What the Laws Demand of Socrates—and of Us

The Monist 4 (1):260-374 (2015)
In historical and strategic context, the argument of the Laws in Plato’s Crito should be understood not as an argument for legal obedience in general, but as an argument against the public display of legal impunity (i.e., procured by bribery). Stable democratic authority requires the threat of mass collective action in support of the rule of law. But that threat is not credible without widespread trust by citizens in their fellows’ commitment to the law. Socrates’s impunity would have undermined that trust. As a citizen with a stake in the democracy, he had compelling reason not to do so.
Keywords Crito  Plato  Socrates  Trust  Obedience  Athens  Rule of Law  Preference Falsification
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