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Socrates and Legal Obligation

Socrates and Legal Obligation

R. E. Allen
Copyright Date: 1980
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 162
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  • Book Info
    Socrates and Legal Obligation
    Book Description:

    Charged with “impiety” and sentenced to death under the law of Athens, Socrates did not try to disprove the charges or to escape death, but rather held to a different kind of rhetoric, aiming not at persuasion but at truth. In Socrates and Legal Obligation, R.E. Allen contends that Plato’s works on Socrates’ acceptance of death -- the Apology and the Crito -- should be considered together and as such constitute a profound treatment of law and of obligation to law. Allen’s study of Socrates’ thought on these vital issues is accompanied by his own translations of the Apology and the Crito.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-6113-8
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Introduction
    (pp. vii-x)

    The association between Plato’sCritoand Apology is close and natural. They were anciently grouped by Thrasyllus with theEuthyphroandPhaedoas members of a single tetralogy, the first, for the reason that they bear on the events of Socrates’ trial and death. The scene of theEuthyphrois the Porch of the King Archon, where Socrates has come to answer in preliminary hearing the charges brought against him by Meletus; theApologypresents Socrates’ courtroom defense and condemnation; theCrito,his refusal to escape the death sentence a few days before it was to be executed; thePhaedo,...

  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. xi-xiv)

    • Irony and Rhetoric in Plato’s Apology
      (pp. 3-16)

      In the year 399 B.C., in Athens, Socrates, son of Sophroniscus, of the deme Alopece, aged seventy, was brought to trial on a writ of impiety, agraphe asebeias.He was found guilty and condemned to death. The exact indictment, or, more accurately perhaps, sworn information, has been preserved by Diogenes Laertius on the authority of the scholar Favorinus, who searched the Athenian archives and found it there:

      This indictment and affidavit is sworn by Meletus, the son of Meletus of Pitthos, against Socrates, the son of Sophroniscus of Alopece: Socrates is guilty of refusing to recognize the gods recognized...

    • The Historical Background of the Charges
      (pp. 17-21)

      The author of theSeventh Epistle,writing some forty years or more after the trial, described Socrates as the best and most righteous man of his time, and dismissed the charge of impiety as one which he least of all men deserved. Whether or not those are Plato’s own words, they most certainly represent Plato’s own views (seePhaedo118a) and those of many other Athenians. Yet Socrates died a condemned criminal.

      Impiety, no doubt, was a serious matter. A sign of this is that it was prosecuted bygraphēor writ of public indictment, as technically even murder was...

    • The Issue of Legality
      (pp. 22-32)

      The history books tell us that, “In equity Socrates was innocent. In Attic law he was guilty of the charge preferred against him.”¹ Let us see.

      Certainly Socrates was guilty if guilt is construed formally, and follows on being found guilty. A verdict in a court of law is not simply a true or false statement, but an operative fact, and in the absence of fresh evidence or invalid procedure, a verdict of guilt, however false to fact, implies guilt at law. No irregularity in the proceedings against Socrates was remarked either at the time or afterward. The evidence, such...

    • The Issue of Historicity
      (pp. 33-36)

      Plato’sApologypurports to represent a historical occurrence, namely, the speech which Socrates made at his trial. It is a natural question, and one often asked, whether Plato’s representation of that speech is accurate to historical fact.

      There is a kind of conventional wisdom which has grown up as an answer. Shorey expressed it as well as anyone:

      The discussion of the ‘historicity’ of Socrates’ speech to his judges naively assumes that theDichtung und Wahrheitof Plato’s art was controlled by the critical conscience of a modern historian. Socrates may or may not have said some of the things...

    • The Apology
      (pp. 37-62)

      17a To what degree, Gentlemen of Athens, you have been affected by my accusers, I do not know. I, at any rate, was almost led to forget who I am— so convincingly did they speak. Yet hardly anything they have said is true. Among their many falsehoods, I was especially surprised by one; they said you must be on guard lest I deceive you, since I am a clever speaker. b To have no shame at being directly refuted by facts when I show myself in no way clever with words— that, I think, is the very height of shamelessness....


    • Analysis
      (pp. 65-96)

      TheCritois a companion dialogue to theApology. Its level of thought and expression are characteristically Platonic; but the style is sometimes copious to the point of repetition, and the thought turns on a dialogue within the dialogue, between Socrates and the Laws of Athens, which consists largely in rhetoric and has often been dismissed as ‘myth’. It is not perhaps surprising that theCritohas often been treated, not as a philosophical argument, but as a document in the biography of Socrates, an exhibition of his strength of character in the face of death.

      But rhetoric, if it...

    • Assumpsit
      (pp. 97-99)

      It is a curiosity of intellectual history that the argument of theCritoshould have anticipated, without, surely, in any way having influenced, elements in the history of the development of informal contracts at common law. The argument of theCritomoves, not from a naked agreement which is then vested with some formal or informal requirement, but from an injury or detriment to the Laws of Athens occasioned by breach of a prior agreement. The argument, in short, is not purely contractual; it is delictual, but delictual as resting on a prior undertaking or agreement. Oddly enough, this structure...

    • Legal Obligation in the Crito
      (pp. 100-114)

      Hobbes once remarked that in government, when nothing else is turned up, clubs are trumps. But in real life, which is not a game, clubs are no longer trumps when one is facing spades. If law consisted, as Professor Hart’s excellent phrase has it, in “orders backed by threats,”¹ if the authority of law from the point of view of the citizen derived only from coercion, the issue discussed in theCritocould not arise. To suppose that a man ought to abide by his own death sentence because it has been decreed by law is to suppose, minimally, that...

    • The Crito
      (pp. 115-128)

      43a Socrates. Why have you come at this hour, Crito? Isn’t it still early?

      Crito. Very early.

      S. What time, exactly?

      C Depth of dawn, before first light.

      S. I’m surprised the guard was willing to admit you.

      C He’s used to me by this time, Socrates, because I keep coming here so often. Besides, I’ve done him a kindness.

      S. Did you come just now, or a while ago? C. Quite a while ago.

      b S. Then why didn’t you wake me immediately, instead of sitting there in silence? C No, Socrates. I might wish I weren’t in such...

  6. Notes
    (pp. 131-140)
  7. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 141-142)
  8. Indices
    (pp. 143-148)