Monday, March 14, 2022

Notes on Plato's Crito


Image: Marble bust of Socrates, Roman copy, c. 1-2 century, AD.

Continuing my reading notes on Plato’s Tetralogy (see previous here):

Notes on Plato’s Crito (translated by F. J. Church):

Parallels between Platonic and Christian views of civil law:


The setting: Socrates’s older friend Crito offers to arrange for Socrates’s escape from prison, but Socrates refuses.

Socrates’s refusal is based on his view of the necessity of the “rule of law”: “Do you think that a state can exist and not be overthrown, in which decisions of law are no force, and are disregarded by private individuals?”

Socrates has an imaginary dialogue with the law-bearing state. If he escaped the state might well ask, “Are you not breaking your contracts and agreements with us?” (42).

He asks, “for who would be satisfied with a state which had no laws?”

Question: What would Plato say about obedience to contemporary state sanctioned rules (e.g., vaccine or mask mandates, etc.)?


Compare this to Jesus’s retort: “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s” (Matt 22:21). See Paul’s teaching on civil government: “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers….” (Rom 13:1-7). And also Peter’s: “Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake….” (1 Peter 2:13-15).


Parallels between Platonic and Christian views on an ethic of non-retaliation:


In the dialogue with the state, it asks, “But if you repay evil with evil, and injustice with injustice… and break your agreements and covenants with us…. then we shall be angry with you.”


Compare this to Jesus’s ethic of non-retaliation in the Sermon on the Mount (e.g., Matt 5:38-39), with Paul’s admonition not to seek vengeance (Rom 12:19-21), and Peter’s admiration of Jesus who “when he was reviled, reviled not again” (1 Peter 2:23).



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