Tuesday, September 4, 2012
How Gandhi read the Apology
Gandhi translated part of the Apology – a summary of it, as he put it – into Gujerati in 1908. See here, here, and here. He published it in Indian Opinion in South Africa, just at the time when he was developing his conception and practice of satyagraha (cleaving to truth, active nonviolence). He "drank deeply" from the experience of Socrates – modelling hunger strikes to curb his followers as well as civil disobedience on Socrates's story as told by Plato in the Apology and Crito.*
Gandhi is the founder/creator of 20th century mass civil disobedience and the new possibilities that it represents in the world (a way out of militarism, global warming and repression, an even more tactically astute Arab spring or Madison). He wisely suggests that we all take in Socrates. But his translation and summary combine this great insight with a desire to edit Socrates for Indians in South Africa and India. This cutting/rewording sometimes creates important tensions in Socrates which are not in the original text or illustrate some striking idiosyncrasies of the translator (since Gandhi himself became a political leader of international and historic significance in India and in nonviolence more generally, the idiosyncrasies, too, are important).
As my first essay on the translation emphasized here, Gandhi saw Socrates as, to pursue what is right, greeting death “as a beloved.” (Indian Opinion 9-5-1908 in Gandhi, Collected Works, vol 8, p.229). This concern for dying with integrity marks his statement that a Hindu satyagrahi must be willing to suffer death at the hands of a Hindu mob to bar them from harming a Muslim (Gandhi, “Some rules of satyagraha,” Young India (Navajivan), 23 February, 1930 in Collected Works, vol. 48, p. 340) Gandhi thus deeply affirms the spirit of Socrates even as he acts in a more internationalist way and transforms it (there were no such religious divisions or persecutions in Athens; the trial of Socrates for blasphemy was an individual case. Socrates was only the second person to be tried under this law).
And Gandhi learned to become one of the poor like Socrates rather than a fancy lawyer or would-be aristocrat. Yet Gandhi differed from Socrates in doing so as part of a mass movement. See here. (Gandhi's experiments with the ashram were also, however, anything but ordinary).
As a central aspect of Gandhi's complex relationship with Socrates, he understood and admired Socrates’s questioning of prevailing opinions, Socrates’s sorting of what he and an interlocutor might have deep reasons to believe in comparison to prevailing views, held by an interlocutor, which contradict these other or sounder beliefs and are clung to, as a dead inheritance, without thought.
This spirit in Socrates makes the words of his interlocutors move. “You make my words get up and walk away from me,” as Euthyphro puts it.
This spirit in Socrates invites Diotima’s invocation to him in the Symposium that you (Socrates) do not agree with your original statement or that you and I are two who disagree with your original thought.
In the Apology, in response to the charge of impiety to the Greek gods, Socrates points out that he arrived at his vocation of questioning from meditating on a riddle of the Delphic oracle. The priestess, the Pythia, spoke the words of Apollo. When Socrates's student and friend Chaerophon asked "impetuously," the oracle had told him that Socrates was wisest of them all. In the opening of the Apology, Socrates ironically abjures legal or sophist's rhetoric; yet here, he provides a brilliant example of it (legal argument can be conjoined with truth, although here perhaps, not fully what Socrates believes**).
As a secondary aspect, however, Gandhi, unfortunately, omits for his audience of Indians in South Africa, much of this passage. For it also underlines to the jurors that many of Socrates's students were democrats (posing the question of who, if either, got Socrates and by implication Plato right:, the odious tyrant Critias or the democrat Chaerophon. Chaerophon was closer, as I show here).
That Gandhi is not much concerned with democracy - except as the defective regime which puts to death a man of virtue - is clear here. He often misinterprets Athenian institutions, for example, thinking there is a distinction between the judges and the public at the trial, or that the number of votes that Socrates needed for acquittal was three (rather than 30 in a group of 500 judges).(Indian Opinion, 18-4-1908 in Works 8:197; Indian Opinion 9-5-1908 in Works, 8: 227).
Even though Gandhi was a very attentive reader, one who brilliantly used the story of Socrates in creating modern civil disobedience, including his own form of satyagraha against the excesses of the movement he lead, one explicitly modeled on Socrates as "A Soldier of Truth," Gandhi also does not get the depth or different levels of reading /understanding that Plato (and Socrates) encourage.
But Gandhi published this summary in 6 parts in Indian Opinion to invite or compel his serious readers to take a "deep draught of the elixir" of Socrates's trial and death. This metaphor for satyagraha stems from Socrates' drinking the hemlock. And yet, as we will see ironically, the democratic aspect of Socrates - his participation in and seeking for a more just or common good-sustaining democracy within the Athenian democracy - eludes Gandhi.
As Gandhi put it,
"We...saw in the words of a great soul like Socrates the qualities of an elixir. We wanted out readers, therefore to imbibe a deep draught of it, so that they might be able to fight - and help others fight - the disease [the weaknesses or germs that allow British oppression of India to continue]." (Indian Opinion, 4-4-1908; Gandhi, Works 8:174).
A central theme of the larger story the Apology relates is that Socrates has a human wisdom: a wisdom marked by the recognition of his own ignorance. Socrates does not have the folly of others in thinking that they know what they do not. He does not puff him himself up, as kings and political leaders do, as a god, as something more than human. In Gandhi's words,
"The reason for their accusations is that I possess a certain wisdom. If you ask, 'What kind of wisdom?' I can only say that although it be but human wisdom, even the oracle has said that I have more of it than others."
Yet Gandhi's translation here makes Socrates brag about having more "human wisdom" - an odd way to refer to an ignorance one acknowledges - than others. Since Plato's Socrates insists that he doesn't know - again, one does not brag about how little one knows - the competitive idiom, unfortunately, as we will see, a sub-theme of Gandhi's summary, is false to the Socrates in Plato's text.
In fact, in Plato, Socrates finds the oracle's saying that he is wiser than others a riddle and figures out a way to test it. So the competitive tone here - "even the oracle has said I have more of it than others" - is Gandhi's alone.
But Gandhi continues, more accurately to the text:
"Though these are the words of the oracle, I [Socrates] did not readily believe them. Accordingly I went to one reputed to be the wisest among us. I asked him a few questions and discovered that his was only a pretense to knowledge. I make no such claim. To that extent, I must be wiser than he is." (Indian Opinion, 11-4-1908; Works, 8: 186)
Socrates reports to the jurors that he decided to test the oracle's saying by going around to question those who are thought to know by others and think themselves to know: the politicians, artisans and poets. What he discovered, in each case, is that he is wiser only in one respect. While the others claim to know and do not, he neither knows nor thinks that he knows.
Taken seriously, this formulation shakes much of what one thinks one knows about Socrates or Plato. Many, from a superficial commentator like Karl Popper to the deep, but fascist Martin Heidegger or Leo Strauss, think Plato/Socrates advocated the rule of a philosopher, the tyranny, without laws, of a "wise" leader. But I should note here, that Socrates does not advocate anything like this in Athens.
Suppose, however, that these thoughts about the "best regime" were true of Plato (in the Seventh Letter, he denies that he will ever write on legislation, placing in doubt the status of the Laws and the Republic). How is this consistent with Socrates's declaration that he is ignorant?
Perhaps the character Socrates in the dialogues shapes particular arguments or visions with varied purposes and deliberate flaws - for careful students or readers to puzzle over - which have or hint at some further idea. These are not necessarily political recommendations (in the case of philosopher-authoritarianism, in fact, rather unlikely ones); they must be studied carefully in context. They are, as it were, experiments with truth, experiments in thought (as Gandhi later named his own).
If so, then Socrates's understanding of the oracle in the Apology guides how one might think about the Republic, and not the reverse.
In any case, the phrasing by Socrates (and Plato) in the Apology is, at the least, obscure. As Gandhi's opening sentences underline, Socrates knows particular virtues and is himself an exemplar of virtue:
“The heroic Socrates, an extraordinary person with a fine moral character, was born in 471 B.C. A Greek, he lived a virtuous and benevolent life. Unable to bear his moral excellence and his virtue, some envious persons made false accusations against him.” [Indian Opinion, 4-4-1908 in Works 8: 173]
One might distinguish the sense in which Socrates is ignorant from an obvious sense in which he knows something. He knows, for instance, examples of just acts and seeks to practice them. What he does not know is how fully to define justice, to capture what he calls the idea of justice. Socrates refuses to offer common or even refined opinions about justice, but challenges, again given examples of just acts, those of others.
During the lengthy Peloponnesian War, as Thucydides's History relates, Athenians engaged in mutual slaughters with Spartans. Opinions about justice during that war sanctioned cruelty and murder, as Thucydides reports of the Athenians at Corcyra and Melos and Plato recalls in the Republic (at Melos, the nameless Athenian ambassadors say “the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must”; in book 1 of the Republic, Thrasymachus echoes that “justice is nothing but the advantage of the stronger.” Socrates makes Thrasymachus's words move by asking: what happens when the strong mistake their advantage?)
In ch. 4 of Must Global Politics Constrain Democracy?, I suggest that Socrates is a deeper realist even than Thucydides in the sense that he thinks all opinions about justice are corrupted by power and just asks questions, makes them move. He thus refuses to provide completed ideas/opinions to kill by.
Socrates's questioning, his refusal to espouse an overall argument about justice, is thus a practical response to the murderousness of intra-Hellene wars as well as to that theme of Greek tragedy: the self-destructive hubris of the powerful. One must question each such opinion, as Socrates does, leading to some refinements, but not resulting in an overall account.*** One must take seriously the tension between Socrates's statement: I recognize that I do not know and his largely satiric proposal about the guardians and a philosopher-king. See here, here, here, here and here.
Instead, Socrates (and Plato) show, in particular situations, one must act, as thoughtfully as one can, for justice. While there are some larger views about justice implied here, they are at most for careful students to work out and not what appears on the surface of the dialogues (One might say that Gandhi's reading of Socrates's experience and creativity is extraordinary. But his translation of the surface of the dialogue sometimes loses its way).
In today's terms, Hilary Putnam's notion of a pragmatism consistent with moral realism or Amartya Sen's views on justice cohere nicely with what Socrates does and with Plato (in the Seventh Letter, Plato says he will never teach about legislation directly, but in the mind of a philosopher/legislator to be who studies long, a flame will suddenly flare up and never go out). In Democratic Individuality, my version of limited moral objectivity, that slavery is bad for humans, that each of us has a capacity for moral personality, and that one should do things for their own sakes, not for money or power, coexists with a wide plurality of cultural decisions (often shaped by international or intercultural conversation) which do not involve harms to others. Given Socrates's dialogue with the slave about a theorem of Greek geometry in the Meno as well as his eudaimonism (Thrasymachus, in contrast, speaks only "for the money's sake"), my account coheres with Socrates's or Plato's.
Through questioning prevailing views, Socrates is on a quest to combat error and to invite others to philosophize, but not to arrive fully or sometimes even largely at answers. He sometimes reaches, as it were, provisional rest stops on a continuing journey but one must take in, carefully, what they are. For instance, the Meno involves the coquetting of Socrates, intellectually and sexually, with the beautiful Meno. Instead of discussing what virtue is?, the question with which Socrates begins, Meno changes the question to: can virtue be taught?
The dialogue concludes that it can’t unless there is someone who, like the blind prophet Tiresias Theban, alone among the dead, can see:
"He alone kept his wits,
the rest were flitting shadows." (Meno, 99a).
But perhaps the dialogue, nonetheless, suggests that Socrates, though talking with others in the cave, is also such a person. In any case, Plato means the reader to notice that the quality of a dialogue and what it achieves depends on the question to be answered.
In contrast to the Meno, the action of the Republic is the teaching by Socrates of the formidable and hungry Glaucon, a military leader, Plato’s brother, the son of Ariston (the name means the best), the teller of the stunning tale of the ring of Gyges - see here and here - and one tempted to become a tyrant, not to do so and to have some interest in philosophy (willingness to do philosophy is a different matter). See here. The conclusions to be reached from studying any single dialogue are not obvious and need to be considered both as argument in themselves and also in relation to other dialogues.
So one might envision the dialogues as a long journey of, as it were, experiments with justice, getting further, though not always in a straight line, in conversations about, elaborations of justice. But Plato and Socrates, as I have argued, satirized an authoritarian conception of justice in the Republic – see here, here, here, here and here. And one might remember about the rule of the guardians – a projection of Glaucon’s mentality as a soldier who is hungry for luxuries, “relishes” – and even the shadowy philosopher–king that these ideas contradict Socrates’s ignorance about justice. For to propose this as – simply – the best regime would be to claim to know. So the guiding spirit of a philosopher would shape a different regime than this one (perhaps a modified version of the Pythagoreans), and the role of philosopher, shown in the action of the dialogue - counseling a would-be tyrant in a democracy not to subvert the democracy, going down, as in the Apology to defend a common good-sustaining democracy - different from what appears on the surface.
Since the circle of philosophers is small (even among the Pythagoreans who Plato and Socrates admired - see here - they will not be fully a regime. So Socrates's role, as Gandhi does not quite recognize - is to go down to defend or "reform" in Gandhi's idiom the laws of a democracy.
As Plato knew (it is the basis for the strongly ironic or satirical theme of the Republic), one cannot hold those two view - I know that I am ignorant, I can tell you what the best regime is and how to organize it - consistently. Socrates offers at most proposals for a better regime, a democracy that does not persecute philosophy, for example, only in a specific context. Similarly, in considering Gandhi's translation, one can’t hold the view of the Apology that Socrates has a human wisdom in recognizing his own ignorance and that Socrates possesses the truth. Yet Gandhi's translation/commentary advances both these views.
As we can see in reading Plato's Apology - see here , here and here - Gandhi is right to speak of Socrates as a reformer. But Gandhi does not see the reform Socrates aims at in the Apology. For Socrates wanted to reform and improve the democracy, to make it tolerant of philosophy. Given the closeness of the vote, he imagines that with a longer trial as in other cities - Athenians confined capital cases to a single day - he might have been acquitted. Foreeeing the foul reputation that Athenian democracy would accrue from murdering its wise man and but for the "scrap of life" left to him, he indicated, to those who would recall (and Plato's writing made that many), that the search to do right before killing or executing was compelling. It is so compelling that one might come to abjure capital punishment and killing (satyagraha in Gandhi, for instance). Gandhi's conclusion is, in many ways, the culmination of Socrates's thought that "it is better to suffer evil than ever to do it."
Yet unlike Gandhi, Socrates is not primarily a reformer with a large following. Instead, knowing he would be put to death if he engaged in politics, he cleaves, aside from military service, to the realm of questioning individuals. And his following is mostly the young aristocratic boys who are entertained by this questioning though they are often stung by it themselves (consider Glaucon and Polemarchus in the Republic), and not what Gandhi calls “crowds.” In a certain way, Socrates is closer to the ashram, even though he converses in public with Euthyphro and others, than he is to the 20th century movements against discrimination or for independence:
“A reformer, [Socrates] strove to cleanse Athens, the capital of Greece [sic], of the evil which had entered its life and thus came in contact with a large number of persons. He made a powerful impression on the minds of the young who followed him about in crowds.” [Indian Opinion 4-4-1908 in Works, 8: 173].
And yet, Athens was a small place. Socrates had, as Gandhi perhaps surmised, a profound influence. For instance, he taught the writers Plato and Xenophon who have immortalized him against his own wishes. Socrates did not write because he wanted to have conversations in the moment, reaching as they did toward the idea, but never succeeding fully in the climb, governed by the particular psychologies and interactions of the conversants. What it is possible to grasp from a dialogue, as Plato warns us in Phaedrus, is limited, and different for the sophisticated reader from one who is sleepy. “Writings," says Socrates to Phaedrus, "are like statues. If you ask them a question, they have no father [sic] to defend them.” (Phaedrus, 275d-277a).
Socrates also taught Critias and Charmides, both of whom became leaders of the 30 tyrants who murdered some 1,500 Athenians. This was part of the family drama of Plato – Critias was his cousin, Charmides his uncle - which marks the dialogues. But Socrates also taught Chaerophon - the democrat and his best student according to Aristophanes’s The Clouds – as well as Polemarchus, a “philosophical youth,” as Socrates characterizes him in Phaedrus,. Polemarchus, one may recall from the first page of the Republic, has Socrates arrested by his slave, and then threatens him with a beating, prefiguring the trial and verdict, if he does not obey. Initially a bullying leader of the democratic faction in Athens, a war leader [what his name means], Polemarchus figures out what argument is and decides to engage in it as a vocation in book 1 of the Republic. He is thus the model of one who becomes initiated into philosophy. See here and here.
Gandhi captures a feature of Socrates’s conception in his notion of satyagraha, cleaving to the truth. For as Bhikhu Parekh underlines, one does not fully have the truth, one acts or “experiments” to learn about it, move closer to it. This venture is Socratic.
Yet here, Gandhi’s summary and translation fall into the contradiction I have emphasized. For Gandhi exclaims in Socrates’ voice that Socrates is wise, knows the truth, and is much better than anyone else. Listen to how Gandhi’s translation elaborates a perhaps sound point further than Socrates (Plato) in response to Meletus – it is Gandhi’s own contribution - and then falls into bragging:
“If I were to entreat you to break your oath, it would amount to proving Meletus’s charge against me, namely, that I do not believe in God [note again the Christian reformulation]. If anyone who believes in God teaches someone to violate his oath, then that will amount to teaching him to disobey God. Such a person does not believe in God. But I believe in God more firmly than anyone among you is ever likely to [Socrates did not make nor was tempted to make such comparisons; a daimon, an inner voice, is his own, and perhaps each person’s own…; Socrates lacked the sense of inferiority or petty competitiveness which is revealed in Gandhi's sentence], and therefore, trusting in Him [again a Christian anachronism rather than a translation] I leave my case in your hands without fear.” (Indian Opinion, 2-5-1908, in Works, 8:220-21).
In addition, listen to this point at the beginning of Gandhi’s essay where Socrates, says not that he seeks the truth but that he possesses it:
“They [Socrates’s accusers] asked you not to be misled by my eloquence. It is they who are rhetorical. I have no skill in the art of speaking. [Socrates makes a philosophical speech, not a mainly a rhetorical and never an emptily rhetorical one****]. If by rhetoric they mean truth, I admit that I possess it.” (Indian Opinion 11-4-1908 in Works 8:185)
Plato says nothing like this in the Apology. Socrates questioning seeks the truth, but does not know fully (the idea of) the truth. He is admirable but does not "possess" the truth (to the contrary, one might say that as a philosopher, the search for truth possesses Socrates...). On Gandhi's behalf, here, he was struggling to initiate satyagraha, still as a comparatively young man (39 years old), and Socrates, when Plato wrote of him, was older, had become, perhaps, more at peace with himself.
Elsewhere in Gandhi's translation, Socrates says accurately: “I also came to realize that true knowledge consists in being aware of how utterly ignorant one is.” [Indian Opinion 11-4-1908, Works 8:186].
Socrates, in Gandhi's summary, also declares:
“The artisans were certainly superior [to me] in virtue of their skill, but out of pride in their skill, they assumed themselves to be wiser than others in other matters as well. All of them are really steeped in ignorance without knowing it. I learnt that I was more fully aware than any of them of the true state of our ignorance." [Indian Opinion, 11-4-1908 in Works 8:186-87].
Socrates remarks that he has a reputation for wisdom and that he differs in this from others. He clarifies this, once again, as a human wisdom – i.e. not puffing oneself up with hubris – and which consists, unlike the ideas of others, in not thinking or asserting that he knows what he does not.
In particular situations - notably, in going to his death - Socrates can thus defend philosophy and the search for truth without pretense, or in Gandhi's terms, exemplifying virtue. Many have erred about this, thinking Socrates contemptuous of ordinary people and perhaps actually "possessing" knowledge (Xenophon, IF Stone, Leo Strauss). In claiming truth or wisdom for Socrates, Gandhi is thus not alone, even though Gandhi’s Socrates, unlike those of the other three, does not sneer and is a prototype for Gandhi's satyagraha.
The two claims - I know that I know only a little or am ignorant or have a merely human wisdom versus I "possess" wisdom and the truth, am “divine knowledge” - are mutually contradictory. This contradiction - the error in which is Gandhi's - undercuts his summary/translation.
As a related point, Gandhi often mistranslates Socrates' view of the God as God in a roughly Christian sense. This is mistaken in two ways. First, the charge the Athenian “democrats” leveled against Socrates was of not believing in the Greek gods. This should have been easily accessible to Gandhi and his readers since Hinduism is also polytheistic. But in London, Gandhi had experimented with Theosophy and Christian thinking, as he relates in his Autobiography, before he went to South Africa. He mistakenly projected such thoughts onto Socrates.
Ironically, though using God as some monotheistic and, more importantly known force, Gandhi refers to the divine in Gujerati. In the notes, the editor says:
“Gandhiji’s Gujarati summaries of important works had often a contemporary relevance or practical purpose and were not intended to be historical. Here, for example, he renders the Greek ‘gods’ as Khuda in Gujarati/Urdu. Elsewhere he refers to God as ‘Khuda-Ishwar’ (names for God in Urdu and Hindi). (Indian Opinion, 4-4-1908 in Works 8: 172 n. 1).
Socrates does refer to the god, for instance, in the explosive last sentence of the Apology: We go, I to die and you to live, and who fares best is known only to the god (to theo). Theo is thus the word that the Apology ends on….
But Socrates’s is not a familiar god in Athens. It is the daimon, the inner voice, which warns him against certain courses of action. For instance, in the Phaedrus, he is stopped when he is blaspheming Eros, for example, and changes what he says; as one discovers in the Symposium in the deeper words of Diotima, however, Eros is not a god – which in Athenian terms is, of course, more explicitly, blasphemous. The dialogues on love are thus successively more blasphemous - though getting to a more attractive, and rather analogous to Socrates's account of love of wisdom, account of how love is, one rather analogous to Socrates's account of love of wisdom. As eros is the child of Poros (resource, abundance) and Penia (poverty), so Socrates himself and his vision of knowledge at once embodies resource in questioning (a kind of wisdom) - the golden statues that Alcibiades glimpses in the Symposium but cannot capture - and ignorance.
The daimon appears in his speech in the Apology, as Socrates reports, by not warning him when he proposes that perhaps death is not a bad thing. Here, ironically prefiguring Heidegger*****, the point of Socratic ignorance focuses on his own, personal, dying.
The god or the truth is that toward which Socrates's questioning advances. It accompanies him as an inner voice, a guiding spirit from within, not a “demon” in what would be a harsh English/Catholic mistranslation. In attributing wisdom to Socrates and following “God” – an omniscient Christian God – however, Gandhi’s, too, is a mistranslation. Gandhi also mistakenly translates daimon as “divine voice” making it something angelic or god-like and outside Socrates, “whispering into my ear.” (In his version of Socrates's questioning of Meletus, he also has Socrates referring to angels: "Or assert the existence of things pertaining to angels, but deny the existence of angels?"****** Indian Opinion 18-4-1908 in Works 8: 198).
But this is a Christian anachronism, not Plato:
“Perhaps you will ask me, why, if I go on exhorting people to virtue, moving from house to house, I do not take part in the political affairs of the city and strive for its welfare. I have often given my reason for that. I think I hear a divine voice whispering into my ear, telling me not to take part in politics. And I think it well that this has been so. If I had attempted to take part in politics, I should have perished long ago, without doing either.” (Indian Opinion 2-5-1908 in Works 8:218
Gandhi modeled his conception of satyagraha on Socrates. It is hard to overstate what Gandhi accomplished in developing a new and hopeful way of changing the world, registered subsequently in the civil rights movement in the American South and in a standing possibility or hope to make the movements of Arab Spring and Madison and the indignados and Occupy something deeper and more effective. But Gandhi also saw Socrates in his own, sometimes rather eccentric way.
*John Rawls’s lovely definition of civil disobedience from the point of view of democratic theory – civil disobedience is "resistance to an unjust law within the context of overall fidelity to the laws” – flows from this experience. Socrates became, for Gandhi, King – there are three mentions of Socrates in the Letter from the Birmingham City Jail - and Rawls a model of civil disobedience.
**For instance, Socrates inner voice or daimon counsels this decision, not the external words of Apollo's oracle to Chaerophon.
***This distinguishes Socrates - and Plato - from Plato's student Aristotle. Aristotle begins from opinions about justice, and arrives through philosophical refinement at a common good. This is like his teachers, except Socrates's notion of a common good - and Plato's, for that matter, are less definite and comprehensively worked out than Aristotle's. Was Aristotle just filling in what, in general, they also thought? Or is there some problem with forging too complete a picture as if the universal - and again, some moral universals, such as the true statement: slavery is bad for humans, exist - on Socrates's view, when espoused as a political view, leads to harms?
Socrates defends philosophy or questioning - a great and universal good within politics - but does not elaborate an overall theory. He was skeptical of large pictures of the good society or, as I have emphasized, the murderousness of political opinion, and perhaps more skeptical - as the long fight against slavery and his own omission as an abolitionist for many who engage in it reveals - than he should have been. Perhaps some universals, i.e. abolitionism, endure - though one must think them out in each particular case - whatever the circumstances.
Now Aristotle chose to side with Alexander the Great who has Plato's other student, Demosthenes, murdered in a temple. In defense of Athenian democracy, Demosthenes had authored the Phillipics, against Alexander's father, Phillip of Macedon. Demosthenes chose democracy against tyranny or the rule of the great leader.
Perhaps Aristotle just drew a wrong conclusion from the same kind of broad argument (Aristotle is also very flexible in terms of circumstances). Perhaps he needed a greater "certainty" to accompany doing something bad.
But there is an intense and subtle "which side are you on?" question linked to these differences.
****Sophists argue for untruth, unwisdom, whatever they are paid for in the law courts (consider most pundits for a common illustration). They offer empty rhetoric.
*****In the unexpurgated pro-Nazi 1943 Essence of Truth: On Plato's Cave-Metaphor and Theaetetus - see here - Heidegger invokes Socrates as the most striking example of being mortal, being toward death and following an authentic [eigentlich] path, not falling into the one about it (the latter is seeing death as something that happens only to someone else).
******At 27e of the Apology, Socrates shows that according to Meletus, Socrates admits the existence of spirits and nymphs - the latter are daughters of gods - and so must believe in gods. Gandhi's translation omits the argument and is, in this case, incoherent (Gandhi reports the form of an argument without its substance). But Socrates's critique of Meletus shows only that he is not an atheist as Meletus asserts, not that he is innocent of the charge of disbelieving in the Athenian gods.
In a way, Plato does not want Socrates to be innocent of the charges, to cave in to or grovel before what is worst, most authoritarian or most bullying in "democracy." Plato's dialogues thus hiddenly manifest Socrates's being guilty of questioning even though Plato detests the harshness, even sacrilege of the laws punishing questioning and murdering a seeker for wisdom (see the first page of the Seventh Letter). Plato stood with philosophy and a common good-sustaining democracy against the defective democracy in Athens.