It is hard to imagine the Western world without the influence of the Greeks. It is fair to say that if not without Greek culture and the contributions of Greek philosophers like Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, the Western hemisphere would still be ruled by barbarians. The ideas coming from the lips and pens of the aforementioned thinkers were enough to educate and transform Europe into a civilized continent. Plato’s The Republic and Crito are just a few of the examples of how ancient Greeks developed ideas that were so far advanced for their time.
Plato was able to show a more sophisticated insight into the true meaning of justice. Crito Plato’s minor work was a short piece entitled Crito. It was supposed to be the last words of a dying man; Socrates was schedule for execution in much the same way that a person in the 21st century is waiting in death row. Socrates was imprisoned somewhere in Athens, Greece and early one morning he received an unexpected visit from a friend who can also be considered as one of his students. Crito came into his cell or dungeon and he found Socrates sleeping soundly.
He did not wake him up because he was so impressed that a dying man can sleep like a baby. Later on this image of a calm death row inmate will play a role in explaining the morale of the story. When Socrates finally awoke from his deep slumber, he was surprised that Crito was able to get past the guards. Crito said that that the guards owe him a favor and this last statement serves as fitting introduction to what he was about to reveal next. Crito told Socrates that he should escape and that with the help of friends and strangers will be more than willing to supply all the needed resources for a successful jail break.
But Socrates refused the offer. Interestingly Crito was not really surprised by the negative response and he said that Socrates need not worry about the repercussions of their actions. Crito knew that Socrates being a man of honor and virtue will not do anything to endanger his friends. Thus, Crito assured him that fool proof scheme – this includes the use of bribe money – will make key official turn a blind eye and so no one will press charges against the conspirators. Again Socrates said thanks, but no thanks.
Crito changed tactics and said that by not escaping he will injure the reputation of his friends since the public knows this is the moral and courageous thing to do – to rescue their master from an unjust fate. To this new line of reasoning Socrates said that man should not be swayed by popular opinion. The philosopher said that it is better to follow the dictates of one man who only speaks of truth rather than to follow the instructions of many fools. With this rebuttal Crito had no answer but he continued to press on.
Crito used something closer to home and he said that if Socrates will not leave now his children will become orphans. Then they will suffer the inevitable fate awaiting all orphans – poverty and ridicule. Socrates was unmoved and he reasoned that if he will break the laws of the land he will provide a bad example for his children and this will make him a bad parent. Again Crito had no answer for this one and yet he refused to throw in the towel. He had one more ace left up his sleeves.
Crito then used something that he knew was very close to the heart of Socrates – the master’s love for teaching and mentoring young students so that they will grow in wisdom and virtue. Crito told Socrates that if he will die now his gift will be put to waste, whereas if he will leave Athens and go to another country he can bring his children with him and continue his work as a teacher. According to Crito this will assure that his influence will continue to grow. Socrates in his final argument stated that he was bound in a covenant that he made between the Athens his beloved city.
Breaking the covenant means that he does not understand the meaning of justice – the pursuit of doing right, and this means that if he failed to stand strong against this temptation then he will be marked as a hypocrite. He will be condemned as a doer of evil deeds not only by Athenians but even by the “princes of the world below”, the rulers of the afterlife whom Socrates fear more than death. The Republic While Crito is one of Plato’s minor works, The Republic is his masterpiece.
In the first four books or chapters the same pattern was used, just like in the previous work. But instead of a dialogue between two men, here, Socrates was surrounded by a company of men. He would ask questions, they will answer and he will ask some more. The topic centered on the idea of justice. In Crito justice was understood in the context of a man fighting injustice and imprisoned from false accusations. In the previous work the focus was in the application of justice. In the The Republic Socrates defined justice.
In The Republic Socrates wanted to find out what is the real meaning of justice. And some of his friends and acquaintances reasoned that it is doing what they are supposed to do, to perform ethical duties. But then Socrates argued that surely there is more than that. He provided countless examples where a narrow definition of justice will not suffice. By doing so Socrates was able to instill into the hearts of his audience that justice is not only honoring obligations and satisfying basic laws but justice is in its purest form is doing what is right.
It was as if Socrates was able to foresee that in the future people will bend the rules and so he was one of the first to ever say that a good person will do more than what is required. His insight was uncanny and truly his ideas were more advanced than those of his contemporaries. It was not surprising that Socrates and Plato were misunderstood and died without recognition. It was only centuries later when men and women discovered their awesome contribution to humanity.