In Plato’s dialogue, Crito, Socrates spent time before his death discussing with Crito whether or not Socrates should escape from jail and elude his execution. Crito wanted Socrates to escape from jail and while Crito was badgering Socrates into escaping, Socrates was differentiating between what was right, what was wrong, and what he should do. When juxtaposing the two choices, Socrates explained, “I am the kind of man who listens to nothing within me but the argument that on reflection seems best to me. I cannot, now that this fate has come upon me, discard the arguments I used; they seem to me much the same”(Crito 46, b) Socrates uses his abilities of level headed thinking and his wisdom to determine the correct action. Should Socrates escape with Crito, or accept his sentence of death? I feel that Socrates chose the correct path, which was remaining in Jail. This decision was contiguous with his beliefs in the laws of Athens and his dedication to his state, which made Socrates justified in his decision to remain in jail.
Socrates made his decision to stay in jail after much contemplation. Socrates explained to Crito that his decision to flee or remain in jail would be dependant on what he found to be just. “We must examine next whether it is just for me to try to get out of here when the Athenians have not acquitted me. If it is seen to be just, we will try to do so; if it is not, we will abandon the idea.” (48 c) Socrates was not going to take the easy way out, and even if accepting his death sentence was the just decision, he was ready to accept his fate. Socrates examined both sides of the argument, determining that the correct decision to make was to remain in jail and be executed.
Socrates believed that he should remain in jail and await his execution because “the most important thing is not life, but the good life…and that the good life, the beautiful life, and the just life are the same. “(48 b) Socrates believed that there was no point in living, if his life was not moral and just. Defying the laws of Athens, in this case breaking out of jail, would be unjust, and against Socrates beliefs.
Socrates was dedicated to his state of Athens. He wanted to abide by the laws, because he respected the city as well as the laws that governed Athens. Living by such laws allowed Socrates to lead what he perceived to be the just life, therefore the good life. Following his own beliefs, Socrates intention was to follow these laws, whether they were benefiting his life, or affecting it negatively. Socrates believed that the laws needed to be followed consistently, which he explains when he personifies the laws while speaking to Crito, “Do you think it possible for a city not to be destroyed if the verdicts of its courts have no force but are nullified and set at naught by private individuals?””(Crito 50, b). Living the just life means that one must follow the Athenian laws, no matter what situation the individual is currently in. Socrates used the interpretation of the laws to explain to Crito what his reasons for remaining in prison were. Socrates believes that since he is a loyal Athenian, it is his duty to abide by such laws. Socrates states that it his free will to live under the Athenian law, and if one does not wish to abide by the laws, they can move out of the city. Socrates believes that the laws, which he personifies in order to explain to Crito, are the reason for who he is today. The laws allowed his father and mother to marry and legally have Socrates. The birth of Socrates to a legitimate Athenian family allowed him the opportunity of education, which resulted in his successful and prosperous life. Socrates feels that the laws “Have given you birth, nurtured you, educated you, we have given you and all other citizens a share of all the good things we could…Once arrived at voting age and having observed the affairs of the city and us the laws, we proclaim that if we do not please him, he can take his possessions and go wherever he pleases.”(51 d). This is the reason why Socrates cannot run away from jail, Socrates believes that his loyalty and respect of Athens would be violated if he breaks the law and leaves jail.
Socrates reason for remaining in prison is a result of his faith and beliefs in the laws of Athens. Socrates acknowledges that the laws have given him the opportunity to have a prosperous life, in which he has attained great knowledge. Without the laws, Socrates may have never been able to accomplish all the he had. Socrates’ loyalty to Athens is above all other loyalties and priorities, even above his own life. I think this is both admirable, and the correct view for Socrates to have. Socrates presents his argument to Crito in a respectful and intelligent manner, and eventually persuades Crito to see the situation in the same light that Socrates does. I think that it is respectable for Socrates to stick to his beliefs, and to keep the respect and dedication to his state intact, even when his life is being threatened. There is no greater way for an individual to stand by their belief, than to give up his or her life for their cause.