The contradiction between Socrates’ philosophical teaching and official state’s mythological outlook led to the tragedy of Socrates’ death. As Plato suggested, having a chance to avoid such punishment, Socrates chose death, because he could not act regardless of his persuasions the central notion of which was justice. Struggling for justice as a right of every person to act according to common sense and neglecting the state’s law, Socrates could not violate the decision of the court because of his personal outlook, which was an object of the strong criticism. Thus, the philosopher could not flee from the state as he did not want to disregard his philosophical views that focused on values of justice, wisdom, and courage.
In Crito, Socrates argues that he is “the kind of man who listens to nothing within me but the argument that on reflection seems best to me. I cannot, now that this fate has come upon me, discard the arguments I used” (Plato 46 b-c). Therefore, the Greek philosopher’s position is strict, because he considers immoral to act regardless of the notion of wisdom and justice, which are more significant than the laws of the state that can contradict the universal values. In addition, Socrates does not want to change his views because of crowd’s condemnation. The philosopher’s mission is to educate people but not to let the latter manipulate the thinker’s principles.
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At the same time, Socrates accepts the verdict of the court and does not want to escape from the city state so as to save his life. It seems that he becomes submissive and weak as an ordinary citizen. However, there is no controversy in philosopher’s words, because Socrates’ denial to use a chance to survive is a demonstration of his unbroken will to serve the truth. According to the thinker, “it is not difficult to avoid death, gentlemen; it is much more difficult to avoid wickedness, for it runs faster than death” (Plato Apology 39 b). Socrates considers immoral behavior evil but not death itself. However, unlike his teacher, Plato’s position is unwavering: he perceives that it is necessary to violate the law of the state if it contradicts the hierarchy of moral values and truth.
The philosopher considers the death as neither a suicide nor a judicial error. The position of Socrates is inseparable from the ethical and philosophical views concerning the necessity to follow the dictate of conscience, reason, and his personality, which is alien to conformism and adjustment to the circumstances. Socrates was confident that his philosophizing and attempts to exhort other Greek citizens to focus on self-cognition and moral self-development is a virtue but not evil. In Apology, the philosopher argues: “I leave you now, condemned to death by you, but they are condemned by truth to wickedness and injustice” (39 b). According to this statement, the intellectual hibernation of Socrates’ compatriots is immoral. The philosopher endeavors to warn people: “do not value either your children or your life or anything else more than goodness” (Plato Crito 54 b). Therefore, the goodness is the only criterion of the virtuous life that every person has to strive for.
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As a person who advocated the topic of controversy between the Good and Evil as the most significant question of everybody’s life, Socrates stressed the necessity to choose the the former as a virtuous way of living. Moreover, he had an opportunity to justify the practicability of his doctrine in practice. In the court, Socrates had to choose between philosophizing that would lead to the death and salvation of life on condition of refusal from his speculative system. For the philosopher, the rejection of his mission is identical to the refusal of life and its meaning. Socrates claims passionately: “Men of Athens, I am gratefull, and I am your friend, but I will obey the god rather than you, and as long as I draw breath and am able, I shall not cease to practice philosophy” (Plato Apology 29 d). The statement communicates that the philosophical speculation is the sense of Socrates’ life.
Socrates does not want to betray himself and his philosophical truth. His views are not contradictory even though it seems so at first sight. Although in Apology there are passages wherein the philosopher denies the necessity to obey the laws of the state, he expresses these views in the general context of his speculative system. Socrates does not perceive any laws of the state as harmful. On the contrary, he believes in an inalienable right to choose death if the laws compel a person to reject their freedom. His death, thus, becomes a symbol of devotion and thirst for wisdom.
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Socrates does not disregard the logic in any expression and speculation. He is firm considering that there is no other criterion of justice than virtuousness of the state’s laws, which make every individual to seek for the truth and be responsible for their wills and decisions. Socrates decided to escape from the life but not from the state, because the former without efforts of thought and the search for the meaning does not have any sense for the philosopher.
To conclude, the philosophy strengthened the firmness of Socrates’ spirit and did not leave him any chance of avoiding his destiny. His belief in his personal rightness and the universality of the principle of justice, rational reasoning, and courage that should be present in every humans’ action gave Socrates wisdom to accept the chosen destiny with honor, nobleness, and anticipation of the better world and continuation of life. He remained the philosopher till the end, demonstrating the next generations the dedication and respect for the vocation and its values, which the person does not have any right to neglect.