Socrates on Obedience and Disobedience to the Law

Considerable scholarship over the last dozen years has greatly increased our understanding of Apology and Crito. However, the knottiest problem between these dialogues--the frequently noted apparent contradiction between Apology 29c-30c and Crito 51b-c, between Socrates’ pledge to disobey a court order to give up philosophy and his argument that legal authority absolutely obligates a citizen to obedience--is far from being resolved. In the end I argue that this contradiction is unresolved, despite numerous ingenious attempts to eliminate it, because it is rooted in deep inconsistencies in Socrates’ principles and character. In the course of reaching a conclusion that most scholars have striven to avoid I review and dispute the major strategies on resolving the contradiction: that it is only apparent, because one of the views is not (unqualifiedly) Socrates’ or a sophisticated analysis of the rhetorical purposes of the dialogues eliminates any contradiction
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