Plato’s Crito presents a dialogue between Socrates and Crito days before Socrates execution, and tells us of Crito’s request, and Socrates’ denial to escape from prison. Crito considers it easy to arrange for his escape; considers it wrong of Socrates to allow injustice (his ‘trial’ and execution) to occur. In dialectic form, Socrates proceeds to mount a case against Crito’s, escape plans, condemnimng himself to death by his government. The argument can be broken into three sections, however this distinction is arbitrary and unnecessary.
Effectively, Socrates’ argues that escape from prison would be unjust, because through his leaving, he would tarnish his soul and damage (or destroy) the laws of his city.
He begins this argument with his distinction of moral and social judgment from the Meno’ it is only the opinions of people who have knowledge, not the masses, for whom we should be concerned. Those with the right of judging know justice. So, is injustice ever an appropriate response? Socrates argues it is not. We should neither commit injustice, nor retaliate with injustice, else our souls would be tarnished. This is an important subconclusion for the main argument.
Socrates’ then argues that breaking the laws of Athens is unjust. By accepting the benefits of living in Athens, not leaving when attaining his age of majority, he has implicitly accepted/agreed to (her) laws. It would be unjust to accept all of the benefits, and refuse his obligations, when he has not attempted to change the law, or leave.
These combine to form the notion of Socrates’ own moral standing, his soul, being tarnished, not only by the committing of injustice through retaliation against the State, but also through the destruction of the state itself, through the unjust act of breaking the law, the covenant which stands between the city and her inhabitants implicitly through acceptance of citizenship.
While the decision carried against him may have been unjust, acceptance of this fate was not. Retaliation through escape would have been unjust, as would the breaking of the cities laws.