Argument Analysis for Plato's Crito

Contact: Dr. Jan Garrett

Last revised date: September 21, 2004

A sketch of the logic of The Crito as reproduced in chapter 1 of Manuel Velasquez, Philosophy, 8th edition. I say "sketch," because it could be worked out in even greater detail, and if this were done, there would be additional steps.

P=ultimate premises (not supported--here--by further premises)

IC=intermediate conclusions (may be premises for logically later conclusions) [Some intermediate conclusions may not be explicitly stated in the text.]

A=assumption (not stated in this passage), used as a premise. [Since this reconstruction was hastily done, you may be able to find wording that makes some of what I've called assumptions explicit; in this case, the A should be a P.]

FC=final conclusion

(1, P) In moral matters we should follow the few wise, not public opinion

(2, P) Public opinion says return evil for evil, the few wise say do not harm anyone.

(3, IC) This rules out harming the city just to get even. (1,2)

(4, P) Disobedience to law tends to harm the city.

(5, IC) There is a strong presumption against disobeying the law. (3, 4)

Socrates--or rather "the Laws" as imagined by Socrates--argue that he has a duty of obedience to the city by making a three-way comparison to our relation with our parents. We owe them being, physical nurture (upbringing), and moral education. Even more so, we owe these to the state. There is a duty of obedience to parents on to the state based on gratitude.

(6, P) We owe our being to the state.

(7, P) We owe our physical upbringing (economic survival) to the state.

(8, P) We owe our moral education to the state.

(9, A) These are great benefactions.

(10, A) Receiving great benefactions produces a strong duty of gratitude.

(11, IC) We have a strong duty of gratitude to the state. (6-10)

(12, A) Obedience is included in this duty.

(13, IC) We have a duty of obedience to the state. (11-12)

(14, P) We should keep agreements made.

Premises 15-18 show that Socrates has made such an agreement:

(15, P) When one uses a system beneficial to oneself and does not exit when one has a chance to understand it and leave it, one implicitly agrees to abide by its rules.

(16, P) Socrates benefited from the legal system of Athens all his life.

(17, P) Socrates had a chance to understand it thoroughly.

(18, P) Socrates did not leave it when he could.

(19, IC) Socrates has such an agreement to obey the state. (15-18)

(20, IC) Socrates should keep his agreement to obey the state. (14, 19)

(21, IC) Socrates should obey the state. (3, 13, 20)

(22, A) If Socrates should obey the state, then he should not try to escape execution.

(23, FC) Socrates should not try to escape execution. (21, 22)