Justice as Portrayed in Crito

Essay by charles.lunUniversity, Bachelor's March 2010

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In the Crito, Socrates attempts to rationalize his final decision to surrender his opportunity to escape imprisonment by elucidating on the notions of justice, injustice, and how to deal appropriately with injustice. Although he does not offer a definite denotation of justice, he implies that justice requires that an individual abide by the laws of the city by virtue of their citizenship. This tacit agreement between the citizen and the state is established through the many benefits the state confers upon society and the community. Even if it is not explicitly stated, Socrates has agreed to obey the laws of the city and to remain just even in face of apparent injustice. As such, his reluctance to accept Crito’s arguments for escaping, such as to save Crito’s public face (Plato, 2005, pp. 44b-c), see to his children’s upbringing (Plato, 2005, pp. 45d), or act without cowardice (Plato, 2005, pp.

45e-46a), are conducive to his understanding of the good life and how to achieve it. By following his guiding maxim that one should never do wrong regardless of the circumstances, Socrates purports a moral view that escaping an unjust sentence would be equivalent to wishing destruction upon the city. This is ultimately rooted in a deeper conviction that the laws of the city are supreme and should be followed as to reinforce the survival of the city. The disobedience of laws would, therefore, lead to the moral decay of citizens and instigate chaos and disorder.

In order to understand Socrates’ notion that to escape imprisonment would be equivalent to wishing destruction upon the city, one must examine the ethical stance from which Socrates’ moral maxim of never committing injustice (Plato, 2005, pp. 49b) originates. Essentially, this is a claim that an individual has duties and obligations to the...