Lesson Plan

Socrates and the Law: Argument in an Athenian Jail

Bust of Socrates.
Photo caption

Bust of Socrates.

This lesson focuses on the Crito, in which Socrates argues against the idea that he should escape the penalty of death imposed on him by Athens, laying the groundwork for future debates over the rights of the individual and the rule of law. Students read the dialogue and analyze its arguments in class discussion, extending the dialogue by adding themselves to it. They then consider how Socrates might have responded to extenuating circumstances: for example, if his sentence had been imposed by a tyrant rather than in a trial, or if it had been influenced by prejudice. To conclude, students consider whether this Socratic argument still holds true today, finding examples in contemporary American society to demonstrate their point of view.

Guiding Questions

No guiding questions provided.

Learning Objectives

To learn about Socrates and his significance within Western civilization.

To analyze the arguments on the rule of law that Socrates presents in the "Crito."

To explore the claims of law on personal conscience.

To consider the relationship between individual rights and the rule of law in contemporary society.