My question is in the title. My thoughts are that Crito seems on its face to indicate that Socrates did not want to escape execution because exile would spell his ruin, breaking his voluntary social contract with Athens.

Astonishingly, the result of Socrates' execution appears to be that Athens inflicted the greatest evil upon itself and Socrates only had to maintain the density required to reflect.


Socrates was a contrarian to the end, and one of his last acts was to force the Athenians to follow through on an execution they never actually wanted or expected to serve.

The goal of Socrates' antagonists was really just to humiliate and discredit him publicly, and in that way to break the fascination he held for the disaffected Athenian youth. But Socrates wasn't willing to play along and he wasn't scared to die. In court, he served as his own lawyer. The Athenian system at that time was that when a conviction had been obtained, the prosecutor and defender would each propose a punishment and the jury would choose the one they found most fitting. The concept was that this would give the prosecution an incentive to not be too harsh, the defense an incentive to not be too lenient. However, in this case, the prosecutor went for a grand flamboyant gesture, and asked for death.

The expectation was that Socrates would counter with some minor sentence, maybe some light jail time. Instead, he proposed that he be sentenced to be fed lavishly at the expense of the state for the rest of his life --a clearly ludicrous "punishment." To everyone's horror, the only real option left to the jury was either to acknowledge the whole thing as a farce, or to go with death. Even then, they placed him in a minimum security prison, and gave him every opportunity to escape, which he ignored.

So did this help or hurt Athens? It certainly did no favors to Athens' reputation or self image. I imagine, however, Socrates himself would have claimed it had a salubrious effect, by forcing Athens to be more honest with itself and less hypocritical.

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    I appreciate your communication, especially the use of salubrious! Only among a bunch of philosophers do you hear such words. :-) Love it. I am tempted to accept your answer but fear that would be seen as an abysmal credulity. lol. Let's see what others have to say... Mar 28 '15 at 3:17
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    @Ron With me this is a perfect answer, I don't have anything else to say. Mar 28 '15 at 7:54
  • @მამუკაჯიბლაძე I guess my only concern is "Whoever shames another in public is like one who sheds blood." Bava Metzia 58b. In other words, Socrates would have done better to hire thugs to privately physically beat his accusers (corporal punishment) to the point that they submitted to the truth vs allowing them to leave an indelible scar on Athens. Or, no? Athenian populous is looked down upon to this day by everyone in this forum for their allowing such an injustice, no? Mar 28 '15 at 15:09
  • @Ron With appropriate tools you may force to submit anybody to anything, I don't see any positive value in that. Mar 28 '15 at 15:16
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    @მამუკაჯიბლაძე Good point. I guess what I am desperately trying to figure out is why must blood be shed? I suppose that irreversible pollution would result from Socrates' followers privately paying his accusers to dialogue privately with Socrates hoping they would come to the revelation that their accusation was unjust. As you point out, the same pollution occurs if Socrates or anyone acting on his behalf physically beats them. Mar 28 '15 at 15:24

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