Socrates was both a loyal citizen (by his own lights) and a critic of the democratic community’s way of doing things. This led to a crisis in 339 B.C. In order to understand Socrates’ and the Athenian community’s actions (as reported by Plato and Xenophon) it is necessary to understand the historical and legal contexts, the democratic state’s commitment to the notion that citizens are resonsible for the effects of their actions, and Socrates’ reasons for preferring to live in Athens rather than in states that might (by his lights) have had substantively better legal systems. Written for the Cambridge Companion to Socrates.
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