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Interactive Curriculum Resource: HomeThemesAuthorsTexts • Sample Series

Crito - Plato

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Themes: Conscience, DutyJusticeLawPunishment


In the early morning following the trail of Socrates, Crito comes to his cell. Crito’s purpose is to free Socrates from his coming execution, and he has a plan to carry this out. His plan includes bribing the guards and bringing Socrates to Thessaly. Crito gives several reason for why Socrates should come with him, including the hardships that the sons of Socrates will endure if their father dies, and also the poor reputation Crito would have if he could not free his friend. 

Socrates gives several responses to Crito’s arguments. Among these arguments he includes the question of whose beliefs we should consider. He also proposes that damage to the soul in the form of injustice makes life worthless, and he maintains that one should strive to live a virtuous life rather than a long life. 

Further, Socrates brings up our commitment to the city and to law generally. When we choose to stay within our city, he believes, we are obliged when the city calls upon us. This dialogue brings up themes of social contract and obligation, and supports a wonderful series of conversations on duty when combined with Antigone by Sophocles and Letter from Birmingham Jail by King.


Opening questions:


At (47c) Crito says "Socrates, I do not think that what you are doing is just, to give up your life when you can save it, and to hasten your fate as your enemies would hasten it..." Is Crito right? Is Socrates being just?  


At (48b) Socrates says "...that the most important thing is not life, but the good life." What are his arguments for that? 


What does Socrates think our relationship to the city is, and to its laws? 

Suggested Pairing:


Law and Conscience - Sophocles, Antigone; Plato, Apology and Crito;
Lincoln / Douglas Debates; King, Letter from Birmingham Jail

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