Volume 6, 2011
Yosef Z. Liebersohn
Rejecting Socrates’ Rejection of Retaliation
Gregory Vlastos, Socrates’ Morality, Plato’s Dialogues and Related Issues
This paper criticizes one of Vlastos’ well-known articles, in which he purports to reveal what he takes to be one of Socrates’ great achievements in ethics. By using what I take to be a more appropriate way of analysing Plato’s dialogues, I show how the same paragraph which is used by Vlastos to corroborate his case proves, in fact, the opposite. What Vlastos regards as “Socrates’ Rejection of Retaliation” turns out to be nothing but an instrument used by Socrates to make Crito look at his own behavior towards the polis. In a wider context, Plato’s Crito is shown to be a severe criticism of democracy, where the lex talionis is rather one of its dominant tools used both by the state and its citizens.