Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Crito, A Peter-Disciple of Socrates

One of the main underlying themes of Crito is the importance of how avoid conforming to social norms. The short dialogue between Socrates and Crito takes place in prison. Crito enters upon Socrates as he sleeps, and when he wakes, Crito comments on how he retained a serene face during his dream, representing that his imprisonment was having minimal affects on his attitude. The city of Athens awaits the arrival of a ship from Delos, and on its arrival, Socrates is to be put to death. Crito tells Socrates the ship has yet to come to Athens, and in return, Socrates retells his dream. In it, a woman speaks to Socrates saying, “O Socrates, the third day hence to fertile Phthia shalt thou go.” Believing that either the ship’s arrival or the woman’s prophecy was bound to come true shortly, Crito presses Socrates to make a decision whether or not to escape from jail. Having the financial means to do so, Crito believes that Socrates should escape his unjust imprisonment in order to keep teaching the apparently large multitude of believers that did not argue against his incarceration. Crito also depicts the weakness in Socrates’ plan of becoming a martyr for his cause; by leaving this world, Socrates would be abandoning his children as orphans. The conservation quickly switches to Socrates reviewing his teachings on society and the evil it contains. By doing so, Socrates depicts the importance of seeking wisdom from a teacher, not from persons, especially those who stress the importance of the body over reason.
                I can’t help but immediately think of Christ and his disciple Peter when reading the dialogue between Crito and Socrates. The gist of Socrates’ conversation with Crito is a confirmation of his teachings and their application to their current state: incarceration. Too quickly does Crito panic and search for the immediate, self-preserving resolution to Socrates’ imprisonment. I find this paralleled in Mark’s account of Jesus rebuking Peter: “[Jesus] then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.” (Mark 8:31-33.) Both Socrates’ and Jesus’ responses to their disciples’ reactions to their self-sacrifices are “You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” (ibid.)
                Another large parallel I’ve drawn between both men is the denial of accepting society’s definition of their personality. Repeatedly, both Jesus and Socrates deny their true identities, or at least how society wishes to identify them as; initially, outcastes. Socrates tells Crito: “My friend, we must not consider what the many say of us, but what he, the one man who has understanding of the just and unjust will say, and what the truth will say. (We will not be defined by society.) Therefore you begin in error when you suggest we should consider the opinion of the many about the just and unjust, the good and evil, the honorable and dishonorable, (anything less than the truly enlightened “man,” Buddha, Christ will inevitably be prone to faults and thus failure) but what if someone says, “But the many can kill us.” Crito responds that the many, or rather the multitude of society wishes to kill him. Socrates responds: “Still I believe our old argument is unshaken. I would like to know whether I may say the same of another proposition-that not life, but a good life, is to be chiefly valued?” I would argue that this strongly resembles Jesus’ short dialogue with Pilate in which He is questioned: “So Pilate asked Jesus, ‘Are you the king of the Jews?’ ‘Yes, it is as you say,’ Jesus replied…On hearing this, Pilate asked if the man was a Galilean.” (Luke 23: 3-6.) While the length may not be the same, the content mirrors one another. Throughout the Four Synoptic Gospels, Jesus does not full reveal himself as the Christ until certain points like his encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well: Then Jesus declared, "I who speak to you am he." (John 4:26.) Similarly, Socrates holds out with his revelation of him being the “gadfly of Athens,” until he is on trial.

1 comment:

  1. I really like this. I believe it is extremely helpful to be reminded that if you are living for Christ, the negative opinions of society are irrelevant. Also, this is helpful in defending your faith. While people may roll their eyes at my optimistic and love-filled beliefs, ultimately their opinion and what label they put on me has no value whatsoever.