Socrates on Disobeying the Law
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Socrates is commonly characterised, and indeed on occasion characterised himself (or is so represented by Plato), as a negative thinker: one who provoked a member of his circle to propose a confident opinion on, say, the nature of virtue, or of one of the virtues, and who then proceeded, by unrelenting use of the elenchus method, to destroy first the opinion offered, and then the successive amendments and substitutions advanced to meet his earlier objections. The result of a philosophical conversation would be that half a dozen or so suggestions had been eliminated, but not even a tentative positive conclusion reached; the Euthyphro is a typical example. Although the method was liable to exasperate his victims, Socrates insisted that it was not eristic, but reflected his own genuine perplexity on the subject under discussion (cf. Men. 80C). His unremitting scrutiny of received opinions, deflating them but confessing himself ignorant of what the true answer was, must have done much to create the establishment’s antipathy to him, resulting in his trial and conviction on a charge of corrupting youth.
KeywordsLegal System Civil Disobedience Court Order Social Contract Theory Popular Opinion
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