Legal Obligation in Plato’s Crito

  • J. Angelo Corlett


This chapter explicates Plato’s Socrates’ words pertaining to the alleged moral obligation to obey the law. It provides a novel interpretation of the meaning of Socrates’ words. For Socrates, he has no moral obligation to obey the laws of Athens in that he has been unjustly convicted of atheism and corruption of (some of) the Athenian youth by teaching some of them philosophy. Since he was not an atheist and since he had not genuinely corrupted the youth, Socrates, when presented with the coercive offer and threat that if he ceased doing philosophy his life would be spared but if he did not he would be compelled to drink the hemlock and die, decides to exercise an ultimate act of civil disobedience and thereby expose Athens’ anti-philosophical values. Socrates would rather die than to live without philosophy and to live in Athens where genuine philosophy is not respected. In the end, Plato’s Socrates renders a graphic public moral indictment against Athens’ anti-philosophical morality.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. Angelo Corlett
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PhilosophySan Diego State UniversitySan DiegoUSA

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