HCC Application of the Evidence and Examples of Statements Made by Socrates Report


In the Apology, Plato has Socrates tell the jury that if they released him on the condition that he stop doing philosophy, he would disobey them. In the Crito, on the other hand, Plato has Socrates say that one should never disobey one’s city. Develop and defend a thesis about this apparent contradiction. If you think the two positions are compatible, explain, with evidence from the text, how that can be. If you think that the one or the other of the passages is more definitive of Plato’s thought, explain why we should place less weight on what he says on the other passage. If you think Plato is, in fact, contradicting himself, try to help us understand what could have let him to such a contradiction. Do not assume that your reader automatically agrees with what you say.

Your assignment: Write an evaluation of the three papers. Read all three papers carefully, judging them by the paper rubric below. Give each paper a grade, according to the paper rubric, and write a paragraph explaining the strengths and a paragraph explaining the weaknesses of each paper. Turn in your report on the “Paper Preparation Exercise” page. This assignment must be completed before you can move on to the next unit.

Term Paper Rubric



Percentage of Grade


A meaningful title, student name, course number, professor’s name, a date, page numbers, and works cited section at the end. References follow MLA style. Under five pages of double spaced text in length (there is no minimum length).



Does the paper actually fulfill the assignment?



Should be written for members of this class who have already read the passage fairly carefully. Should not assume that the reader already agrees with the paper.



Avoids pompous generalizations such as ‘since the dawn of time, men have always…’ Indicates what the paper is about, excites reader’s interest in the paper. States a thesis that the paper will defend. Possibly gives the reader a brief map of how the argument will proceed.



Should be clear, but not obvious to someone who has already read the text. It should appear near the beginning of the paper, preferably in the first paragraph. Sometimes the thesis may even seem surprising, until the reader has actually read the paper and been convinced by the argument.


Topic sentences

Ideally each paragraph should begin with a topic sentence that offers support to the thesis. (Some writers recommend that if all topic sentences are put together they would form a summary of the paper).



Points made should be backed up with evidence from the text. Check to see if the evidence actually supports the point being made. If you find that you can do this paper without detailed textual evidence, you are probably doing the assignment in too superficial a way.


Avoiding unnecessary summaries

Since the audience already is familiar with the text, the paper should not merely summarize the texts. Instead, the paper should focus our attention on aspects of the text that are important to supporting the thesis.



In a short paper, the conclusion should be more than just a repetition of what the reader has already read. Ideally, the conclusion gives the author an opportunity to draw broader implications, raise new ideas or reflections, or raise thoughtful questions.


Paper #1

Student One
Introduction to Philosophy
Teacher Name
September 8, 2007

Obey the gods

Many of the great men of history, from Jesus up on to our own day have been willing to die rather than to be untrue to their own principles. If one compares the Crito and the Apology, it appears that Socrates may be contradicting himself. In the Crito he tells us that we should obey the state above all things, but in the Apology he tells the jury that even if they release him on the condition that he stop doing philosophy, he will disobey them. These two statements make it appear that Socrates, who attacks others so violently for their inconsistencies, is actually inconsistent himself. I will argue that what is really happening here is an insistence by Socrates that he be consistent with what he has done his whole life.

If we read the Apology, we see that Socrates has spent many years basically living the same life. He goes around to various members of Athens and has philosophical conversations with them. In fact, he has become so famous for this that Aristophanes wrote a play about ‘Socrates swinging about there, saying he was walking on air and talking a lot of other nonsense’ (19b). If Socrates were to accept the order of the state, to stop doing philosophy, he would be contradicting himself and everything he has stood for, and would feel terrible.

Socrates has also been talking for years about how important it is not to fear anything, especially death. He has made a lot of noise about how brave he is, and especially in a culture where everyone values courage. If he were to accept Crito’s offer to escape from prison, he would be admitting that he is really a coward. Escaping would be completely inconsistent with what he has been saying his whole life, so, again, this choice would make him feel terrible.

He has no choice, in other words, but to remain consistent with who he has always been, and obey the state when it tries to kill him and also to keep doing his philosophy. Seen in another way, you can see that what Socrates is doing is actually committing suicide. Socrates believes that it is actually a good thing to die, because then you won’t have the body around, but he also doesn’t think it is right to commit suicide. So what Socrates actually does is force the state to do the job for him. On the one hand, at his trial he does not plead for mercy and even says that he would keep doing what he has done even if they told him to stop. Once they agree to kill him, he certainly isn’t going to walk out of prison. Remember, he is 70 years old already, so it is time for him to die, because in those days people didn’t live much more than 70 anyway.

So Socrates really is consistent. He wants to live as he has always lived and also he is ready to die. All of his actions are designed to bring him to those two conclusions.

Paper #2

Student Two
Introduction to Philosophy
Student Name
September 8, 2007

Plato Paper

At the surface, there seems to be a deep inconsistency in Socrates. In Crito, when he is justifying his decision not to escape his death sentence, he tells us that one must ‘endure in silence whatever it [the state] orders you to endure’ (51b). At the same time, in the Apology he tells the court that even if they gave him his freedom on the condition that he stop doing philosophy, he would ‘not cease to practice philosophy’ (29d). In this paper I’ll show that this contradiction is only an apparent one. In fact, there are a hierarchy of laws, and Socrates believes that one should always follow the divine law over the human one.

On page 20e of the Apology, Socrates tells us how he got started on his mission. What happened is that his friend went to the Delphic oracles, and asked ‘if any man was wiser’ than Socrates, and learned that Socrates was the wisest person. This is what started Socrates on his mission of doing philosophy. He tells us that he first went to the politicians (22a), then the poets (22b), and finally the craftsmen (22d). In each case he engaged them in a discussion of philosophy, but really he was doing nothing other than attaching ‘the greatest importance to the god’s oracle’ (21e). In other words, by showing people who thought they were wise that they are not really wise, Socrates is following the divine principle.

On page 38a, Socrates says ‘it is impossible for me to keep quiet because that means disobeying the god.’ Here again he emphasizes the idea that God has commanded him to go around the state, talking about philosophy with anyone who will listen. Even in the place where he tells the jury that he will not obey them, he makes this clear by telling the jury that ‘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’ (Apology 29d).

Socrates also has a divine sign, that he talks about in a number of places. He tells us that it frequently stops him from doing something:

At all previous times my usual mantic sign frequently opposed me, even in small matters, when I was about to do something wrong. . . In other talks it often held me back in the middle of my speaking, but now it has opposed no word or deed of mine. 40a-b

Here again we have evidence that Socrates is following a higher law, and that he believes that when the higher and lower laws conflict, one should follow the higher law.

Socrates is not really being inconsistent. He believes we should obey human law and divine law, but when they conflict, we should follow the divine. Many evil things are done in the name of obedience to the law, and Plato points us to a way to avoid this trap.

Paper #3

Student Three
Introduction to Philosophy
Teacher Name
September 8, 2007

Obey the law or persuade the state

Plato’s Socrates clearly puts a high value on logical consistency and attacks others, such as Euthyphro, for making inconsistent statements that ‘run away and will not stay where one puts them’ because they contradict each other (Euth 11d). It would be shocking then, to find an obvious contradiction in what Socrates himself says. In the Apology, however, we see Socrates defying the jury by telling them that he would disobey them if they released him on the condition that he stop practicing philosophy (Apol 29d). In the Crito his main reason for not escaping his death sentence is his view that ‘whatever it [the state] instructs you to endure . . . you must obey’ (Apol 51b). In other words, he both threatens to defy the state but also tells us that we must obey whatever the state tells us. This apparent contradiction, however, disappears on closer examination of what Socrates says. Although Socrates believes that we should respect and honor the law, he does not think that we should blindly obey it. In certain cases, disobeying the law is the best way to respect it.

A closer examination of the text in the Crito shows that Socrates does not require blind obedience to the law. He gives us an two alternatives; we can either obey the state or persuade the state of its wrongness. Notice that he repeats the exact same formulation twice, to emphasize the importance of this choice:

You must either persuade it or obey its orders. Crito 51 b

One must obey the commands of one’s city, or persuade it as to the nature of justice. Crito 51c

He also changes the order, from ‘persuade or obey,’ to ‘obey or persuade.’ This may be a way of telling us that both alternatives are equally important.

When Socrates refuses to stop talking about philosophy is threatening to disobey the state, but by doing this he follows the other alternative of persuading the state. Socrates makes this very clear when he tells us that he goes ‘around doing nothing but persuading both young and old among you not to care your body or wealth in preference to or as strong as for the best possible state of your soul’ (Apol 35 b). We find him saying exactly the same thing shortly afterwards, when he tells us that he never ceases to ‘persuade and reproach you all day long’ (Apol 30e). For Socrates, the act of ‘greatest benefit’ for a man is ‘trying to persuade him not to care for his belongings before caring that he himself should be as good and wise as possible’ (Apol 36c). The reason that Socrates threatens disobedience in the Apology is that he must disobey the law in order to carry out his mission of persuading the state and its citizens.

This raises another question: why doesn’t Socrates escape from prison when he has the chance? If persuading people is so important to him, why doesn’t he accept an invitation to escape the death penalty? He could live and continue his mission of persuasion. But this isn’t really possible. If he escapes from prison, he will not be able to stay in Athens but will need to go to ‘one of the nearby cities’ (Crito 53b) or to live with Crito’s friends in Thessaly (Crito 53 d). Since Socrates will have left Athens, he will NOT be able to persuade the citizens of Athens. Since the rule was, either obey the state or persuade it, the choice of leaving the city and persuading citizens of other cities is not acceptable.

When we look closely at what Socrates actually says and does, we see that he is completely true to his principles. Socrates mission is not just about proving how wise he is; his main focus is persuading people to live better lives. This act of persuasion is so important that Socrates feels that it outweighs obedience to the law. But Socrates does not condone other types of disobedience. Disobedience only seems to be legitimate when its purpose is to improve the state. Socrates inspiration has lived on in the actions of other leaders such as Ghandi or Martin Luther King, both of whom disobeyed the law in order to uplift their society.


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