There be dragons!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Crito and A Girl on a Horse

The following was a recent exchange between myself and an alumna concerning the Crito of Plato



      • G
        irl On A Horse
      Hi there, so I remember you telling me that if I ever had any questions concerning the books i'm reading at school that I can ask you questions about it! well here it goes...

      so I am required to write an argumentative essay regarding Aristotle's Crito, and we are to respond to the question, " Did socrates make the best decision" (in not escaping with crito). My position right now is that yes he did make the right decision on staying and carrying out the law...I was unsure at first on how to begin writing this paper. I then thought that I could demonstrate St. Thomas Aquinas' form that he uses in the Summa Theologica beginning with the question at hand and then outlining some objections, sed contra and then my opinion on why I think i am right and ending then of course with refuting the previously stated objections. This approach seemed almost like an easy way out....until i began writing it. The objection portion wont be hard because i will just outline a few of crito's steps in his argument but then I got stuck with the sed contra, Im not quite sure who I should use as my authoritative person...i originally was considering using St. Thomas Aquinas here but is it illogical to use someone as an authoritative view that came after Aristotle and who in fact studied him?

      Furthermore, I ran into another issue in that for defending why I think Socrates is right I was intending on using his very argument that he gives to Crito...so maybe a better plan of action would be to illustrate why I believe Socrates is right and then use his own argument as the reply to the objections? and that is where I am now really stuck because I know that Socrates did the right thing in staying but I can't seem to formulate what im thinking into words :( I know that it was just for him to stay in prison and face his punishment that the law gave him and that he would rather die than hinder his ethics and be unjust...and then I had another thought that maybe the "Laws of Athens" have persuaded him to believe that they are just when they are in fact maybe not?
      anyhoo.... I did not realize how much I was actually writing so maybe since your most likely very busy with other important things if you could just explain to me your view about the question, "did socrates do the right thing?" (if you have time of course!) well thanks for your help! hope all is well!
      Girl on a Horse
    • wow. hang on while I read this tome.
    • okey dokey ... i normally take a slightly different angle than this (surprise there, yes?)
    • This seems to be an ethical or perhaps political angle to the work, which is legit, of course
    • but the angle I take is literary, or symbolic
    • athens is this world; the boat leaving is the boat of death, or suicide
    • what is being asked is whether or not it is just to "check out" from this world. is it just to take our life into our own hands and "our own quietus make with a bare bodkin"
    • the voices of Socrates' friends are the voices that argue for that. the voice of Socrates is the voice against that.
    • So what the Crito is asking is whether we have the right to escape the laws of this world, that seem so unjust at times, by "escaping" through suicide. His answer, of course, is no. though this world seems a dark, oppressive, sometimes unjust place, it is also the place that birthed us, succored us, educated us, and sustained us. When all goes well in this world we seem inclined to live and be happy and thank the creator. when thinks go not so much our way we think we can just end it all and find escape elsewhere. Socrates' response is that, no, we must remain in the world if we are to remain just and good. there is no "escape" to some ever receding Ausonian shore; no flight to another world; to undiscovered country from whose bourn no traveler returns. Rather, there is this world, and this life, and the justice of living in this world that we have, as good men, chosen.
    • that's a long way of responding that, yes, he does make the right decision. as to your paper the Aquinas model predates Aquinas (and is probably a carryover from the tradition of debate and reasoning in the Muslim world, but that's another story) so it shouldn't be too much of a problem to use it to analyze Plato's work.
    • can you split his own argument? or is the assignment asking for a personal evocation? in other words can you simply point out that the text makes sense and here it is? or do you have to somehow expound from your own treasure house of wisdom?
    • a series of reflections on various subjects one of which is the crito itself. in the essay Davis claims that a. the crito parallels the story of Theseus and the Minotaur (even as the Euthyphro does) and the ship is reminiscent of the ship carrying the youths to Crete. Thus b. the real issue is one of the avoidance of death's inevitability and the terror that causes. I blogged on this here:http://wlasseter.blogspot.com/2007/06/michael-davis-on-plato-nietzsche-and.html
    • wlasseter.blogspot.com
      ‎`It seems very pretty,' she said when she had finished, `but it's rather hard to understand!' (You see she didn't like to confess, ever to herself, that she couldn't make it out at all.) `Somehow it seems to fill my head with ideas -- only I don't exactly know what they are!'

    • Feel free to quote me liberally.


  • G
    irl On A Horse
    • thank you this makes much more sense! and that was the issue I ran into it felt like I was simply re-writing crito but since it is an argumentative essay I think I'm supposed to take a position on the matter and defend it ...but crito is an argument so I'll just keep the same points socrates uses to justify himself and some hoe make it me own interpretation? and then I had an idea last night I was going through my old english books and this may be a stretch but is Socrates' decision like that of a philosopher king? Because I was reading some articles that accused Socrates as being superficial and that most people would escape from prison at that time....so maybe by doing the unexpected he is exemplifying what it means to be a philosopher king? having the balance of law and truth?

      • G
        irl On A Horse
      thank you for the links! i'm sure they will be of great help! and ill be sure to read that book! i am in desperate need of something other than the somewhat stale and boring 'required' books we have to read for my lit class
    • yes - boring and stale = higher education
    • I do think that most people overlook the rather graphic fact that Crito and the other dialogues are not really philosophy
    • b/c they have a philosopher at the center they are mistaken as such; but in reality they are artworks masquerading as philosophy.
    • thus Socrates' alleged "hypocrisy" at staying for the execution, or the charge of his being "foolhardy" or "carrying things tot he extreme to make a point" miss the boat (pun intended)
    • the boat means a river crossing - it's the boat from Delos (the original inhabitants were piratical Carians who were eventually expelled by King Minos of Crete) and is a parallel to the "boat" Crito offers to escape
    • so the king of that nightmare Minotaur offers to bear you to "safety"?
    • but flight from this world is not safety but horror. how do you"live with yourself" afterward?
    • Crito is wealthy. Why?
    • why does Socrates "wake from a sleep"?
    • all literary images that prompt one to think this is more a story about why we live rather than why Socrates is staying in Athens.

      • G
        irl On A Horse
      yea that is very true, funny how it is my term paper for philosophy! But I do get the refrence! haha it is actually very surprising how many students here have not read any sort of classical greek literature
      and these are the questions i ask myself!
    • yep.
    • Oh, and nota bene how many wealthy friends are saying they would be glad to pay for Socrates escape. why?
    • if Plato is again retelling the sun god story are these the other gods that accompany RA?
    • is the boat the boat of RA passing through the duat?
    • is Socrates recognizing that he must remain "within the cycle" and fight the dragon of death?
    • certainly the resulting dialogue (you must escape - i cannot escape - you must escape) is very echoing of those dialogues in BAbylonian and Assyrian mythology that precede that actual struggle with the sea dragon

      • G
        irl On A Horse
      and if so is does he know that he is so prepared to face that? hence why he remains so calm
    • but i digress
    • absolutely. his serenity is one of the hallmarks of his holiness (as it was in the Assyrian and Babylonian stories of Ahura-Mazda) and the sunhero.

      • G
        irl On A Horse
      but then how exactly did he prepare himself for that how does one reach that sort of intuition and perfect
      knowledge
  • again - in reality we don't
    • in archetype the character (hero, sun deity) does

      • G
        irl On A Horse
      true ha got abit ahead of myself there but i meant within the context of crito does he become this sun deity because of how he questions everything? or is it left unknown
    • i think in the context of the text itself he becomes the sun deity by his manful facing of the dragon (death, or the many headed jury)
    • again like the parallel to the myth of the sun deity he is facing trials that act as impediments to test is worthiness to be a deity

      • G
        irl On A Horse
      ooh ok like scilla
    • each one (Crito, the buddies, the jury, the many friends, the hemlock itself) is a challenge to "come down off that cross"
    • "if you are the son of god save yourself and us"
    • but it's a trap. like the scylla, yes, if you try to reason with it you lose everyone, if you push on through you lose 9 but you get through

      • G
        irl On A Horse
      oh ok this makes sense to me
    • the manful (not being sexist, I mean courageous) way in which he faces death is a form of combat and though he does it in an archetypal way - calmly and with great answers and arguments - it can be done by us to some degree
    • we are not perfect b/c we are not literary constructs, but humans. nevertheless, when that inevitable moment comes when we all must fall the archetype of the sun deity gives us a model which can encourage us to face the inevitable rather than cower in fear, flee, and be devoured by terror.
    • "I have fought the good fight, I have run the race to its end"
    • (BTW, look up how one actually dies from hemlock. it's gross. not at all what Plato describes. Consequently he is doing something tricky with that image. what is it, i wonder?)

      • G
        irl On A Horse
      hmmm interesting well ill look it up and see if i can make something of it

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