The Monist 98 (4):360-374 (2015)

Paul Gowder
Northwestern University
This paper gives a novel reading of the argument addressed by the Laws of Athens to Socrates in Plato's Crito. Many philosophers have suggested that the argument of the Laws is merely a weak 'rhetorical sop' to Crito. However, I offer an interpretation of that argument that brings out its plausibility, particularly in the context of the post-Oligarchic demos of early fourth-century Athens. For on Crito's plan, Socrates would have undermined a critical form of civic trust in Athens, not by merely disobeying the sentence imposed on him by the jury, but by openly displaying the legal impunity of the rich. We can call this 'legal trust.' By that coinage, I mean citizens' faith in their fellow citizens' willingness and ability to collectively defend the law---to enforce it against the powerful, and refrain from acting to undermine that capacity. When the members of a democratic political community recognize one another's commitment to their legal system, they are able to defend the laws that hold their democracy together; in such a state, the laws are both conceptually constitutive of democratic authority and practically necessary for democracy. Taken in the context of the strategic structure of the Athenian legal system, in the appeal to the filial loyalty Socrates owed the Laws we can see just such an account of the interweaving of law, trust, and citizenship in the preservation of a democracy. The Laws demand that Socrates be trustworthy, and thereby refrain from undermining his fellow citizens' trust in them, where that trust is necessary for the citizens' collective defense of the democratic legal system; they make this demand on Socrates in virtue of the Laws' role in Socrates's identity as citizen.
Keywords plato  crito  socrates  democracy  rule of law  trust  obedience  disobedience  civil disobedience
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DOI 10.1093/monist/onv018
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References found in this work BETA

The Cunning of Trust.Philip Pettit - 1995 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 24 (3):202-225.
The Cunning of Trust.Philip Perth - 1995 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 24 (3):202-225.
Why Plato Wrote.Danielle S. Allen - 2010 - Wiley-Blackwell.
Conflicting Values in Plato’s Crito.Verity Harte - 1999 - Archiv für Geschichte der Philosophie 81 (2):117-147.

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