Integrity with Socrates and Crito

The Greatest Philosopher

I am not angry with my condemners, or with my accusers; they have done me no harm, although they did not mean to do me any good; and for this I may gently blame them.” Plato. “Apology”


“CRITO: Yes; the meaning is only too clear. But, oh! my beloved Socrates, let me entreat you once more to take my advice and escape. For if you die I shall not only lose a friend who can never be replaced, but there is another evil: people who do not know you and me will believe that I might have saved you if I had been willing to give money, but that I did not care. Now, can there be a worse disgrace than this—that I should be thought to value money more than the life of a friend? For the many will not be persuaded that I wanted you to escape, and that you refused.

SOCRATES: But why, my dear Crito, should we care about the opinion of the many? Good men, and they are the only persons who are worth considering, will think of these things truly as they occurred.

CRITO: But you see, Socrates, that the opinion of the many must be regarded, for what is now happening shows that they can do the greatest evil to anyone who has lost their good opinion.

SOCRATES: I only wish it were so, Crito; and that the many could do the greatest evil; for then they would also be able to do the greatest good – and what a fine thing this would be! But in reality they can do neither, for they cannot make a man either wise or foolish; and whatever they do is the result of chance.’’

Excerpt From: Plato. “Crito.” iBooks.

Crito is a short dialogue of Plato, named after Socrates’ friend with the same name. He was a very wealthy man. The dialogue occurred between himself and Socrates, while Socrates was in prison. He had visited Socrates in his prison room, to help Socrates escape from prison to avoid execution. Socrates refused to escape, not only because he was unafraid of dying (as he had repeatedly stated in his lifetime and aptly captured again in this his quote from Apology – another dialogue of Plato -: “The hour of departure has arrived, and we must go our ways – I to die, and you to live. Which is better God only knows.”); but because he believed in the rule of law. Even though he was unjustly sentenced, he did not use that as an excuse to escape, he maintained that as long as he was not able to convince the Athenians of his innocence, he must abide by what he had preached all his life, which was that the rule of law and justice were supreme. In fact during his trial, he stated that it is wrong to ask a favour of a judge to procure an acquittal, instead of informing and convincing the judge … “For his (the judge) is, not to make a present of justice, but to give judgement; and he has sworn that he will judge according to the laws, and not according to his own good pleasure; and we ought not to encourage you, nor should you allow yourselves to be encouraged, in this habit of perjury – there can be no piety in that.” Plato: Apology.

There is a lot of injustice in the society today, and many of us have been truly treated unfairly, therefore we take actions that are unlawful and we justify this by the unfair treatment we have received. Many times we adopt this stance in the name of survival, but Socrates points out that returning evil for evil is a lose-lose situation. Some people loot their countries in the name of trying to secure a better future for their children; for Socrates however, when he was told to consider the plight of his children if he died, he stated that he must obey the laws so that he does not encourage lawlessness in Athens and consequently make his children to grow up in a lawless society. He believed it was more advantageous to be an orphan in a just society, than to have parents in a lawless one. It is also remarkable that he opted for the death penalty before the commencement of the trial, among other options of being exiled or paying a fine. He simply said of fines that he had no money, despite having very wealthy friends. For exile, he was of the view that this was certainly worse than death, hear him –

When I do not know whether death is a good or evil, why should I propose a penalty which would certainly be evil?”

For I am quite sure that wherever I go, there, as here, the young men will flock to me; and if I drive them away, their elders will drive me out at their request; and if I let them come, their fathers and friends will drive me out for their sakes”.

Excerpts from: Plato. “Apology.” iBooks.

Acropolis of Athens

Acropolis of Athens

Remember that the charges against Socrates were that he was impious, failing to acknowledge the deities of Athens, and corrupting the youths. He was sure the same fate would befall wherever he went, for he maintained his innocence saying he only asked questions, which lead to self-examination; a feature he was not ready to drop, for he says that the life lived without examination was not worthy of living. He thus wondered why he should keep wandering from place to place at his age. As for escaping from prison before he was scheduled to die by drinking poison, he opined that even if he was ready to break the law in such a shameful manner, which he wasn’t, it would make him to be rejected in any lawful society he escapes to, or be forced to live in an unlawful society who would condone a jail breaker, and bring up his children in same, which to him was worse than death.

Socrates was of the opinion that breaking the laws of the State was akin to violence against the State, and was worse than meting out violence on ones parents. He was of the opinion that laws must be respected at all times, not only when it suits us to do so. Until we learn to obey the laws at all times and at all levels, we will continue to damage the society and sink lower, no matter the excuses or justification we try to proffer.

Decisions taken on the basis of integrity will hardly be popular, despite most people claiming they want truth and justice. We must remember however that adhering to moral and ethical principles even when it is not popular, or even at the possibility of death is true integrity. Rather than seeking to go with the crowd, let us like Socrates remember that it is not about the many, but the few good and wise men!

Dr Ande Elisha

The Amateur Philosopher

King Solomon, Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris, Portal of St. Anne

King Solomon, Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris, Portal of St. Anne

For those who like me, can never get enough of Plato’s dialogues, you can read further excerpts of the dialogue with Crito below:

“CRITO: Fear not—there are persons who are willing to get you out of prison at no great cost; and as for the informers, they are far from being exorbitant in their demands—a little money will satisfy them. My means, which are certainly ample, are at your service, and if you have a scruple about spending all mine, here are strangers who will give you the use of theirs; and one of them, Simmias the Theban, has brought a large sum of money for this very purpose; and Cebes and many others are prepared to spend their money in helping you to escape. I say, therefore, do not hesitate on our account, and do not say, as you did in the court that you will have a difficulty in knowing what to do with yourself anywhere else. For men will love you in other places to which you may go, and not in Athens only; there are friends of mine in Thessaly, if you like to go to them, who will value and protect you, and no Thessalian will give you any trouble. Nor can I think that you are at all justified, Socrates, in betraying your own life when you might be saved; in acting thus you are playing into the hands of your enemies, who are hurrying on your destruction. And further I should say that you are deserting your own children; for you might bring them up and educate them; instead of which you go away and leave them, and they will have to take their chance; and if they do not meet with the usual fate of orphans, there will be small thanks to you. No man should bring children into the world who is unwilling to persevere to the end in their nurture and education. But you appear to be choosing the easier part, not the better and manlier, which would have been more becoming in one who professes to care for virtue in all his actions, like yourself. And indeed, I am ashamed not only of you, but of us who are your friends, when I reflect that the whole business will be attributed entirely to our want of courage. The trial need never have come on, or might have been managed differently; and this last act, or crowning folly, will seem to have occurred through our negligence and cowardice, who might have saved you, if we had been good for anything; and you might have saved yourself, for there was no difficulty at all. See now, Socrates, how sad and discreditable are the consequences, both to us and you. Make up your mind then, or rather have your mind already made up, for the time of deliberation is over, and there is only one thing to be done, which must be done this very night, and, if we delay at all, will be no longer practicable or possible; I beseech you therefore, Socrates, be persuaded by me, and do as I say.”

Excerpt From: Plato. “Crito.” iBooks.

SOCRATES: And what was said about another matter? Is the pupil who devotes himself to the practice of gymnastics supposed to attend to the praise and blame and opinion of every man, or of one man only—his physician or trainer, whoever he may be?

CRITO: Of one man only.

SOCRATES: And he ought to fear the censure and welcome the praise of that one only, and not of the many?

CRITO: Clearly so.”

Excerpt From: Plato. “Crito.” iBooks.

SOCRATES: Are we to say that we are never intentionally to do wrong, or that in one way we ought and in another way we ought not to do wrong, or is doing wrong always evil and dishonourable, as I was just now saying, and as has been already acknowledged by us? Are all our former admissions which were made within a few days to be thrown away? And have we, at our age, been earnestly discoursing with one another all our life long only to discover that we are no better than children? Or, in spite of the opinion of the many, and in spite of consequences whether better or worse, shall we insist on the truth of what was then said, that injustice is always an evil and dishonour to him who acts unjustly? Shall we say so or not?


SOCRATES: Then we must do no wrong?

CRITO: Certainly not.

SOCRATES: Nor, when injured, injure in return, as the many imagine; for we must injure no one at all?

CRITO: Clearly not.

SOCRATES: Again, Crito, may we do evil?

CRITO: Surely not, Socrates.

SOCRATES: And what of doing evil in return for evil, which is the morality of the many—is that just or not?

CRITO: Not just.

SOCRATES: For doing evil to another is the same as injuring him?

CRITO: Very true.

SOCRATES: Then we ought not to retaliate or render evil for evil to anyone, whatever evil we may have suffered from him. But I would have you consider, Crito, whether you really mean what you are saying. For this opinion has never been held, and never will be held, by any considerable number of persons; and those who are agreed and those who are not agreed upon this point have no common ground, and can only despise one another when they see how widely they differ. Tell me, then, whether you agree with and assent to my first principle, that neither injury nor retaliation nor warding off evil by evil is ever right. And shall that be the premise of our argument? Or do you decline and dissent from this? For so I have ever thought, and continue to think; but, if you are of another opinion, let me hear what you have to say. If, however, you remain of the same mind as formerly, I will proceed to the next step.

CRITO: You may proceed, for I have not changed my mind.

SOCRATES: Then I will go on to the next point, which may be put in the form of a question:—Ought a man to do what he admits to be right, or ought he to betray the right?

CRITO: He ought to do what he thinks right.

SOCRATES: But if this is true, what is the application? In leaving the prison against the will of the Athenians, do I wrong any? or rather do I not wrong those whom I ought least to wrong? Do I not desert the principles which were acknowledged by us to be just—what do you say?

CRITO: I cannot tell, Socrates; for I do not know.”

Excerpt From: Plato. “Crito.” iBooks.

“but whether in battle or in a court of law, or in any other place, he must do what his city and his country order him; or he must change their view of what is just: and if he may do no violence to his father or mother, much less may he do violence to his country.”

Excerpt From: Plato. “Crito.” iBooks.

“And he who disobeys us is, as we maintain, thrice wrong; first, because in disobeying us he is disobeying his parents; secondly, because we are the authors of his education; thirdly, because he has made an agreement with us that he will duly obey our commands; and he neither obeys them nor convinces us that our commands are unjust; and we do not rudely impose them, but give him the alternative of obeying or convincing us;—that is what we offer, and he does neither.”

Excerpt From: Plato. “Crito.” iBooks.

“Listen, then, Socrates, to us who have brought you up. Think not of life and children first, and of justice afterwards, but of justice first, that you may be justified before the princes of the world below. For neither will you nor any that belong to you be happier or holier or juster in this life, or happier in another, if you do as Crito bids. Now you depart in innocence, a sufferer and not a doer of evil; a victim, not of the laws, but of men. But if you go forth, returning evil for evil, and injury for injury, breaking the covenants and agreements which you have made with us, and wronging those whom you ought least of all to wrong, that is to say, yourself, your friends, your country, and us, we shall be angry with you while you live, and our brethren, the laws in the world below, will receive you as an enemy; for they will know that you have done your best to destroy us. Listen, then, to us and not to Crito.’

This, dear Crito, is the voice which I seem to hear murmuring in my ears, like the sound of the flute in the ears of the mystic; that voice, I say, is humming in my ears, and prevents me from hearing any other. And I know that anything more which you may say will be vain. Yet speak, if you have anything to say.

CRITO: I have nothing to say, Socrates.”

“SOCRATES: Leave me then, Crito, to fulfill the will of God, and to follow whither he leads.”

Excerpt From: Plato. “Crito.” iBooks.

Ancient theater smaller