Is there a contradiction between what Socrates says in Plato's Crito and what he says in Plato's Apology?

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I don't see a contradiction between Crito and Apology. Keep in mind, Crito is set after Apology. In it, Socrates explains why he ought to accept the punishment imposed upon him. Apology, on the other hand, involves Socrates defending his life and reputation as a teacher against those who would charge him with corrupting the youth and acting impiously. If, in Apology, he acts to defend his life's work, in Crito he accepts the consequences that the state would impose upon him for pursuing it.

That being said, it is important to note that throughout Apology, Socrates frames his intellectual inquiry as driven by a divine inspiration (and thus, his life in philosophy is closely intertwined with piety and his own obligations toward the divine). With this in mind, we observe Socrates claiming to have been "attached to this city by the god" and referring to himself as "the god's gift to you." (These turns of phrase can be found in the paragraph that runs from line 30b to the beginning of 31a. This particular wording was provided by the G. M. A. Grube translation, as found in Plato, Complete Works, ed. by John M. Cooper. Hackett Publishing Company: Indianapolis, 1997.) Furthermore, keep in mind, the Ancient Greeks were not secular: thus sacred obligations would have carried tremendous weight in that society (in fact, remember that impiety was one of the charges levied against Socrates in his trial).

Furthermore, this theme of piety resurfaces in Crito as well. When Crito tells Socrates that he will be executed, Socrates responds: "If it so please the gods, so be it" (trans. Grube, 39d). One gets the sense, then, in this dialogue, that by obeying the laws of the city (and the punishments imposed by those laws), Socrates would continue to uphold the virtues and morality he's spent his life defending and the sacred mission he's spent his life pursuing. (In fact, it might be argued that this is precisely why Plato would argue one ought to obey the law in all cases: to uphold those still higher ideals and obligations in which the law itself is grounded. Remember, Plato tends to be an idealist above all else, and I think it's important to consider how this Platonic idealism might factor into questions such as this one.) In any case, when taking these two dialogues together, I get the sense that Socrates is presented consistently throughout as a moral teacher, acting as a moral exemplar for the benefit and enrichment of Athens, even to the point of death.

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It is a common misconception that there is an inconsistency in Socrates's position regarding obedience to the laws of the state. Successive generations of scholars have argued, with varying degrees of plausibility, that Socrates's defiant speech to the jury in the Apology flatly contradicts his impassioned argument in favor of obeying Athenian law in the Crito.

However, if one examines the respective texts, it becomes possible to see that this is a fundamental misinterpretation of Socrates's position. Much of the scholarly confusion concerning this thorny issue seems to stem from a passage in Socrates's speech to the jury in the Apology, where he tells them that "I have the highest regard and affection for you, but I will obey the gods rather than you."

A number of scholars have interpreted this as a justification for civil disobedience. Socrates, so the argument runs, has adopted a position akin to that of Antigone, in that he answers to a higher divine law rather than the law of men that will condemn him to die. This argument then goes on to compare Socrates's alleged endorsement of civil disobedience with his explicit commitment to obey Athenian law in the Crito.

However, two points must be made in response to this. First of all, when Socrates tells the gentlemen of the jury that he will obey the gods and not them, he is not explicitly suggesting that he would refuse to comply with a valid court order banning philosophy. Far from proposing an alternative to the court's authority—as he would be doing if he advocated civil disobedience—Socrates is stating quite clearly that he'd rather be put to death.

The second point to be made is that, elsewhere in the Apology, Socrates is quite emphatic in his insistence on obeying Athenian law. Despite the serious risk of death, Socrates willingly obeyed the orders of his superiors when he served with the Athenian army. Furthermore, Socrates expresses to the jury his heartfelt wish that, whatever decision they reach in relation to the charges against him, it should be based on Athenian law.

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The ideas put forward by the Socratic character in Plato's Crito and Plato's Apology are fairly consistent, in part because the implied audience of Apology and Crito are both more concerned with conventional ethics than with the sort of philosophical issues with which Plato has Socrates engage in the Phaedo. It should also be noted that the Xenophonic Apology has a Socrates who is more actively suicidal than the Platonic one.

In both Platonic works, Socrates justifies his accepting the sentence of death by arguing that death is not an evil for a philosopher, especially of his age. In Crito, he significantly adds the new argument personifying the laws of Athens, but this supprots rather than weakens his decision.

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