University of Pittsburgh, Summer Term 1997
Philosophy 0330: Political Philosophy
Ben Eggleston, Instructor

Plato, the Crito

I. Background Information

The Apology and the Crito are two of a series of dialogues that describe the end of Socrates’s life. In the Apology (whose name is a transliteration of the Greek word apologia, meaning “defense”), Socrates is on trial for several offenses, the main ones being corruption of the young, not believing in the gods in which the city believes, and believing in other gods. Essentially, the powers of Athens have become fed up with Socrates’s meddling ways and are trying to get him to stop or to leave. In reply, Socrates is defiant: he denies the charges, defends his way of life, and refuses to ask for mercy from the jury. The jury finds him guilty, and his accuser proposes the penalty of death. Socrates is given a chance to propose an alternative penalty, and he says that what the city really owes him is not punishment, but a reward: free meals at a government dining hall, perhaps. Not surprisingly, the jury sentences Socrates to death. As the Crito begins, Socrates is in jail, awaiting execution.

II. Reading Assignment

III. Study Questions

  1. Why does Crito want Socrates to evade his death sentence?
  2. Does Socrates allow that it is right for one to do something wrong in return for something wrong done to oneself?
  3. What reasons do the laws, speaking through Socrates, give for saying that the duties of citizens to their state are stronger than the duties of children to their parents?
  4. What reasons do the laws give for saying that Socrates has made a contract to obey them?
  5. What do the laws say will happen to Socrates if he flees to one of the nearby well-governed cities?

IV. Suggestions for Further Reading

  1. Anthony Kenny (ed), The Oxford History of Western Philosophy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994) (Hillman reference B72 O8 1994b), pp. 279–82.

V. Outline of Topics for May 15

  1. Who was Plato?
  2. Crito’s arguments
  3. Socrates’s reply
    1. the reputation argument
    2. the justice argument
      1. the gratitude argument
      2. the contract argument
    3. the self-interest argument
    4. the fatherhood argument