual, reflects his or her lack of existential righteousness: “He who disobeys us (laws) is… wrong, because… he has made an agreement with us that he will duly obey our commands; and he neither obeys them nor convinces us that our commands are unjust” (58).
After all, by refusing to obey laws, on the account of their presumed wrongness, without trying to convince legislators to adjust them, one indirectly sheds doubt on the legitimacy of the state in which he or she lives.
Yet; whereas, the wrongful application of a law may only affect the well-being of a single individual, the active denial of a law (by the mean of refusing to submit to it) will inevitably result in the deterioration of the state/society, and consequently – in depriving the rest of the citizens of an opportunity to realize their full existential potential.
Nevertheless, in light of what accounts for the realities of today’s living, Socrates’ line of argumentation, in this respect, cannot be referred to as such that represents an undisputed truth-value. This is because, as of today, the very concept of statehood continues to undergo a qualitative transformation.
Whereas, even as recent as a few decades ago, only the independent states used to be considered the rightful subjects of an international law, nowadays this is no longer the case. For example, even though the organization of the European Union is not considered the de jure state, it nevertheless exhibits the indications of the de facto statehood, such as the common currency (Euro), the unified government (European parliament) and the ‘transnational’ police-force (Europol).
What is even more important, however, is that it is specifically an ongoing technological progress, which allows the citizens of the EU countries to enjoy a high-quality living, and not their willingness to adjust their behavior to the euro-centric provisions of a secular law.
In fact, because the earlier mentioned progress renders the postulates of a conventional law outdated, it is specifically one’s willingness to violate this law, which should be thought of as the proof of the concerned individual’s existential fitness. This, of course, suggests that Socrates’ idea that the extent of one’s virtuousness is being reflective of the measure of his or her lawfulness, can no longer be considered discursively legitimate.
Another justification for Socrates to decide in favor of ending his life, as it was prescribed to him by the court of Athens, was his irrational belief that the death of his body will not result in the death of his ‘soul’.
The validity of this statement can be well illustrated in regards to Socrates’ suggestion that: “We (laws) shall be angry with you while you alive, and our brethren, the laws in the world below, will receive you as an enemy; for they will know that you have done your best to destroy us” (60). In other words, the apparent ease, with which Socrates went about justifying his decision not to attempt the escape from prison, may in part be explained by his belief in the ‘afterlife’.
This, of course, implies that contrary to what Socrates wanted people to believe about himself, his resolution to lead a righteous life was not entirely motivated by purely idealistic considerations, on the philosopher’s part. In other words, had there been a good reason for Socrates to consider the possibility that the end of his physical existence would result in the destruction of his personality (‘soul’), he would not remain quite as calm, while explaining his reasons to decide to stay in the prison. In fact, he might have decided to escape.
Yet; whereas, the idea that the death of one’s body necessarily results in the death of his or her ‘soul’ would be definitely deemed inappropriate in time when Crito was written, today’s intellectually advanced people (specifically biologists, psychologists and physicists) regard this idea self-evident. The reason for this is apparent – this idea is utterly inconsistent with the most fundamental laws of nature.
There is no ‘afterlife’. After one’s death, there is nothingness – just as it was the case before his or her birth. What it means is that Socrates’ suggestion that, after having died, he would be held accountable in the ‘underworld’, cannot be referred to anything but the byproduct of his unawareness of how the universe actually functions.
As it was shown earlier, there are least two good reasons to consider the line of Socrates’ ‘pro-death’ argumentation conceptually erroneous. In its turn, this suggests that the ‘appeal to morality’ can no longer be considered a discursively appropriate foundation for the philosophical reasoning to be based upon.
Apparently, it is the empirical science and not the vaguely defined notion of ‘morality’, out of which the legitimate set of ethically sound rules of behavior originates. This, of course, implies that despite the emotional appeal of Platonism, this philosophy does not resonate with the actual realities of today’s living. I believe that this conclusion is fully consistent with the paper’s initial thesis.
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Introduction The dialog Crito, in which Socrates explains his reasons for having chosen in favor of remaining at the prison and facing the execution, has traditionally been referred to as […]