Socrates on Obedience and Disobedience to the Law

Philosophy Research Archives 8:21-53 (1982)
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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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