Philosophical Remarks on City And Right to the City
The Cities of Plato and SocratesGeoff Bove
In Plato’s Crito, Socrates has an imaginary conversation with the Laws of Athens. Socrates, say the Laws, lived in Athens for seventy years, raised children there, and made no attempt to change its laws. Socrates never left Athens, not even to attend a festival. This tacit acceptance of Athenian law is a strong argument against escaping. Socrates’ deep connection to the city is marked in Plato’s Phaedrus, where it is remarked that Socrates never leaves the city. Plato’s literary representations attempt to create a deep linkage between Socrates and Athens. This depiction, and the argument of the Laws in Crito, is deeply Platonic, but is it Socratic? Variant texts of Plato’s Crito suggest that Socrates attended the Isthmian festival. According to other sources, Socrates also visited Samos, and descended to the Piraeus to observe the Thracian festival of Bendis. Socrates relished talking with foreigners, but in the Republic Plato dismisses their ideas on justice. In Republic I Socrates discusses justice with foreigners like the Sicilians Cephalus and Polemarchus, and the Chalcedonian Thrasymachus. Republic I functions like an aporetic Socratic dialogue; in the constructive Republic II, the foreign interlocutors are replaced by Plato’s brothers Glaucon and Adeimantus. Plato’s dismissal of foreign speakers in favor of those with family and friendship ties to the city, suggests his deep commitment to a bond of citizenship as a prerequisite for political theory. For Socrates, justice seems to be quite abstract and logical; for Plato justice is something that emerges organically from a deep bond of soul and body to the city.