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Plato – “Crito” (c. 400 BC)

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Crito (/ˈkraɪtoʊ/ KRY-toh or /ˈkriːtoʊ/ KREE-toh; Ancient Greek: Κρίτων [krítɔːn]) is a dialogue by the ancient Greek philosopher Plato. It is a conversation between Socrates and his wealthy friend Crito regarding justice (δικαιοσύνη), injustice (ἀδικία), and the appropriate response to injustice. Socrates thinks that injustice may not be answered with injustice, and refuses Crito’s offer to finance his escape from prison. This dialogue contains an ancient statement of the social contract theory of government.

SOCRATES: From these premises I proceed to argue the question whether I ought or ought not to try and escape without the consent of the Athenians: and if I am clearly right in escaping, then I will make the attempt; but if not, I will abstain. The other considerations which you mention, of money and loss of character and the duty of educating one’s children, are, I fear, only the doctrines of the multitude, who would be as ready to restore people to life, if they were able, as they are to put them to death—and with as little reason. 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 in reality we shall 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.

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