The Role of Inconsistency in the Death of Socrates: An Analysis of Socrates' Views on Civil Disobedience and its Implications


  • Said Saillant Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey


Civil disobedience, Socrates, Crito, Apology,


Throughout the paper, I focus on the apparent incongruity of Socratesâ views in the Apology and the Crito. In the former, Socrates claims that if acquitted on the condition that he gives up philosophizing, he will nevertheless continue to philosophize. Yet, in the latter, Socrates argues that disobeying a city ordinance is wrong because it harms the city and its laws. The inconsistency is evaluated by focusing on the purpose of each argument, i.e. the intentions (other than persuasion) for advancing the arguments. In the Crito, he argues against civil disobedience to convince Crito that escaping the death penalty is morally wrong and, therefore, an unacceptable course of action. In the Apology, he argues for civil disobedience in claiming that divine directives take precedence over civil commandments. In the latter, the underlying motive is unclear. I contend that the argument in the Crito aims to prevent civil disobedience on Socratesâ part; it serves the purpose of facilitating his death, thereby preventing disobedience in the case of acquittal and maintaining adherence to the divine injunction.