Paul Gowder, University of Iowa School of Law and IAS/Social Sciences

What the Laws Demand of Socrates — and of Us

Date: 
Mon, 11/03/2014
Location: 
301 Marx Hall


Please join us for a LAPA Seminar with Paul GowderAssociate Professor of Law at the University of Iowa, who will present "The Rule of Law and Democracy."  The commentator will be Melissa Lane, Class of 1943 Professor of Politics at Princeton.

Synopsis: This paper uses a contextualized re-reading of the argument of the personified Laws in Plato’s Crito to draw out the way in which legal trust is key to the maintenance of democratic legal orders.  When the members of a democratic political community trust in one another’s commitment to their legal system, they are able to defend the laws that hold their democracy together; in such a state, the laws are both conceptually constitutive of democratic authority and practically necessary for democracy. In the structure of the Athenian legal system, and in the appeal to the filial loyalty Socrates owed the Laws, we can see the interweaving of law, trust, and citizenship in the preservation of a democracy. The Laws demand that Socrates be trustworthy, and thereby refrain from undermining his fellow citizens' trust in them, where that trust is necessary for the citizens' collective defense of the democratic legal system; they make this demand on Socrates in virtue of the Laws' role in Socrates's identity as citizen.

Paul Gowder is associate professor of law and adjunct associate professor of political science (by courtesy) at the University of Iowa and member, 2014-5, Institute for Advanced Study. His work hovers at the messy boundary between normative political/legal theory and constitutional law, with occasional forays into places like Athens. His current research focuses on the ideal of the rule of law and its egalitarian foundation, as well as its function in the structure of liberal democracy and the demands it makes on political communities, particularly with respect to economic and racial justice.

Melissa Lane is the Class of 1943 Professor of Politics and Associate Chair of the Department of Politics. Her work is in political theory, with her principal expertise being ancient Greek political thought and its modern reception. She also works on a broad range of topics in the history of political thought and in normative theory and public ethics. Lane is a 2012 Fellow of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. Her books include  Greek and Roman Political Ideas (Penguin, 2014; forthcoming in the US as The Birth of Politics: Eight Political Ideas of the Greeks and Romans and Why They Matter, with Princeton University Press);   Eco-Republic (Princeton University Press, 2012) ;  Plato's Progeny: How Plato and Socrates still captivate the modern mind (Duckworth, 2001);  Method and Politics in Plato's Statesman (Cambridge University Press, 1998);  and an  'Introduction' to the Penguin Classics volume of Plato’s  Republic  (2007 edition). She co-convenes the Princeton Climate Futures Initiative.