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Essay/Term paper: Socrates' moral decision to not escape

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Socrates' Moral Decision To Not Escape


Was Socrates wise to stay in Athens to die? Examine firstly the context
of the word wise , Socrates wasn't wise in the sense of preserving his own life
as he stayed to die. He was encouraged and given the chance to escape by his
friend Crito, but Socrates did not want to escape . Why?

Socrates was a wise man. He believed in absolutes, and pursued the
knowledge of man's source of goodness and virtue. He believed that the
repayment of evil with evil was wrong. In short, Socrates was a very moral
person. He stayed in Athens because he said that he had lived by the laws of the
country for all his life. He had enjoyed the privileges of a civilized society,
and that he had been treated as any other citizen would have come to expect.
Now that the laws didn't suit him, was it fit for him to ignore them? Crito, in
vain, tries to dissuade him.

Socrates compares the laws of the state to a father/mentor figure: The
state says that all of the laws and statutes have protected him and raised him.
His parents were married by the law, and the same saw to it that he was educated.
Now the state says "Is it alright for you, who thinks so much of virtue, to
destroy us?" Socrates is wise to see that he would be contradicting not only
himself, but he would betray the examples he was trying to set to his followers.


The impact of Socrate's teachings on the world were greatly increased by
his decision. Socrates had no education, therefore none of his own teachings
were ever written. His followers have carried on his messages and lessons into
later times. Would Socrate's teachings really have been carried on at all if he
hadn't followed through?

The impact of his teachings would have been greatly lessened had he
escaped. All the lessons of "virtue" and "courage" would have been taught by a
hypocritical man. Socrates was brave enough to face that sentence without fear
or cowardice; and he is remembered as one who died for what they believed in. It
could be safe to call Socrates a martyr: He laid down his life for what he
considered to be right, selflessly.

Socrates was morally obligated to stay in Athens to die. The choice was
not the selfish one, but the honorable one. He didn't have to stay, as Crito
would have arranged escape, but he declined. Socrates believed firmly in
"practicing what you preach" as demonstrated by his decision. This shows the
moral fiber of which he is made.

He explains people should set the highest value "not on living, but living
well." This means abiding by a set of values and morals which will lead to a
virtuous, honest and "good" life. This also involves following the laws of the
state, and to break the law would be repaying evil with evil. This notion is
absolutely unacceptable to Socrates.

Socrates was morally obligated by the "laws" , a personnified figure of
justice, to stay in Athens. It says that he was given a share of all the good
things the city had to offer; and if he didn't like it, he had many years to
move away. It says that Socrates was pleased so much with living in Athens he
started a family.

The laws "say" to Socrates that even if he does run to Thebes or Megara,
he will be recognized as one who subverts the law. Also if he ran to Thessaly,
an ungoverned town, he would do nothing but feast. And how could a man like
Socrates enjoy life without virtue, institutions and courage? Finally, they say
to him to come clean before justice, not his friends. This would make
judgement in the next life easier on him(the laws of Hades).

There are, in today's society, certain circumstances which a citizen is
justified in disobeying the law. The laws of today recognize certain offences
may be justified with certain legal defences. The defences of duress and self-
defence are valid today, with the exception of severe crimes such as murder.

It must be recognized that also, in situations like emergencies or
life-or-death situations, a citizen may ignore laws applicable to the situation.
Take for example; the person whose father is having a heart attack, or a
pregnant woman going into labor. These people probably wouldn't obey the
traffic laws while rushing to the hospital. Is this justification to break the
law? Many people would say that while it is morally and legally wrong to break
any laws; these situations would be acceptable. Personal judgement would
prevail over the situation at hand.



 

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