From the beginning of the article:
Among Mogens Hansen’s many Athenian interests, one individual and one political value stand out: the individual is Sokrates and the value is freedom, especially in its “negative” sense of “freedom to pursue one’s personal goals”. Here I will seek to illuminate, with a philosophical torch assembled largely from Hansen’s historical investigations of Athenian legal procedure, a few small corners of a big question about Sokrates and freedom: Does the acceptance by Sokrates (i.e. the literary figure depicted in Plato’s Apologia and Crito: hereafter simply “Sokrates”), of communal obligations he owed as a citizen, unduly compromise his freedom as an individual? Linked to this normative question is a historical question about Sokrates’ identity: How Athenian, in terms of embracing values implicit in Athenian legal and political practices, was Sokrates? I will suggest that both Sokrates’ “Athenian-ness” and his idiosyncrasy bear on the problem of his ethical obligations to the state. I make three main points: 1. Although Sokrates regarded other polities as substantively “better”, Athens was the right polis for Sokrates because (inter alia) the procedural emphasis of Athenian law rendered a commitment to obeying the laws fully compatible with the freedom of Sokrates as an individual to choose and pursue his distinctive life goals. And so Athens never confronted Sokrates with a hard choice between his freedom of conscience and his duty as a citizen. 2. A hypothetical law against philosophizing would not confront Sokrates with a hard choice, because he would regard such a law as formally invalid. 3. When he disobeyed the order of the Thirty to arrest Leon of Salamis, Sokrates was not breaking the law because the order lacked authority under the lawcode that Sokrates regarded as being in force at the time.