In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Book Reviews R. E. Allen. Socrates and Legal Obligation. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, x98o. Pp. ix + ~48. R. E. Allen's Socrates and Legal Obligation comprises a pair of elegant essays on the Apology and Crito, with translations provided "as an aid to the reader and a control on interpretation." The essays are like nothing else that has been written on the subject. They are refreshingly original in every way. They are not commentaries, for they do not probe the text or analyze the arguments exhaustively. Their perspective is that of modern jurisprudence, and their tone is apologetic. The author's purpose is to illuminate certain chosen elements of the two works in a way that will do them credit; in particular he hopes to foster a recognition of the Crito as "one of the great masterpieces of legal philosophy." The result is a fascinating exploration of an area in the history and philosophy of law; as an explication of Plato it is not so successful, nor was it meant to be. For a Plato scholar, the most exciting part of the book is its comment on the rhetoric and irony of the Apology. Under Allen's sensitive reading the Apology emerges as an example of true, or philosophical, rhetoric, a style that passes for plain speaking but can be mistaken for predatory sophistry (pp. 1o-1~). It amounts in a way to silence: what is shown by such speaking "is not said, and cannot be said except to those who have learned to see and therefore do not need to hear it" (p. x6). Allen has a fine hand with paradox and is in his element here. On the historical charges against Socrates, Allen's comments are brief. A cursory review of Athenian law leads him to suggest that the charge of impiety was without substance in Socrates' case, except insofar as it may have been deemed impious to corrupt the youth. Allen is more interesting when he looks at Athenian law with a lawyer's eye. He finds that in practice the law of Athens was often "lawless law"-lawless because infected by popular morality. This lawlessness is a consequence of a procedural defect: Athenian courts did not rigorously mark off findings of fact from findings of law; there was no judge to give the jury clear standards against which to set the facts. Hence, Allen implies, arises the injustice in Socrates' case (p. 96). This verdict on Athenian law is probably correct; but owing to its obvious anachronism it fails to explicate Socrates' own dissatisfaction with Athenian law or with the decision against him. Socrates considers his conviction unjust (Apology 39b, cf. Crito 5oc, 54c); but he nowhere objects to anything like a finding of law. He complains of ignorant prosecutors and of jurors who are moved more by appeals to emotion than by statements of fact. And his defense is essentially factual. All of his complaints could be lodged against laws that were fully "lawful" in Allen's sense. [93] 94 HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY Allen seeks to show that the Crito's main argument is sound and well argued, and that it is a forerunner of great developments in jurisprudence. From the beginning he takes the speech of the "Laws" to be "a palmary example" of true or philosophical rhetoric (p. 11, pp. 8~-83). Here Allen's enthusiasm for the Crito gets the better of his sharp sense for irony: the speech of the "Laws" is in striking ways at odds with its more philosophical prelude, and Socrates' comparison of the speech to Corybantic music (54d) is not encouraging to Allen's view. If anything is "true rhetoric" in the Crito, it is Socrates' argument in his own persona (46b-5oa). The speech of the "Laws" is more conventional. It appeals to the false view that how people react to Socrates is morally relevant (54b-e; contrast 44d, 48a) and appears to presuppose the odious possibility that in cases not involving parents or guardians it could be permissible to return harm for harm (5od-e; contrast 5ocd). It is, in fact, addressed to a man of conventional moral views---Crito, not Socrates---and its...

pdf

Additional Information

ISSN
1538-4586
Print ISSN
0022-5053
Pages
pp. 93-95
Launched on MUSE
2008-01-01
Open Access
No
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.