The Society for Ancient Greek Philosophy Newsletter

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Many contemporary students of Plato hold that the arguments Socrates gives the personified Laws in the Crito do not represent Socrates’s own views, but rather work on assumptions to which Crito adheres, but Socrates does not. But if the Laws’ arguments are not Socrates’s own, then we seem to be left with a bewildering problem: why would Plato provide us with arguments that Socrates does not believe in, for a conclusion which Socrates evidently does believe in? After all, Socrates does remain in prison to face his execution; evidently, he believes that that is what he ought to do. This problem has been posed by Leo Strauss, and the solution Strauss proposes has gained some currency, namely, that Crito is not sufficiently sophisticated to understand why Socrates really thinks he should accept his execution. But still, even if that explains why Socrates can’t tell Crito what he really thinks, why doesn’t Plato have his Socrates tell us what he really thinks? And just what does Plato’s Socrates really think, anyway? I propose that Plato does tell us what his Socrates really thinks, but implicitly, through what is shown up in certain inconsistencies between what the Laws argue and certain elements elsewhere in the Crito and other dialogues. In this paper I discuss four such inconsistencies, each of which is both a reason not to believe that the Laws’ arguments represent Socrates’s own view and an indication of what Socrates’s own view actually is.


Matthew King presented “Socrates’ Great Escape: Philosophy and Politics in the Crito” to the Society at its meeting with the Pacific Division in San Francisco in 2007.

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