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MONDAY, JULY 04, 2011
Double-wrong way.
Both Hobbes and Socrates have strongly argued that citizens must obey the law. However, while Socrates focused more on virtues, Hobbes focused on an "anything for peace" mentality. So it's a bit surprising that they both argue that no matter what, citizens must obey the law. So I thought I'd look into what each of them said in more detail.

If one were to generalize the theories of Hobbes and Socrates on the agreement between a citizen and the law, then it could be assumed that the two agreed. This is because Socrates and Hobbes agree in their conclusions. Socrates, as he explains in Crito believes that if one chose to live in the city, such as Athens, and benefit from the laws it has in place, then they must always abide by the laws. Similarly, Hobbes argues that those who live under a sovereign have agreed to a covenant with that sovereign's laws. Thus, in both cases the citizen must obey the laws of the government if they had previously agreed to live under such laws. Socrates and Hobbes have parallel reasonings as to why the citizen should obey such laws. I'll be focusing on how both Socrates and Hobbes believe that an agreement between citizen and government is achieved through the citizens physical and verbal actions. Furthermore, both Hobbes and Socrates lean more towards the idea that the state doesn't need to reciprocate any contact to individual citizens outside from the implementation of their laws (or that the citizen can use the law against the state). For example, in the United States if a citizen feels like they have been wronged by the government they can take legal action, through the Supreme Court, against the state. This is a case of the citizen using laws against the state, and one in which the state has agreed to obey. Unlike Hobbes, Socrates does leave some room for debate between a citizen and his state but because he doesn't emphasize the point in the Crito it is a subtle difference between the two philosophers that is worth exploring.

As for Socrates' belief, according to Crito, he states that the agreement is made in only one direction: From the citizen to the city. Socrates describes the agreement as, “when sees how we conduct our trials and manage the city in other ways, has in fact come to an agreement with to obey instructions.” Up to this point Socrates seems to be in agreement with Hobbes' social-contract theory. Since Hobbes believes that if a sovereign has reached victory over a people then a covenant has been reached between the two.

However, there is a slight difference between Hobbes and Socrates in the relation between the law and the citizen. Socrates seems to be more open to the idea of choice from the citizen. Unlike Hobbes, Socrates believes that part of the citizen's loyalty to state laws relies on the fact that a state, such as Athens, provides a choice to the citizen. When Socrates lists the reasons a citizen who disobeys the law is doing wrong he mentions that the law gives two alternatives to the citizen “either to persuade” or obey. This means that the citizen, if he choses to not obey a law can attempt to persuade the state “to do better.” This suggests that the citizen may have some influence over the laws of the powers that be. This is unlike Hobbes' philosophy that binds the citizen to the laws of a sovereign simply by his victory. The sovereign may alter parts of a social contract for a given situation, but Hobbes does not go as far as Socrates to say that citizens can “persuade” the state to change for its own betterment. Socrates, while believing that the citizen must eventually obey the law, leaves room for debate in any contract. Furthermore, Socrates also suggest that if the opportunity to be put into exile, over death, is given by the state then one can do so under its consent. However, if the exile is rejected then one can no longer flee the state because it is done without it's consent and thus an agreement is broken.

However, Hobbes believes the social contract between a sovereign and citizen is made right after his victory and once that happens it limits a citizen from argument or fleeing. The only flexibility a citizen has is before the sovereign has reached a victory. A citizen may fight, flee or chose jail anytime before a sovereign's victory but any settling of the citizen puts them in a contract under the laws of the sovereign.

Thus, both Socrates and Hobbes believe a citizen should at all times obey the final decisions of a court. They also disallow fleeing from any set contract made by the state. However, they do slightly differ in the amount of flexibility a citizen is allowed in debating and negotiating the laws while living under such rules. While Socrates leaves the possibility of a civilian “persuading” the state of a better negotiation, Hobbes is much more set on the original social-contract remaining the law as both parties have already agreed to it.


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