Being treated like a criminal when you’ve done nothing wrong, is something no innocent person should go through. An injustice like this is not only harmful to the victim (because they know they’re being wrongfully punished), it is also a betrayal to the rule of law, in terms of rightfulness. This display of injustice demonstrates how the law isn’t always right in some cases, and that people with authority tend to commit unlawful actions to favor their own personal agendas.
In the “Crito” dialogue, Socrates was imprisoned from bogus charges of “corrupting the youth, and not acknowledging the gods of the city” which arose from ideas of his philosophical teachings. While jailed, Crito goes to him and tries to convince him to escape. Although innocent, he declines to escape due to his beliefs that it’s wrong to escape from law. He would be eventually executed just for his beliefs. I believe that Socrates was an innocent man, and he should have escaped from prison. Socrates wants to follow laws, but at this point, I would say “screw it” because the law has violated their own rules by unjustly seizing his freedom. He wants to do what is right, which in general is the correct thing to do but to what expense?
One of his reasons for not escaping includes his unwritten oath to city of Athens, where he promises to obey the rules and that escaping and leaving the city breaks his oath. Although he maintains his innocence, he tells Crito, “to leave this place without having persuaded the city, breaks my promise to the city”. He declares that, “it’s never right to answer wrong with wrong” and instead chooses to accept his fate. I have a hard time understanding this reasoning of his. He basically says two wrongs don’t make a right, however, if he were to commit his “wrong” of escaping from prison, it would be the result of the first “wrong” committed by the law that sent him to jail in the first place for practically no reason. I’m pretty sure that when he agreed to follow the city’s laws, he had no idea he would be punished for having and teaching beliefs that other people don’t agree with. If the law were a person and could speak, he portrays an argument with their words saying “The state is responsible for the conditions in which your parents were married, you were born, raised, educated. Thus, the state is really what raised you. You took no issue with these laws and have not left Athens although you could have if you had wanted to. Then since you were born, brought up, and educated, can you deny, first, that you’re our offspring and slave, both yourself and your ancestors?”
Well first off, I don’t think there was any written law that stated how people could live their lives which included marriage, conceiving and birthing a child, and going to school. Also, unless there was a third person or guardian angel called “the state” helping to provide food, clothing, and shelter to him, maybe he could give that a second thought. Until then, the only known people he was raised by were his parents. The main question no one has ever discussed here is “who is questioning the law?” Yes citizens have a duty to respect the law, but in turn, the law must respect its citizens as well by achieving actual and proper justice. By threatening to kill an innocent person for no reason whatsoever, this means the law has done wrong. I feel that if an agreement is broken by one party, then the other should be free from consequences. And thus, Socrates, an actually-innocent man, should’ve escaped from jail.
Socrates also refuses to escape because he claims his friend Crito is at risk of losing his freedom, but I’m sure that’s the last thing Crito cared about. Crito believes that his friend is innocent as well and has gone through great lengths to try to, help Socrates escape such as going to his cell in the first place and being ready to pay off the guards (who in turn could’ve been conniving and still blew the whistle on what going on). He’s not only trying to help Socrates, but at the same time, he doesn’t want the public to think that he didn’t try to help him. Socrates denies, not caring for the public’s opinion. He explains to Crito “you, are not going to die tomorrow and therefore you are disinterested and not liable to be deceived by the circumstances in which you are placed”. I also don’t agree with his reasoning here because had he escaped from prison with Crito, I’m sure Crito would do his best to keep both of them safe and protected. He even had an undisclosed location prepared for Socrates to live on so he wouldn’t be captured. Crito presented two more good arguments for why Socrates should escape. He would be assisting the law in doing him wrong if he stayed, thus acting unjustly himself, and he would be abandoning his parental responsibilities towards his young sons.
These are just more reasons why I feel Socrates should have joined Crito and escaped from jail when he was ready to help him do so. Socrates believed in his ideals of “courage” and “virtue” but to me he didn’t act very morally courageous because he wasn’t willing to go the extra mile and defend his innocence. He also didn’t want to escape so that the impacts of his teachings wouldn’t be lessened, but to me, falsely relinquishing his life because the law decided, isn’t courage. Socrates followers believed in his ideals, and I’m sure they also knew he was innocent as well. I don’t believe they would think that he sold out his beliefs if he had escaped because they know that he hasn’t committed any wrongdoing. If anything, he would have made a point with his ideals of courage and virtue if he escaped because having courage means standing up to wrong and evil, and virtue means doing right. In this case, I say that he shouldn’t have worried too much about virtue because he’s the one being unjustly persecuted and at this point, there’s no “doing right” when you’ve been wronged. His followers must have had to understand this, because I’m not sure how they would be ok with their idol dying for his beliefs that they have been taught on.
In later time his followers have carried on his message and lessons, but I’m sure that he didn’t have to die in order for them to do so. While moralistically Socrates feels that escaping from jail is wrong, I believe he should have escaped. He wouldn’t be wrong to do so because although he has respect for the law, they in turn, have abandoned their purpose of protecting the citizens and pursuing true justice by jailing him. His friend Crito, surely knew of the risks but still took it upon himself to try to help him escape believing he’s innocent. And, his lessons on being courageous would have carried some meaning if he had escaped because firmly standing up for your innocence against people of law is one of the utmost ways to showcase courage. When the people do something unlawful, they are punished. But who questions the law when the law does something unlawful? Based on world events, would you decide that orders from Hitler and the Nazis are done with law? Would you stay and surrender to them just because they’re in possession of law?
It’s important that one should question and challenge authority when needed because they are not free from criticism, and some do use it for their own vendettas. Laws are made to maintain order in a society, and the people who make and uphold those laws should be doing so for just reasons. The whole reason for laws creates the dichotomy of right and wrong, and should be abided by both the citizens and the law themselves.