Platonic dialogue concerning justice and injustice

Crito is a dialogue by the ancient Greek philosopher Plato.


  • SOCRATES: Would that the majority could inflict the greatest evils, for they would then be capable of the greatest good, and that would befine, but now they cannot do either. They cannot make a man either wise or foolish, but they inflict things haphazardly.
    • 44a-d; translated by G.M.A. Grube
  • CRITO: [...] Besides, Socrates, I do not think that what you are doing is just, to give up your life when you can save it, and to hasten your fate as your enemies would hasten it, and indeed have hastened it in their wish to destroy you. Moreover, I think you are betraying your sons by going away and leaving them, when you could bring them up and educate them. You thus show no concern for what their fate may be. They will probably have the usual fate of orphans.
    • 45c-46a; translated by G.M.A. Grube
  • SOCRATES: We should not then think so much of what the majority will say about us, but what he will say who understands justice and injustice, the one, that is, and the truth itself. So that, in the first place, you were wrong to believe that we should care for the opinion of the many about what is just, beautiful, good, and their opposites.“But,”someone might say,“the many are able to put us to death.”
    • 47a-48a; translated by G.M.A. Grube
  • SOCRATES: [...] And if I should say “Why so?” they might well be right to upbraid me and say that I am among the Athenians who most definitely came to that agreement with them. They might well say: “Socrates, we have convincing proofs that we and the city were congenial to you. You would not have dwelt here most consistently of all the Athenians if the city had not been exceedingly pleasing to you. You have never left the city, even to see a festival, nor for any other reason except military service; you have never gone to stay in any other city, as people do; you have had no desire to know another city or other laws; we and our city satisfied you.
    • 51c-52c; translated by G.M.A. Grube
  • SOCRATES: [...] How so? Will you bring them up and educate them by taking them to Thessaly and making strangers of them, that they may enjoy that too? Or not so, but they will be better brought up and educated here, while you are alive, though absent? Yes, your friends will look after them. Will they look after them if you go and live in Thessaly, but not if you go away to the underworld? If those who profess themselves your friends are any good at all, one must assume that they will.
    • 53d-54b; translated by G.M.A. Grube

Quotes about Crito

  • Unmoved by the claims of justice grounded in his private relationships to friends and family, Socrates appeals to the standards of civic justice imbedded in his relations as a citizen to the Athenian people and to the Athenian system of law. He claims that a citizen is necessarily, given the benefits he has enjoyed under the laws of the city, their slave, justly required to do whatever they ask, and more forbidden to attack them than to violate his own parents. That would be retaliation—rendering a wrong for the wrong received in his unjust condemnation—and retaliation is never just. But what if he chose to depart not in an unjust spirit of retaliation, but only in order to evade the ill consequences of the unjust condemnation for himself and his friends and family? As if recognizing that loophole, Socrates also develops a celebrated early version of the social contract—a‘contract’ between the laws or the city and each citizen, not among the citizens themselves—with the argument that now, after he is condemned by an Athenian court and has exhausted all legal appeals, he must, in justice to his implicit promise, abide by the laws’final judgment and accept his death sentence.
    • John M. Cooper, in Plato's Complete Works (Hackett, 1997), p. 37-38
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