Response to “Crito”
In Crito, Socrates argues that he cannot escape from prison because he has no moral justification for breaking his social contract with Athens. Since the city has fulfilled its obligations to Socrates by raising him, educating him, providing him protection from enemies, he must abide by its legal system and assent to his death sentence. I admire his conscientiousness and fortitude, but I think he is wrong in this case. The obligation for justice between the citizen and the state carries responsibilities for both sides. In this case, the state has broken its contract with Socrates by giving him an unjust conviction and sentence. Thus, he can escape in good conscience.
The Athenian jury convicted Socrates not because the prosecution made a strong case but because many members of the jury disliked him. These politics of personal destruction subverted the philosopher’s rights to a fair trial and an impartial jury. It doubly wrongs the man by sentencing him to death. Since he is not an imminent threat to the welfare of the state, this penalty is unjust. This is not the same city that raised and educated him; it is a declining power which recently lost a long war and is trying desperately to hold its legitimacy. It has reneged on its agreement with Socrates so he need not pay any heed to its demands. He need not die this way; his departure is morally justified. It is a shame he had to die the way he did.