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3. The Real Issue

46b-49a

46b Socrates. Dear Crito, your zeal is invaluable, if a right one; but
if wrong, the greater the zeal the greater the evil; and therefore
we ought to consider whether these things shall be done or
not. For I am and always have been one of those natures

Southern View of the Agora
The jail was a small building behind the Law Court.
Drawing: Ru Dien-Jen
who must be guided by reason, whatever the reason may be
which upon reflection appears to me to be the best; and now
that this fortune has come upon me, I cannot put away the
reasons which I have before given: the principles which I
46c have hitherto honored and revered I still honor, and unless
we can find other and better principles on the instant, I am
certain not to agree with you; no, not even if the power of
the multitude could inflict many more imprisonments,
confiscations, deaths, frightening us like children with
hobgoblin terrors. But what will be the fairest way of
considering the question? Shall I return to your old argument
about the opinions of men, some of which are to be regarded,
and others, as we were saying, are not to be regarded. Now
46d were we right in maintaining this before I was condemned?
And has the argument which was once good now proved to
be talk for the sake of talking; in fact an amusement only, and
altogether vanity? That is what I want to consider with your
help, Crito: whether, under my present circumstances, the
argument appears to be in any way different or not; and is to
46e be allowed by me or disallowed. That argument, which, as
I believe, is maintained by many who assume to be authorities,
was to the effect, as I was saying, that the opinions of some
men are to be regarded, and of other men not to be regarded.
Now you, Crito, are a disinterested person who are not going
47a to die tomorrow -- at least, there is no human probability
of this, and you are therefore not liable to be deceived by the
circumstances in which you are placed. Tell me, then, whether
I am right in saying that some opinions, and the opinions of
some men only, are to be valued, and other opinions, and the
opinions of other men, are not to be valued. I ask you
whether I was right in maintaining this?

Crito. Certainly.

Soc. The good are to be regarded, and not the bad?

Cr. Yes.

Soc. And the opinions of the wise are good, and the opinions
of the unwise are evil?

Cr. Certainly.

47b Soc. And what was said about another matter? Was the
disciple in gymnastics supposed to attend to the praise and
blame and opinion of every man, or of one man only -- his
physician or trainer, whoever that was?

Trainer with Wrestlers
The Perseus Project

Cr. Of one man only.

Soc. And he ought to fear the censure and welcome the praise
of that one only, and not of the many?

Cr. That is clear.

Soc. And he ought to live and train, and eat and drink in the
way which seems good to his single master who has
understanding , rather than according to the opinion of
all other men put together?

Cr. True.

47c Soc. And if he disobeys and disregards the opinion and
approval of the one, and regards the opinion of the many who
have no understanding, will he not suffer evil?

Cr. Certainly he will.

Soc. And what will the evil be, whither tending and what
affecting, in the disobedient person?

Cr. Clearly, affecting the body; that is what is destroyed by
the evil.

Soc. Very good; and is not this true, Crito, of other things
which we need not separately enumerate? In the matter of
just and unjust, fair and foul, good and evil, which are the
subjects of our present consultation, ought we to follow the
47d opinion of the many and to fear them; or the opinion of the
one man who has understanding, and whom we ought to fear
and reverence more than all the rest of the world: and whom
deserting we shall destroy and injure that principle in us which
may be assumed to be improved by justice and deteriorated by
injustice; is there not such a principle?

Cr. Certainly there is, Socrates.

Soc. Take a parallel instance: if, acting under the advice of
men who have no understanding, we destroy that which is
47e improvable by health and deteriorated by disease -- when
that has been destroyed, I say, would life be worth having?
And that is -- the body?

Cr. Yes.

Soc. Could we live, having an evil and corrupted body?

Cr. Certainly not.

Soc. And will life be worth having, if that higher part of man
be depraved, which is improved by justice and deteriorated by
injustice? Do we suppose that principle, whatever it may be in
48a man, which has to do with justice and injustice, to be inferior
to the body?

Cr. Certainly not.

Soc. More honored, then?

Cr. Far more honored.

Soc. Then, my friend, we must not regard what the many say
of us: but what he, the one man who has understanding of just
and unjust, will say, and what the truth will say. And
therefore you begin in error when you suggest that we should
regard the opinion of the many about just and unjust, good
48b and evil, honorable and dishonorable. Well, someone will
say, " But the many can kill us."

Cr. Yes, Socrates; that will clearly be the answer.

Soc. That is true: but still I find with surprise that the old
argument is, as I conceive, unshaken as ever. And I should
like to know whether I may say the same of another
proposition -- that not life, but a good life, is to be chiefly
valued?

Cr. Yes, that also remains.

Soc. And a good life is equivalent to a just and honorable one
-- that holds also?

Cr. Yes, that holds.

Soc. From these premises I proceed to argue the question,
whether I ought or ought not to try to escape without the
48c consent of the Athenians: and if I am clearly right in escaping,
then I will make the attempt; but if not, I will abstain. The
other considerations which you mention, of money and loss of
character, and the duty of educating children, are, as I fear
only the doctrines of the multitude, who would be as ready to
call people to life, if they were able, as they are to put them to
death -- and with as little reason. But now, since the argument
has thus far prevailed, the only question which remains to be
48d considered is, whether we shall do rightly either in escaping or
in suffering others to aid in our escape and paying them in
money and thanks, or whether we shall not do rightly; and if
the latter, then death or any other calamity which may ensue on
my remaining here must not be allowed to enter into the
calculation.

Cr. I think that you are right, Socrates; how then shall we
proceed?

48e Soc. Let us consider the matter together, and do you either
refute me if you can, and I will be convinced; or else cease,
my dear friend, from repeating to me that I ought to escape
against the wishes of the Athenians: for I am extremely
desirous to be persuaded by you, but not against my own
better judgment. And now please to consider my first
49a position, and do your best to answer me.

Cr. I will do my best.