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Socrates and Democracy

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image of Polis: The Journal for Ancient Greek Political Thought

The aim of this paper is to reveal Socrates as a thorough democrat. In the first section, I will disprove the credibility of Xenophon’s Memorabilia, a common source for scholars who view Socrates as an antidemocratic thinker. I will then argue, in the second section, that the views of a few scholars who portray Socrates as a prodemocratic thinker represent a far-from-satisfactory depiction of his political views. In the third section, I will then demonstrate that Socrates’ criticism of democracy is not of democracy itself nor of Athenian laws, but instead a criticism of a particular sort of democracy seen in the period of Athenian imperialism, and that it derives from his fundamental recognition of human ignorance. After pointing out Socrates’ special preference for the democratic laws of Athens, seen in the Crito, I will establish, in the fourth section, a preference in his philosophy showing him as a staunch democrat who upheld the concept of the rule of law.


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