Gilbert, Socrates, and Why do X?
Obligation, obedience, and what it all means.
Margret Gilbert’s A Theory of Political Obligation chapter one provides us with several provocative questions regarding what it is about a political society that creates obligations within its constituents to obey. Lots of individuals think that disobedience to the state is wrong but not merely because it is costly. It may not be practical, but because we believe the state has some intrinsic authority in its nature. While chapter one of Gilbert’s book provides us with no answers to this, it lays the groundwork to understand that defining terms when discussing this issue is paramount. She discusses the difference between purported and genuine power and how they differ from obedience as obedience presupposes general authority. What relates to our essential question, why obey, is that it is easier to find reasons to obey laws grounded in authority versus purported rule (14). The premise of authority is vital to her argument for obedience because not only does it presuppose obedience and thus empower some with such authority to give orders, but it also enables the ability for one to enact proper and general punishment (5). I believe Gilbert’s widespread belief is that it is only by virtue of the terms involved that members of a political society derive their obligation to obey its laws.
Socrates’ beliefs, based on the writing of Plato in his work Crito, regarding obedience to the state, are more founded in the concepts of gratitude and prudence. Socrates obeys the state because he feels it is his obligation as he has chosen to live in said state, and thus by doing so, he expresses his gratitude for this by obeying its laws and customs. There is also a prudential aspect of obedience for Socrates in his current situation, where Crito wants him to escape, but he chooses not to. He questions what the “right” people will think of his choosing not to bey the state to save himself. What will the states he flees to think if he has chosen to disregard another state’s laws? Unequivocally, what will people think of Socrates as a person and his beliefs? If we wanted to answer the question of Why do X, based on Socrates’ views as written above, it might resemble: X equals obeying the laws and consenting to the punishment provided by said laws. Y equals acknowledging the state’s general authority by accepting the hospitalities and customs of the protection supplied by the state you reside. Socrates would state that by remaining a resident of a state, you have agreed to do Y. X, as stated above, is a part of Y. We can conclude then that you agree to X.