Putting Socrates’ Arguments So Far Together
Analyze whether the reasons Socrates offers cohere with his objections to following the opinion of the many.
As Crito points out, by accepting the death sentence, Socrates is following what the majority decided was right even though he had said before that only the opinions of the experts, not the majority, should be followed. These two ideas do seem to contradict each other but to Socrates, his acquiescence to his fate isn’t to the jury that convicted him but to the Law that binds him. To expand further on what was said earlier about Socrates making a distinction between the processes of a democratic government and the Laws that result from these processes, Socrates also points out that he was convicted under a fair trial and by appearing at court on that day, he had a chance to defend himself and entered into an agreement to abide by the verdict decided upon by the jury. He was also given the chance to propose other forms of punishment such as exile but since he did not choose to do so, he has no right to change his mind now when it’s against the Law when he had multiple opportunities to change his fate legally before (Crito, 52b-c). In other words, Socrates believes that the laws don’t protect people but that people protect the law. Among the arguments Socrates makes to Crito, he alludes to the Law as an entity that can be destroyed when individuals decide not to follow it and so, threatens the civilisation (Crito, 50a-c). The civilians and the enforcers of the law are the acting force of the law. Without people to enforce their rule, the laws are just ideas on pieces of paper and have no innate power. Because of that, situations like the one Socrates is in can arise because it is through imperfect human beings that the just Law is acting through. To Socrates, the Law is not fallible. Since his fate was decided through due process, the Law demands that Socrates follow it and if he breaks his agreement with the Law as an Athenian citizen, then he will be considered to be actively rebelling against the city that raised him and that will be considered a crime worse than a child working against his parents or a slave against his master (Crito, 51a). So, Socrates did not renege or contradict his earlier arguments about the folly of the majority because he clearly delineated the difference between the largely irrational enforcing body of the democracy and the inert laws, criticising the former and not the latter.