In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Plato’s Crito

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Bibliographies
  • Editions of the Greek Text
  • Commentaries
  • Translations
  • Background—Athenian Law and Democracy
  • The Dialectic of the Crito
  • The Crito and the Apology
  • The Speech of the Laws—The Authority of Law
  • The Speech of the Laws—Civil Disobedience
  • The Speech of the Laws—Political Obligation
  • Socrates on Non-Retaliation
  • Socrates on Filial Obligation
  • The Crito and Socrates’ Political Philosophy

Classics Plato’s Crito
Antony Hatzistavrou
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 October 2021
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195389661-0368


The Crito belongs to Plato’s early dialogues. It presents a discussion between Socrates and a long-term associate of Socrates, Crito, that takes place while Socrates is in prison awaiting his execution. Crito tries to convince Socrates to escape from prison. Socrates refuses, arguing that doing so would be unjust. The dialogue may be divided into two parts. The first part (43a1-50a5) contains Crito’s arguments in favor of Socrates’ escape and Socrates’ initial rebuttal of those arguments, based on principles that were agreed in previous discussions between Socrates and Crito. The second part (50a6-54e2) contains a new set of arguments against escape that are presented in the form of an imaginary speech of the personified laws of Athens (usually referred to as “the speech of the Laws”). The bulk of scholarly literature on the Crito focuses broadly on three topics. The first concerns the dialectic of the Crito. The second concerns the consistency between the Crito and the Apology. The main issue is that the speech of the Laws appears to make strong authoritarian claims which are not straightforwardly compatible with either Socrates’ arguments in the first part of the dialogue or the Apology. The third concerns the proper interpretation of central elements of the speech of the Laws and their relevance to contemporary debates about political obligation, the authority of law, and civil disobedience. Those elements include the option that the Laws offer to the citizens to either persuade or obey them and the arguments in favor of the citizens’ subordination to the Laws based on gratitude and the citizens’ agreement. Other topics that have received significant scholarly attention include Socrates’ rejection of retaliation in the first part of the Crito and the place of the Crito in Socrates’ political philosophy. Recently there is also growing scholarly interest in the relevance of Socrates’ general views on filial obligations to the speech of the Laws in the Crito.

General Overviews

Benson 2019 provides a concise overview of the structure and main arguments of the Crito. A more detailed analysis is provided by Brickhouse and Smith 2004. Johnson 2013 provides a useful overview of the main interpretations. The logical structure of the arguments is analyzed in Santas 1979. Book-length discussions include Woozley 1979, Kraut 1984, Weiss 1998, and Stokes 2005. A significant number of scholars who write about the Crito understand the Socrates of the Crito to have a philosophical outlook that differs in some significant respects from the philosophy of Plato’s middle and late dialogues. The Socrates of the Crito is the Socrates of Plato’s early dialogues. Brickhouse and Smith 2010 provides a detailed defense of that interpretation of Plato’s philosophical development and the value of the so-called “Socratic studies.”

  • Benson, Hugh H. 2019. Euthyphro, Apology and Crito: The examined and virtuous life. In The Oxford handbook of Plato. 2d ed. Edited by G. Fine, 119–139. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

    Section 4 provides a concise presentation of the dialectic and main arguments of the Crito. Especially useful as a philosophical introduction to the dialogue.

  • Brickhouse, Thomas C., and Nicholas D. Smith. 2004. Routledge philosophy guidebook to Plato and the trial of Socrates. London: Routledge.

    DOI: 10.4324/9780203645963

    Chapter 3 provides a detailed account of the main interpretative issues concerning the speech of the Laws and summarizes the authors’ important work on the consistency between the Apology and the Crito.

  • Brickhouse, Thomas C., and Nicholas D. Smith. 2010. Socratic moral psychology. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511776946

    Chapter 1 provides a detailed account of the debate about the value of Socratic studies as a research program. The authors firmly believe in its value.

  • Johnson, Curtis N. 2013. Socrates’ political philosophy. In The Bloomsbury companion to Socrates. Edited by John Bussanich and Nicholas D. Smith, 233–256. London: Bloomsbury.

    Locates the Crito within the context of Socrates’ political philosophy and discusses the main interpretations of the dialogue.

  • Kraut, Richard. 1984. Socrates and the state. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press.

    Detailed and philosophically insightful analysis of the Crito and Socrates’ political philosophy in general. In many respects, a very influential work on the interpretation of the Crito.

  • Santas, Gerasimos. 1979. Socrates. London: Routledge.

    The second chapter provides a very useful reconstruction of the arguments of the Crito and detailed discussion of their validity and soundness.

  • Stokes, Michael. 2005. Dialectic in action. An examination of Plato’s Crito. Swansea, UK: The Classical Press of Wales.

    DOI: 10.2307/j.ctv1n357kf

    An original assessment of Socrates’ strategy in the Crito based on a close study of the language of the dialogue.

  • Weiss, Roslyn. 1998. Socrates dissatisfied: An analysis of Plato’s Crito. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

    DOI: 10.1093/0195116844.001.0001

    A close reading that pays special attention to the dialogue form.

  • Woozley, A. D. 1979. Law and obedience: The arguments of Plato’s Crito. London: Duckworth.

    The book provides a detailed philosophical analysis of the main arguments which is still of value. It includes a translation of the dialogue.

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