The setting: Crito has just arrived, full of reason, to recommend to Socrates that he take up the plan to pay off the guard of Socrates’ cell and head off into exile for his latter years.
Crito is confident and verbose…in the beginning. He is full of reasons. But it turns out that Crito’s reasoning faculty, his power to access logos, is distorted, malformed, it is guiding him wrongly. Here are his considerations in summary:
•I will lose a friend I cannot replace. •People will think I let you down. •You shouldn’t worry about us who take the risk. We are entitled. •We have a plan and it is not difficult. •You will have a good life in exile. Don’t worry. •You are throwing your life away when you might save it. •You will make your, sons orphans if you choose to stay and die. •We will all look like cowards for being to scared to try. •Be reasonable!
Listen to Socrates in his immediate response: “My dear Crito, I appreciate your warm feelings very much—that is, assuming that they have some justification.” He goes on to recommend to Crito that he not do what feeling or other people advise. He will follow the principles that have always guided him unless they are found to be bad principles. The dialogue continues under the openness of Socrates to interrogation. He submits his principles before Crito and invites Crito to find flaw. Such openness and willingness to be interrogated is spot on for he who says the philosophical mission is “self examination and the examination of others.”
Before they get to the examination of principles Socrates attempts to realign much of the mistake that is at the heart of the malformed reasoning that Crito has initially expressed. He asks,
“What about the part of us which is mutilated by wrong actions and benefited by right ones? Is life worth living with this part ruined? Or do we believe that this part of us, whatever it may be, in which right and wrong operate, is of less importance than the body?” (Crito answers that of course life is not worth living with the soul ruined)
This is a magical moment for clarity about proper ranking and hierarchy. As much as I care about the body, its health and its security, the soul’s health is far more important. And how do I measure the health of the soul? In moral achievement. Soul health is equivalent to virtue and righteousness.
The truly self-interested (not selfish) individual chooses willingly and voluntarily (freely) that which is right and never chooses that which is wrong. NO ONE could use reason to choose self-destruction of the best part of himself. What is the mistake that I make if I EVER choose wrong action? I rank the body, what other people think, the superficiality of feeling as worth more than the health of the soul? There is no divine logos in this.
And yet, where precisely do I find myself if I am not in divine logos (the mind of the god)? I find myself cast into the outer darkness where no light shines. There are interesting questions about resurrection, about the restoration of a soul that can freely choose destruction (free in the cheapest sense) and then, in poverty of spirit, mourn, submit in meekness, morph into hunger and thirst for the right, and then attain purity of heart.
The plea I make to myself and anyone in word-shot is that real and legitimate self-interest ranks soul above body. And once focused on soul, its health is in right action.