1205 Urban and Regional Planning
1208 Literature and Literary Theory
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AbstractThe argument attributed to the Laws of Athens at Crito 50 a ff. relies on three main propositions, firstly that disobedience to law harms persons, secondly that the relationship between citizen and state is analogous to that between child and parent, and thirdly that the citizen makes a tacit compact to obey the laws. The connection between these three is not entirely clear and I shall consider how the first proposition is related to the second, and then how the second is related to the third. Both these problems, which are important for the assessment of Plato’s conclusions, appear in obscurities in the structure of the speech of the Laws. A further question is whether Plato envisages any exceptions to his apparent conclusion that the law must always be obeyed. What I would like to do here is to dispose of one commonly accepted affirmative answer, namely that Plato expressly provides that the law is to be obeyed only if its commands are morally just. As an alternative answer I shall detect yet another structural obscurity, an unacknowledged dilemma immediately preceding the speech of the Laws and reflected in the speech itself, which shows that the obligation to obey is not absolute. Plato sees the relationship of citizen to state as analogous to that of child to parent. He also offers the basic principle that disobedience to law is harming persons. Before examining the way in which these two views are connected, let us first briefly consider what is meant by the claim that law-breaking is harming persons.