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Short Reads: Consent & Consequences — A Conversation with the Laws

May 9, 2023 @ 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm MDT

On the eve of Socrates’ execution, his friend Crito comes to him with a plan to help Socrates escape and flee to another city, in order to avoid facing his death sentence. In the course of their brief conversation,1 Socrates enters into an imagined dialogue with the Laws of Athens themselves, in a personified form, who present the case for why he should stay and accept his penalty, based on an agreement he has made with the Laws and the City over the previous seventy years of his life.

This exchange is often read as an early form of a “social contract” theory, but as we’ll see, it differs in some major respects from the way that more recent thinkers like Hobbes and Locke approach such theories. Socrates’ conversation with the Laws also points us to some larger issues around what, if anything, we agree to when we participate in other kinds of communities, from churches, classrooms, and local clubs, to the online communities of Twitter and Facebook, and so on.

In this Short reads gathering we’ll be exploring this and more.  For those who attended our “How Did We Get Here?” event on political freedom in April, this a is a wonderful continuation of our dialogue specifically as it concerns questions like “what happens if we don’t like the laws?” and “what are the limits of the/a social contract contract?”

For greater detail, check out the reading selection below by clicking the pdf image.

About Our Short Reads

Our “Short Reads” evenings explore a focused philosophical argument or theme, by way of a short (4–6 page) paper.  During the evening, we’ll step through the paper together, using it as the focal point for a lively and interactive conversation.  Papers are short and compact, and we’ll read many of the longer quotes aloud together as we go.

Themes vary, and are announced (along with sharing the paper) about two weeks prior to each session. View & download this month’s paper by clicking on the image.

Participants are encouraged, but not required, to read through the paper in advance, to begin thinking about the topic before you arrive.  


When & Where

This short reads session led by David Nowakowski will take place in the Conference Center in Reeder’s Alley on Tuesday, May 9th from 6pm-8pm.


Dates: Tuesday, May 9th
Time: 6pm – 8pm MT
Where: 101 Reeder’s Alley (Conference Center)

Registration Info

RSVP: Scroll down….
Cost: Free (Donations Welcome)
Other: Hot tea provided 

Read-In Facilitator

David Nowakowski is as a philosopher and educator in the Helena area whose professional work is dedicated to helping people of all ages and backgrounds access, understand, and apply the traditions of ancient philosophy to their own lives.  David began studying ancient philosophies and classical languages in 2001, and has continued ever since.  A scholar of the philosophical traditions of the ancient Mediterranean (Greece, Rome, and North Africa) and of the Indian subcontinent, reading Sanskrit, Latin, and classical Greek, he earned his Ph.D. in philosophy from Princeton University in 2014.  His work has appeared in a variety of scholarly journals, including Philosophy East & WestAsian Philosophy, and the Journal of Indian Philosophy, as well as in presentations to academic audiences at Harvard, Columbia University, the University of Toronto, Yale-NUS College in Singapore, and elsewhere. 

After half a decade teaching at liberal arts colleges in the northeast, David chose to leave the academy in order to focus his energies on the transformative value of these ancient philosophical and spiritual traditions in his own life and practice, and on building new systems of education and community learning that will make this rich heritage alive and available to others.


Make a Donation Here

Our philosophy shorts and other activities are FREE to the community. While donations are never expected, they are always appreciated and help to keep programs like these going. Your tax-deductible donations help to cover honorariums, logistics, materials, implementation, resource archiving, and more! For those facing more challenging financial circumstances, we ask that you please try to “pay it forward” with acts of kindness for your neighbors and community.


May 9, 2023
6:00 pm - 8:00 pm MDT
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Reeder’s Alley Interpretive & Convention Center
101 Reeder's Alley
Helena, MT 59601 United States
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Marisa Diaz-Waian
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