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13. The Politics of Plato's Socrates


Subject Politics
Classics » Classical Philosophy

People Plato, Socrates

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405108638.2005.00016.x


Examining in this way what would be the virtue of a good leader, he [Socrates] stripped away all the other qualities but left this remaining: to make whomever one leads happy. —Xenophon, Memorabilia 3.2.4 Modern readers of Plato find it easier to admire Socrates as an exemplary citizen in relation to his polis than as a political philosopher. As a citizen, Socrates refused to obey the orders of a violent and unscrupulous regime to arrest a fellow citizen for execution ( Apology 32ce); he was the sole member of the Council to oppose the illegal mass trial of the generals who had failed to rescue the survivors of the Battle of Arginusae ( Apology 32bc); he openly criticized his city's government, and was willing to die for his principles-do no injustice ( Apology 32ce; Crito 49ab); obey the god's command to philosophize even if the cost of doing so is death at the hands of your city ( Apology 29d, 38a); abide by the decision your city makes concerning you even if it is unfavorable to you ( Crito 50a–53a). On the other hand, the reasoning Socrates provides for abiding by the city's decision-that not doing so would constitute an attempt to destroy the law; that since the laws are like a citizen's parents, it is not permissible to retaliate against them; that by remaining in the city and not expressing dissatisfaction with its laws the citizen agrees to obey those laws-fails ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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