Paper #1 PLSC 114

Paper #1 PLSC 114 - Introduction to Political Philosophy...

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Introduction to Political Philosophy Steven Smith September 26, 2007 The Moral Citizen The tension between Socrates’ Apology and Crito could be described as the tension between the individual, moral philosopher and the faithful citizen of the polis. On their respective surfaces, it is easy to understand this. The Apology is an ironically unapologetic oration that vehemently defends the life of Socrates, even though he is faced with death at the hands of the state. The Crito , however is, first and foremost, a pseudo-dialogue in which Socrates chooses to engage and represent the laws as a means of arguing for his fidelity to the decisions of the polis. Indeed, he uses the laws as a rhetorical device, affirming his attachment to the city and his duty to receive his punishment through the words of a largely unchallenged force which he gives life to. One could argue that these two dialogues are purely antithetical, and that within them there is no coherent reconciliation between the good man and the good citizen. It would be easy enough to suppose that the disparity exists because of the very different audiences of the dialogues: one a triumphant stand against unjust accusers, a trial of the democratic system, and the other an eager acceptance of death and the climatic end of an uncommonly long and productive life. The latter, too, could no doubt be rationalized by the realities of his situation, including the risk others might commit for him and the possibility of martyrdom for the sake of philosophy itself. However, I will argue that the moral individual and the good citizen are not antithetical, but form a cohesive, if complex, blueprint for life in the polis. Not only do the Apology and the Crito not contradict each other, I posit that the good man, as represented by 1
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Socrates in the Apology , is a prerequisite for the good citizen, as represented in the Crito . Socrates revisits the foundational importance of morality for his role in the world, placing “whether [he] is acting like a good or bad man” 1 at the forefront of his concern. There is absoluteness in this morality, strict in its belief of “never do wrong” regardless of the circumstances. 2 In this stringent standard even family loyalties cannot supercede the responsibility one has to goodness. 3 Socrates applies this same scrutiny to “any public activity [he may engage in]” and he has thus “never come to an agreement with anyone to act unjustly.” 4 In this combination of his private and public life, qualitative questions of Socrates’ citizenship come to their first head. Indeed, there seems to be in this phrase alone, a tension between the avowed avoidance of acting “unjustly” and the political language of “agreement,” which echoes the proto-social contract theory that he advocates in the Crito . Despite this initial incongruity, there seems to be a solution in the following excerpt: [T]rying to persuade him not to care for any of his belongings before caring for he himself should be as good and as wise as possible, not to care
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Paper #1 PLSC 114 - Introduction to Political Philosophy...

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